NCMP Hazel Poa from Progress Singapore Party

SINGAPORE — Progress Singapore Party (PSP) is supporting the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code after reaching common ground with its members on the controversial issue.

S377A is a law which was introduced by the British colonial government to Singapore in 1938 and later inherited by the independent state in 1965, criminalising sex between two men, even if it is consensual.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had earlier announced the repeal of S377A in his National Day Speech in August this year after the Court of Appeal struck down applications by three parties against the law.

During his announcement, Mr Lee cited a significant risk of it being struck down arising from a future court challenge on the grounds that it breaches the equal protection under the Constitution.

Ms Hazel Poa, Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) from PSP, highlighted during the Monday (28 Nov) sitting that the party did not have a consensus on the matter of S377A when she was asked by Minister of Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam to state the party’s position on S377A in Parliament in April this year.

Mr Shamugam had confronted Ms Poa in light of the written question she had filed to the Minister,  following the Court of Appeal’s ruling on retaining section 377A of the Penal Code on what are the Government’s indicators to monitor whether society is ready for its repeal and how are these indicators monitored.

Ms Poa explained that there were two different views within PSP and it had no consensus at that time.

“Whilst there is a big group that does not feel very strongly about this issue, there is also a significant group that holds very strong and opposing views and they are not easily persuaded.”

“We were of the view that any attempts to forcefully reach a single position at that point would be divisive. PSP believes that while we strive to establish common ground in core areas for unity, we also need to leave room for diverse viewpoints in other areas.”

Ms Poa noted that the party believes that this is one issue where members should be allowed to hold on to their personal beliefs.

“Societal values evolve with time and laws evolve accordingly. Let society at large determine when is the right time to change this law. Since then, we have held more rounds of lengthy discussions in yet another attempt to seek common ground.”

While recognizing the unfairness of 377a on the gay community, Ms Poa also points out the party recognizes the fears of many on the subsequent effect on families and the difficulties they face in reconciling with their religious beliefs.

“Our concern is, again, whether this issue would damage social harmony in Singapore, which is something that we value. Eventually recognizing that 377a is unenforceable, some members were prepared to put aside their personal opinions and not pursue their objections to the repeal of 377a.”

With the compromise that 377a is not enforceable, Ms Poa said that the party is able to come to a party position of supporting the repeal of 377a.

“In any society., contentious issues will always arise, recognizing that no one single person can have his way all the time, and that taking turns to compromise is part and parcel of democracy is a sign of maturity. The willingness to compromise is not a sign of weakness, but instead to one of maturity, resilience and community spirit.”

Along with the amendment to the Penal Code to repeal S377A, a bill to amend the Singapore Consitution was also tabled last month.

The People’s Action Party (PAP) Government has said that this amendment will protect the heterosexual definition of marriage, and laws and policies based on the heterosexual definition of marriage, from a successful constitutional challenge.

On the amendment of the Constitution, Ms Poa noted that PSP’s position is that the definition of marriage should be decided via a national referendum rather than by parliament.

“This will allow the many Singaporeans who have expressed concerns to have a say in the matter. The path towards political maturity is filled with gifts and takes from all sides.” said Ms Poa.

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