Building on our latest episode of Spotlight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4tLTNdV3hg, this article serves to explain what is Penal Code Section 377A to all those who may not be clear about it, and why is it a serious issue for everyone of us to be concerned about. Section 377A is essentially a law that persecutes sexual intercourse between 2 males, which as you may imagine, may prove to be a problem between a male homosexual couple.
Before going further, let’s take a look at how this law actually came about. Section 377A actually falls under a greater encompassing statute, Section 377 which originally criminalises the acts of oral and anal sex, among others, regardless of whether these acts are performed between heterosexual or homosexual couples. These acts were interpreted as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, in other words, unnatural acts. However, in Oct 2007, this law was repealed and a new Section 377 took its place, criminalising the act of sexual penetration of a corpse. This whole section, 377 and 377A were actually derived from British colonial rules when Singapore still used to be one of Britain’s colonies in 1938. Despite after gaining independence and developing into a more modern society, this statute was still left mainly untouched, until 2007 where 377 was repealed. However, 377A is still left in force.
In recent times, modern societies have began to be more liberal and be more understanding of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual (LGBT) communities. 1 important factor to this was the declassification of homosexuality as a psychological disorder in 1987 when the American Psychiatric Association removed it from its printing of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders III-R (DSM III-R). This opened up avenues of discussion and studies of the LGBT communities, and gradually allowed them to gain acceptance. However, the process of gaining acceptance is still ongoing, despite it being 21 years since homosexuality was not classified as a mental disorder. In recent times, various modern societies have legalised gay marriages, thereby recognising the rights of non-heterosexuals to enjoy the rights that heterosexuals have enjoyed. Notable nations include Argentina (2010), Australia (2017), Denmark (2012), France (2012), Germany (2017), Spain (2005), United Kingdom (2014), United States (2015) among various other nations. The legalisation of gay marriages in Western countries sparked a furore in Asia, leading to divided opinions with voices on either side of the argument. However, in recent years, Taiwan and India have also legalised gay marriages, which has thus sparked the ongoing debate about repealing 377A that we have right now.
While the LGBT communities in Singapore all share the same goal in hoping to get same-sex marriages in Singapore legalised. Currently, they are facing obstacles and challenges in merely decriminalising the act of sexual intercourse between 2 consenting adult males. People who are against the repeal of Section 377A generally have the same few reasons why they are against it:
- Removing Section 377A will cause a slippery slope as it gives off the signal that it is okay to be gay/homosexual, and there will be more people becoming homosexuals
- It is against the writings of the religion, and it is a sin, so it should be treated as such.
- Singapore is already facing low birthrates and Singaporeans are marrying later. Removing 377A will only make it worse as there will be fewer couples procreating.
- Gays, homosexuals or LGBT individuals are disgusting and should not exist.
Well, there are actually a few problems with regards to these people’s reasonings, but let’s first take a look at the LGBT’s side of things.
- LGBT individuals are already stigmatised and discriminated against. Hence having a law that criminalises acts that they partake within the privacy of their own homes between 2 consenting individuals makes it worse.
- LGBT individuals are also a citizen of the nation just as any heterosexual individual is. They feel that they should at least be treated equally regardless of their sexual orientation.
- Homosexuality or sexual preferences are not contagious or infectious. Being able to partake in what is natural to them without fear of any persecution does not affect any heterosexual individual in any form.
- The Government has stated its stance of not enforcing Section 377A on separate occasions. Hence, the LGBT’s stand in this matter is, why not remove it if it’s not going to be enforced?
This article is not meant to make a stand of any sort, but with regards to any form of disputes, it is important to hear the opinions of both parties before coming to a conclusion of your own. Also, it is important to note that even if an opposing party’s reasonings are flawed, they are still valid reasons of the party and shouldn’t be readily dismissed. It is important to communicate and be persuasive in order to push your message across. It takes 2 hands to clap, and if you want to communicate something to someone, that someone must be willing to listen. Dismissing his or her opinion will not only serve to make that someone shut down.
And with that, we hope that you, be it you’re for or against the repeal of 377A or just a neutral party, are able to better understand the current issue that Singapore is facing and be able to form an opinion of your own.
Disclaimer: This article is meant to educate the public and is no form of commentary of the Section 377A debate.
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Also, watch what the youths of Singapore has to say about this issue!