The Singapore Democratic Party’s call to repeal Section 377A in 2007 is recirculating online, even though the statement was published 12 years ago.
While Section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code – a British colonial-era legislation that criminalises gay sex – is very rarely enforced here, a man found to have committed an act of “gross indecency” with another man could be jailed for up to two years under the law.
Back in 2007, the SDP was one of the most vocal supporters of the movement calling on the Government to repeal Section 377A. The party’s former chairman, Gandhi Ambalam, wrote: “In accordance with our party principles, the SDP supports the call to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code.
“In the section What We Stand For on this website, we stated: “As a nation, we must not only show tolerance but also acceptance of our fellow citizens regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or political persuasion. Discrimination of our fellow human beings has been one human frailty that has wreaked much destruction and misery.”
“We stand by our words and say unambiguously that Section 377A discriminates against a segment of our population and that discrimination, in whatever form, has no place in society. We therefore call on the PAP Government to repeal the law.”
12 years later, the Government has yet to repeal Section 377A.
The latest social initiative against Section 377A, the Ready4Repeal campaign, gained immense traction and even drew support from establishment figures like former attorney-general Walter Woon and distinguished diplomat Tommy Koh, but failed to effect change.
Then last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has quashed all hope that Section 377A will be repealed in Singapore anytime soon, as he asserted that the law criminalising gay sex will be around “for some time.”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, PM Lee 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.”
While PM Lee did not attend the event, his younger brother Lee Hsien Yang attended the gathering with his wife Lee Suet Fern and his newly married son and son-in-law, Li Huanwu and Heng Yirui.
Pink Dot’s message this year was loud and clear with a light-up at the end of the night where the participants gathered and asked the Government to repeal Section 377A once and for all:
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