ST: NMP to present petition to repeal anti-gay law to Parliament (Oct 9)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

By Chua Hian Hou
The Straits Times, Oct 9, 2007

An online campaign urging the Government to repeal a law criminalising gay sex is gathering support with many backers signing in their real names.

The campaign, via an open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at, has collected over 2,200 signatures since it started last Friday.

The site's spokesman, Mr Alan Seah, said the online letter was set up by 'about 20 concerned individuals' - some gay, others straight - who felt the section of the law is 'discriminatory and not good for Singapore'.

Under Section 377A of the Penal Code, it is a crime for men to have sex, whether in public or in private.

Those signing the letter were asked their real names, voting constituencies, jobs, and companies they worked for. These details, which did not have to be disclosed, were then published online.

While most chose to stay anonymous, the 40 or so pages of signatures include many people who included their names and those of their employer.

The signatories range from multinational company executives to engineers and teachers. Probably the most senior corporate figure here to sign the letter up to now is Nets (Network for Electronic Transfers) chief executive officer Poh Mui Hoon. Ms Poh, who signed in her personal capacity, declined to be interviewed.

Software giant Microsoft's finance director for Asia John MacLennan, 43, said he signed the petition because he felt the law was unjust. Mr MacLennan, who is gay, is a permanent resident here.

A gay 31-year-old Singaporean government scholar working in an elite statutory board said he did not believe there would be repercussions to signing with his and his employer's name.

If that happened, 'so be it, I have enough credibility in my area of work that this would not be an issue', he said, although he declined to be named for this story.

Another signatory, research assistant Low Soo Mei, said she signed because she felt sad that her homosexual friends should have to 'live in fear that they can be prosecuted (under Section 377A)'. Ms Low, 25, is straight.

While pleased at the positive response, gay activist Alex Au acknowledged that 'online petitions don't have a very stellar history of effectiveness'.

He applauded those who put their real names to the letter, noting that there was significant 'social and institutional discrimination' against the gay community and those who supported them.

For the same reason, it was 'understandable' why so many chose to stay anonymous, although this clearly hurts the campaign's credibility, said Mr Seah.

Another boost for the campaign is coming from celebrities such as Pamela Oei, Hossan Leong, Beatrice Chia and Mark Richmond, who are making a rap song to raise awareness. The song will be uploaded to video-sharing website Youtube within the next few days.

The creative industry has traditionally been one of the gay movement's stronger supporters.

The letter will be taken offline on Oct 19, and the names of the signatories consolidated and sent to the Prime Minister's Office, said Mr Seah.

~ Additional reporting by Serene Luo