Singapore— The Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) released a working paper on Thursday, May 2, entitled, Religion, Morality, and Conservatism in Singapore, which showed that there have been changes in Singaporean society when it comes to issues concerning the rights of the LGBT community, especially among the youth.
The data used in the paper is from a survey on Race, Religion, and Language, which was conducted between August 2018 and January 2019. There were 4,015 Singaporeans and permanent residents who participated in the survey, the first of its kind in over five years.
The study seeks to document and track the evolving trends of views and behaviours towards social and moral issues, including opinions of the respondents toward homosexual sex and marriage. And while Singapore is still generally conservative, its young people are becoming more open to the rights of the LGBT community, which is seen by the following statistics.
— 58.4 percent of respondents between the age of 18 and 25 said gay marriages were “not wrong at all” or “not wrong most of the time”. For respondents aged 65 and above, less than ten percent responded this way.
— 34.9 percent of respondents with ages between 18-25 and 47.9 percent of 26 to 35-year-olds said that homosexual sex was “always wrong” or “almost always wrong.” Five years ago, when the survey was last taken, 6.4 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds and 72.2 percent of 26 to 35-year-olds responded this way.
—Over 30 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds said that homosexual sex was “not wrong at all”. In 2013, that number had been 11.6 percent.
Taken as a whole, 26.9 of the respondent said that gay marriage was “not wrong at all” or “not wrong most of the time”.
Respondents who had better education usually tended to have more liberal views, while those who identified as Muslim or Christian tended to respond more conservatively.
The report reads,
“Overall, Singaporeans remain fairly conservative in their outlook, though there have been distinct shifts on issues surrounding homosexual rights. This is especially so among respondents aged between 18 and 25, who were much more liberal about moral issues compared to the respondents aged 65 and above.”
The study also says, “When it came to issues such as homosexual sex and gay marriage, 63.6 percent of respondents indicated that the former was at least almost always wrong and 60 percent of respondents indicated similar sentiments for the latter.
Respondents were more open towards the issues of a gay couple adopting a child, and gay couples having a child through surrogacy. Half of the respondents (53.4 percent) indicated that adoption of a child by a gay couple is at least almost always wrong and 56.6 percent indicated that a gay couple having a child through surrogacy or artificial reproductive techniques was at least almost always wrong.
This indicates that compared to homosexual sex and gay marriage, respondents were more open towards, and accepting of, issues to do with homosexual couples desiring children and forming a family unit through artificial reproductive means.”
Is Singapore ready to repeal 377A?
The results of such a study might lead to the question concerning Singapore’s readiness to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, the portion of the country’s law that deems sex between homosexuals to be a criminal act. 377A is considered to be a holdover from British colonial times.
Last year, when India struck down a law similar to 377A in their own country, renewed calls to repeal the law were heard.
Singaporean diplomat Professor Tommy Koh wrote: “I would encourage our gay community to bring a class action to challenge the constitutionality of Section 377A.”
Other prominent voices who rose up in favour of repealing 377A, include former Attorney-General, Nominated Member of Parliament and Legal Advisor to the President of Singapore and Council of Presidential Advisors Prof Walter Woon, Senior Advisor (University & Global Relations) of NUS, former Dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, former Singapore Ambassador to the United Nations, and former President of the UN Security Council, Prof Kishore Mahbubani, Yale-NUS President Tan Tai Yong, among others.
Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan recently said, “we respect the privacy of consenting adults in the bedroom,” while Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has said, “Singapore…on this issue, it is a deeply split society. The majority oppose to any change to section 377A – they are opposed to removing it. A minority – I have to say, a growing minority – want it to be repealed. The Government is in the middle.
Speaking for myself, if you ask me, in a personal capacity, personal view – people’s lifestyles, sexual attitudes, (we) really should be careful about treating them as criminals or criminalising that.
But again it will be wrong for me to impose my personal views on society or as a policymaker. We live our lives, live and let live. If one side pushes, you will expect a substantial push back.”/TISG