PM Lee Hsien Loong and Church goers at the Jubilee Day of Prayer in 2015

Is the PAP government trading gay rights for Christian support?

The issue of the legality of gay sex is clearly a hot potato with no one wanting to take responsibility. As a law, section 377A is obsolete and illogical. Firstly, it reflects outdated values. Secondly, no one has ever been prosecuted for it which makes its relevance in the statute books a nonsense. Thirdly, lesbian sex is not illegal which makes it wholly irrelevant even if the conservatives want to outlaw homosexuality. Why then does the government want to avoid dealing with it?

When section 377A was challenged in court, the courts dodged the issue by making it a decision for Parliament. Now that the issue has resurfaced due to India repealing its own version of section 377A, Minister for Law, Shanmugam, has shifted responsibility to the will of the people. This is seemingly an issue that no one wants to touch.

It is also interesting to note that Shanmugam seems to have fudged the issues somewhat. In an earlier statement, he had said that this was an issue for the people of Singapore to decide. In a more recent statement however, he has said that it was an issue for Parliament taking into the consideration the will of the people. This U-turn and fudge is certainly curious and a sign that the government does not seem to know how to deal with this hot potato.

It is easy to hide behind the will of the people when the will of the people remains unknowable. Shanmugam has insisted that section 377A is an issue that Singaporeans remain deeply divided over. What proof does he have for that? Without opinion polls or detailed surveys, there is simply no evidence that Singaporeans are that divided over this.

Note that an executive decision by the government was taken to exclude Section 377A from the scope of the review by the Penal Code Review Committee.

Could it be that the government is under pressure from religious groups? If that is the case, then we have a problem as Singapore is supposed to be a secular state where religion should not have any influence over the affairs of the state.

Looking at certain events in the past, it would seem that the PAP government has cosy relations with the Christians. Some churches have openly told their flock to support the government as a way of obeying God. In the lead up to Singapore’s landmark 50th birthday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and other prominent members of the PAP government were seen attending prayer rallies. The churches have made no secret of their disapproval of the alleged “gay agenda”.

\In refusing to take leadership on the section 377A issue, could it arguably be because the government does not want to lose the seemingly significant Christian support base?

If this is indeed the case, then there is a clearly a conflict of interest between church and state. Is what is best for Singapore being compromised? Is the PAP government trading gay rights for Christian support?