ST: NMP to submit Parliamentary Petition to repeal gay sex law (Oct 12)

Friday, October 12, 2007

By Chua Hian Hou
Oct 12, 2007

A PETITION is to be presented to Parliament by Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong on behalf of a group that wants the Government to repeal a law criminalising gay sex. He intends to submit the Parliamentary Petition - a request by the people on a particular issue - next week.

This is ahead of Parliament's sitting on Oct 22, when a number of issues will be debated.

These are likely to include wide-ranging amendments to the Penal Code, which governs most criminal offences here.

The proposed changes do not include Section 377A, under which it is a crime for men to have sex with each other, whether in public or in private.

Following its latest review of the Penal Code, the Government said it decided to maintain the status quo since Singapore is a generally conservative society. But the authorities will not actively prosecute people under Section 377A.

Mr Siew said the idea for the petition was suggested to him by its two lead signatories, lawyer George Hwang and gay media company's chief executive Stuart Koe.

He agreed to submit it as he believes Section 377A should be repealed.

The petition, which argues that the law is discriminatory, has been put online for others to download, sign and drop off at collection points by Sunday.

Mr Siew will then submit it to the Office of the Clerk of Parliament, where it will be checked for compliance with certain requirements.

If the petition is in order and endorsed in time for the Oct 22 sitting, Mr Siew will get to read a summary of it to the House.

The petition will then be referred to a Public Petitions Committee, which will discuss and file a report on it to MPs.

There are no rules governing what happens to petitions after this, said constitutional law expert Kevin Tan.

Parliament can 'ignore, recognise, or choose to act on' the petition, he added.

Dr Tan, an adjunct professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the petition appeared to be a 'last-ditch effort' to get the law repealed.

But he does not expect it will as 'similar representations have been heard before (during the Penal Code review), at great length'.

He also could not recall the last time such a Parliamentary Petition was presented, or how often this occurs: 'If it did happen, it must have been in the 1980s or before that.'

Mr Siew said an MP can file a motion to debate the committee's report on the petition, and he will do so 'at an appropriate time'.

The petition is separate from an online campaign to get signatories for an open letter to the Prime Minister expressing similar sentiments.