Some netizens are asking whether a question People’s Action Party (PAP) MP Louis Ng asked in Parliament with regards to the ban on cats in public housing can be applied to get the Government to repeal Section 377A of Singapore’s penal code.
A man found to have committed an act of “gross indecency” with another man could be jailed for up to two years under Section 377A – a British colonial-era legislation that was adopted into Singapore’s penal code. Although the law is very rarely enforced here, the Government is hesitant to repeal Section 377A despite repeated calls for it to do so from several quarters.
Another rule that the Government is hesitant to abolish even though it is rarely enforced is the Housing Development Board’s (HDB) ban on pet cats in HDB units. According to HDB’s rules,
“Cats are not allowed in flats. They are generally difficult to contain within the flat. When allowed to roam indiscriminately, they tend to shed fur and defecate or urinate in public areas, and also make caterwauling sounds, which can inconvenience your neighbours.”
HDB’s ban on cats is as old as the first public housing flats has been in force since 1960. While the authority had initially banned all animals from HDB flats, it later relaxed rules and allowed flat buyers to keep certain dogs and other small animals. The ban on cats, however, was upheld.
Today, the cat ban is not actively enforced but the authority does act against errant flat owners and their pet cats that have been flagged as public nuisances.
Interestingly, several ruling party politicians have published photos of themselves with their constituents’ pet cats during house visits despite the Government’s reluctance to repeal the rule in the face of appeals for it to do so over many years.
The cat ban was one of the many issues Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng raised in Parliament, this week. Mr Ng, who is the founder of animal rescue group ACRES, has spoken out on this issue at least thrice in Parliament in 2020 alone.
In Parliament on Tuesday (6 Oct), Mr Ng appealed: “The policy of not allowing the keeping of cats in HDB flats has to be reviewed and changed. I’ve spoken up about this for more than a decade now.”
Pointing out that HDB’s policy “does not make sense” since it allows homeowners to keep dogs – which also shed fur, defecate and urinate in public places – Mr Ng asserted that HDB’s concerns can be “easily addressed” through methods like sterilisation which ensures that cats do not make caterwauling sounds.
Mr Ng also highlighted that the Ministry of National Development (MND) once indicated to him that there is a lot of flexibility in the way the policy is administered. It said earlier, “when HDB receives a complaint, they go down and investigate. If the cat is not causing any disamenities, the resident will not be asked to remove the cat”.
Mr Ng asked: “I appreciate this reply but my question then is what is the point of having a rule that we do not actively enforce?”
This question has captured the attention of some netizens, who pointed out that the same question is relevant when it comes to whether Section 377A should be repealed:
The latest social initiative against Section 377A, the Ready4Repeal campaign, gained immense traction last year and even drew support from establishment figures like former attorney-general Walter Woon and distinguished diplomat Tommy Koh, but failed to effect change.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong subsequently quashed all hope that Section 377A will be repealed in Singapore anytime soon, as he asserted that the law criminalising gay sex will be around “for some time.”
Asserting that Singapore has been open to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, he said: “You know our rules in Singapore. Whatever your sexual orientation, you are welcome to come and work in Singapore. But this has not inhibited people from living, and has not stopped Pink Dot from having a gathering every year.
“It is the way this society is: We are not like San Francisco, neither are we like some countries in the Middle East. (We are) something in between, it is the way the society is.”
Pink Dot rebutted PM Lee’s views and asserted that “Pink Dot’s existence is not proof of Singapore’s inclusiveness to the LGBTQ community”. The group added: “Pink Dot exists precisely because members of the LGBTQ community in Singapore continue to face discrimination and inequality in a multitude of ways, on a daily basis.”
Declaring that Section 377A is a key cause of the discrimination the LGBTQ community faces in Singapore, Pink Dot said: “This discrimination that we face is borne from Section 377A, along with its trickle-down effects to other laws and policies that govern our society at large.”
Pink Dot further said that it is “more than just a convenient deflection against uncomfortable questions about the LGBTQ community in Singapore.”
Noting that PM Lee’s response shows that “he might not have a full understanding of the discrimination that takes place in Singapore,” the campaign team invited him and his colleagues to attend Pink Dot at Hong Lim Park on Saturday so that they can “truly make an effort to understand what the LGBTQ community go through on a daily basis.”