There seems to be a national obsession with the anus in Singapore. If you want to get a heated discussion going, all you need to do is to mention the fact that in Singapore it remains illegal for two consenting adult men to poke each other up the bum. I am, of course, bringing up the topic of Section 377A, the act that prohibits “unnatural” sex between two men. Singapore’s normally placid population gets incredibly worked up about this and Singapore’s normally very “principled” government discovers an amazing ability to blend laws.
This was most recently seen at a “Smart Nation Summit” when Singapore’s Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Hsien Loong was asked about what more could be done to attract top tech talent. Mr. Lee made the point that Section 377A would remain for some time but that would not stop Singapore from being able to attract tech talent. Mr. Lee then went onto state that Singapore would not be as open as San Francisco (a city well known for its large homosexual population) but was not as strict as some parts of the Middle East (where the punishment for being a homosexual is death). More on Mr. Lee’s remarks can be read at:
On the face of things, it’s hard to see what the uproar is about. Mr. Lee has pointed out that although Section 377A is on statute books, it is not enforced. It is possible to be “Gay” in Singapore. Homosexuals in Singapore do not get beaten up or sent to jail for being homosexuals. So, one might ask – what’s all the fuss about? Homosexuals are allowed to live perfectly normal lives in Singapore.
Mr. Lee is also not wrong in suggesting that 377A would be a major deterrent in attracting “tech talent” or any other form of talent. For the most part, Singapore has many of the elements that make it a conducive place to live and work. As I keep saying, who does not want to live in a place that is safe, clean, and green? The place has great infrastructure and as they say, nothing beats a place where the toilets flush.
However, Mr. Lee has missed some crucial points in his defense of the status quo. The most important point being, that Singapore’s government has a fairly decent reputation of being honest and trustworthy. Say what you like about the current crop in power, but they have been on balance benign for the population at large (even if life is getting expensive). As of now, you can take the government at its word that certain things won’t happen.
There is, as they say, no reason to doubt the government’s promise that it won’t enforce 377A and thus far homosexuals have not been persecuted for it. Homosexuals from around the world don’t have the fear of moving to Singapore in the same way they may have of moving to some parts of the Middle East.
There’s only one problem with this argument, namely the fact that we’re working on the assumption that the Singapore government will remain as benign as it currently is. There’s nothing to prevent someone with less than benign intentions from coming into power and using and abusing laws to their advantage. If the person in charge can’t get you on a host of other laws, there’s nothing to say that he’ll invoke 377A to persecute the person he or she may not like. Who is to say that this situation won’t happen? So, yes, things may seem nice and dandy for all parties at the moment but who is to say that the situation will not turn and one has to assume that the world’s investors have this thought at the back of their minds.
All the arguments in favour of keeping 377A have been blown away by logical analysis. Even the emotional argument of “most Singaporeans are conservative and don’t approve of the act” has been blown away by the fact that places like India and Taiwan (one invented the cast system, the other claims to be China) have liberalized laws on homosexual sex.
So, the question remains – who exactly is protected by 377A? It clearly doesn’t exist for public health reasons (since it’s perfectly legal for heterosexual couples to engage in anal sex and there’s no proof to show that heterosexual anal sex is medically safer than the homosexual variety). It’s clearly not on the statute books to protect the sensitivities of religious people especially when you consider the fact those other vices that religious people get offended by like gambling and prostitution are perfectly legal (who do you explain why two consenting adults having sex is illegal and immoral but it’s perfectly acceptable from a legal and moral standpoint for boys to pay a girl for sex?). I can only think of one group of people who might benefit from keeping this law – namely repressed homosexuals who happen to be filled with self-loathing for being homosexuals.
The Prime Minister may be right in that having a useless law might not detract from our ability to attract tech talent. However, this is something that exists for the moment. The artful compromise is sign that laws can be bent if pressure groups do their job, which is not something foreign investors like (do you really have “rule of law” if you have laws that you have declared that you will not enforce). The adherence to a certain dogma shows an inability to adapt to the times, not something a nation that prides itself in being at the forefront of things should promote.
It’s time we stopped worrying about what people do with their bum holes in the bedroom. Our national and legal obsession with the affairs of the bedroom is likely to clog us up if we don’t unplug ourselves from the need to control other people’s bum holes.