Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gay Sex Laws To Stay: Singapore Government.

Source: http://www.fridae.com/newsfeatures/article.php?articleid=2038&viewarticle=1&searchtype=all

Despite efforts to lobby against the retention of gay sex laws in the city-state's first major penal code amendments in 22 years, the gay community will have to bear double the insult as the laws will sit between proposed laws against necrophilia and bestiality.

Under a Bill introduced in Singapore's parliament on Monday, current laws criminalising sex between men will be retained although laws criminalising oral and anal sex between heterosexuals will be repealed.

The proposed amendments, which was made available to the public since Nov 9 last year, will see no change to Section 377A which provides for a jail sentence for up to two years should a man is found to have committed “an act of gross indecency" with another man, either in public or private.

The Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, which was read the first time in Parliament on Monday, codifies the existing Section 377A “Outrages on decency” between the new Section 377 “Sexual penetration of a corpse" and Section 377B “Sexual penetration with living animal."

In April, the Law Society of Singapore said in its official feedback to the proposed amendment of the Penal Code that “the retention of s.377A in its present form cannot be justified” and recommended the section to be repealed.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) was quoted as saying in the Straits Times today that public feedback on the issue had been “emotional, divided and strongly expressed,” with the majority calling for the section to be retained.

"MHA recognises that we are generally a conservative society and that we should let the situation evolve," MHA said.

Ms Indranee Rajah, former chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Law and Home Affairs, reiterated the MHA’s “assurance” that it would not actively prosecute people under that section.

“But in recognition of the fact that there is still quite a strong majority uncomfortable with homosexuality, the section must stay,” she said.

In April, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew surprised many when he questioned the city-state’s ban on gay sex.

"If in fact it is true, and I have asked doctors this, that you are genetically born a homosexual — because that's the nature of the genetic random transmission of genes — you can't help it. So why should we criminalise it?" He told a youth rally.

In a recent International Herald Tribune interview, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said: “China has already allowed and recognised gays, so have Hong Kong and Taiwan. It's a matter of time. But we have a part Muslim population, another part conservative older Chinese and Indians.”

Other advocates of repeal include Member of Parliament Baey Kam Keng and Nominated Members of Parliament Siew Kum Hong who both spoke against keeping Section 377A on the books at a public forum on the issue in July.

Another amendment that has attracted intense debate is Section 375 which defines spousal rape. Under the proposed amendment, a man is deemed to have not broken any laws if he rapes his wife unless she is living separately from him, has filed for a separation/divorce or applied for a protection order from the court.

Other amendments include the proposal to criminalise "sexual grooming" of minors under 16 by adults above 21 years of age who have “met or communicated with the minor on 2 or more previous occasions” as well as Singaporeans who have sex with minors under 18 locally and overseas (Section 376). Local media have reported that around 600 men travel from Singapore to the nearby Indonesian island of Batam each weekend for sex with teenaged girls.

The second reading is scheduled for Oct 17 when Parliament will debate on the Bill.

Yuki's thoughts: I am going to let a commentator of the topic of the above site to share his thoughts. He could not have said it any better :-

rockhudson says :

Just two days ago in Singapore's Parliament, the Minister for Home Affairs was tabling the admendments to the Penal Code (Chapter 224). Widely expected revisions were provisions for racial or religious hate crimes, removal of mandatory punishments and changes to the archaic unnatural sex statute. However, one significant part of the unnatural sex law have again failed the review. This time however, the Penal Code is being refined in definition, which is much needed. For instance, rape was previously defined as forced sexual intercourse on a woman by a man, now sexual intercourse will be defined as the penetration of the penis into the vagina only, and previously it was impossible to rape a man, now there is a new section for sexual assault by penetration (Section 376). This new provision however further punches holes into the Government's argument for the retention of Section 377A, for in future sexual intercourse with a male minor with or without his consent, will be persecutable under Section 376 and Section 377A, resulting in possible double jeopardy, and more so if the male minor is under 16 (Section 376A). Not only is having consensual sex with a male minor illegal henceforth but also the communication prior to the act is punishable, even if the act never did happened.

Many groups have called for the repeal of the archaic unnatural sex laws, including from sectors within the government itself, so why did the Ministry only introduce admendments to Section 377 and not Section 377A? This is without a shadow of doubt, the high-handed government-endorsed oppression and discrimination of the gay community. The government is never one to be held down by public opinion, not even by opposition to their unpopular policies no matter how sensitive it may be, willingly sacrificing any sacred cows in the name of progress, so why have they been so attentive to the anti-homosexual camp on this one particular sensitive issue? Interestingly, anal and oral sex is perfectly fine for heterosexuals but not for homosexuals, for reasons that cannot hold any water. Previously, the criminalisation of unnatural sex acts was justified by that Singapore is a conservative society and that all religions and cultures in Singapore don't endorse such unnatural and unproductive practices. If so, why have such anti-conservative and unproductive sexual acts be permissible between heterosexuals now? Need I say more.

This is not part of the "homosexual agenda", nor is it about the gay minority, but it is an issue of civil liberties. If the government can choose to refuse a law-abiding group such fundamental rights, what else can they not do? The government is clearly using the Law to discriminate and oppress the gay minority, otherwise how do you explain this situation? The Law is supposed to protect the discriminated and the disadvantaged, not to perpetuate their suffering and indignation. Like how the US Supreme Court held up civil liberties during the 60's in the face of majority opposition for equal rights for the blacks and other minorities, similarly the government should make full use of their high moral ground and strong mandate, and work towards a more inclusive society and for the good of every citizen, gay or straight.

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