With section 377A hitting the headlines again, the debate on whether to repeal this section or not has renewed with vigour. In the wake of India repealing its own version of section 377A, Minister for Law, K Shanmmugam has said that those who supported the repeal in Singapore were in a small minority albeit that the minority was growing.
Personally, I don’t think that the government is particularly pushed either way. However, it wants to ensure that the religious groups in Singapore are placated and the “gay” issue is something that the Christian right wing and the Muslim community feel strongly about. As noted previously, there is a strong contingent of Christians that seem to offer the government support. This is obviously something that may well play in the government’s mind when deciding the “gay” issue.
What I would say to the conservative group of Singaporeans who want to retain this outdated section is this – If what they hope to achieve is to “discourage” gay behavior, keeping section 377A is not going to achieve that aim. Firstly, it has never been used to prosecute anyone and based on statements that have been issued in the past, it doesn’t sound like the government will be using it to prosecute anyone anytime soon. Secondly, this section only catches homosexual males and not females which makes the “discouragement of gay behaviour” argument a fallacy. Thirdly, wanting this section abolished is not anti Christian in any way shape or form. No one is asking the religious groups to endorse gay behaviour. They can hold on to their beliefs. All the abolition does is to permit gay people the right to also have their own beliefs validated. Nothing in the state of Singapore will change because of the abolition. All it will do is reflect what is actually happening in Singapore any way.
My belief is that this issue has become a bargaining chip with the Singapore government and runs the risk of misuse in order to garner support in the next general election. Shanmmugam has tried to justify the government’s stance by hiding behind the so called will of the people. However, it would seem that only 55 per cent of Singaporeans want the section to be retained. While still in the majority, that is a slim majority. The supposition that only a small minority support the abolition of Section of 377A just does not ring true.
I also note that the survey where these percentages were garnered was done over just four days and involved only 750 people. That is too short a time and too small a number to get an accurate sentiment and I think we need to look at these numbers with caution. They may be an indication of sentiment but by no means is it representative.
I agree that the will of the people have to be respected but that view should not be fudged or manipulated to suit anyone else’s agenda. Perhaps we can put the issue to bed once and for all by holding a referendum on this issue. That way it is black and white and the issue can never be misused to further any one else’s agenda.