The differences in voting for the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code among the Workers’ Party Members of Parliament fell somewhat among generational lines, with the younger MPs supporting its repeal and half of the older ones saying they oppose it.
The exception to this would be Mr Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC), who at 45 years old is a year younger than Assoc Prof Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC). Mr Pritam Singh, WP chief and Leader of the Opposition, said in Parliament on Monday (Nov 28) that he was lifting the party Whip and allowing each MP to vote according to their conscience.
On the second day of MPs delivering their speeches on Section 377A, which criminalizes sexual relations between consenting adult males, Assoc Prof Lim shared a story from his teenage years about a good friend who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community that help explained why he (Jamus Lim) supports the repeal now:
“As a man attracted to the opposite sex, I can never fully empathize with what it means to develop feelings for someone of the same gender.
But when I was a hot-blooded teenager, I had a dear friend, who turned out to be gay, explain to me what his world was like. The analogy has stayed with me ever since:
Just imagine, he (the friend) said, if the way you feel about women—the strong, unrelenting attraction when you first meet, the wish to share one’s innermost thoughts and feelings with them, the deep desire to be with that person for the rest of your life—imagine if all that was not the natural order of things.
Imagine that society deemed my attraction to women as not just abhorrent, but also judged intimate expressions of my love to be criminal.”
On her part, Ms He said, “I do not believe that we should have a law in the books that is plainly and obviously discriminatory,” and added that “it sends a signal that one segment of society is so morally reprehensible that their identity should be considered criminal, even if it is only on paper.”
As for Mr Chua, who had earlier thought he would miss the opportunity to deliver his speech because he’s been out with Covid, also spoke on Tuesday, pointing out that if 377A were to stay, this would be harder for the LGBTQ+ community to get support for mental health issues.
He added that the law, a holdover from colonial times, “makes Singapore look anachronistic” especially since Hong Kong, China, Japan, and India have all decriminalised gay sex.
“The LGBTQ+ community’s joy of seeing S377A repealed would have been even greater if not for the fact that the move merely puts Singapore more in line with other cosmopolitan, open, and inclusive societies around the world.”
Mr Singh along with party chair Sylvia Lim and Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC), as well as all three Sengkang MPs, voted for the repeal of Section 377A.
Hougang SMC MP Dennis Tan, as well as Mr Giam, voted to oppose the repeal. Mr Faisal (also from Aljunied GRC), who was absent from the sittings due to Covid, would have similarly voted against it, Mr Singh said on Monday.