Rants and raves about stuff happening in and around my life in Singapore

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Singapore Repeals 377A

1:16 PM By Barry Smyth , No comments

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday 21st of August that section 377A of the constitution, a law that criminalises sexual intimacy between two males, will shortly be repealed.


According to another article in Today published on August 22, Minister for Culture, Community and youth, and Second Minister for Law Mr. Edwin Tong is reported as stating that "with recent Constitutional challenges to Section 377A, there is a “significant risk” that the law could be held unconstitutional and struck down by the courts, on the basis that it is a breach of the Equal Protection provision." 

Mr. Edwin Tong goes on to mention that "If Section 377A is struck down, Singapore’s marriage laws could also be challenged on the same grounds, leading to the recognition of same-sex marriages, and this in turn will also have an impact on other laws and policies that are built on our existing definition of marriage – such as laws on adoption, public housing, school curriculum, advertising and so on."

So it's clear that the plan to repeal of section 377A is to remove the risk of any further constitutional challenge to section 377A. And just as equally, the decision by the government to make a series of constitutional amendments to protect the current definition of marriage in the Women’s Charter and in the Interpretation Act is to project that definition of marriage from any constitutional challenge once section 377A is repealed. 

In the same article Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam is quoted as saying "So, if a party, a group of people, want to allow same-sex marriage, they will have to put that in their manifesto, fight elections, win the elections, get a majority, and then change the definition of marriage." 

Meanwhile in an article in the Straits Times published on the 22 August, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong is quoted as stating that " the Government is fully committed to upholding its family-centred policies and marriage as defined between one man and one woman". He is further reported as stating that “the PAP Government will not change the current definition of marriage" inferring that any such change "will not happen under the watch of the current Prime Minister, and it will not happen under my watch "

So, what does all this mean. Well for the project managers out there this is an abject lesson in risk management and mitigation, if not a masterclass. For the LGBTQI+ community the repeal of Section 377A means that homosexuality will no longer be considered a criminal act, but that's all.  There is still some way to go before it will be considered socially acceptable, or dare I use the words, a social norm. 

Meanwhile the government has drawn a line in the sand facing off to the LGBTQI+ community and much like Gandalf in the movie Lord of the Rings can be imagined to utter those famous words "You Cannot Pass", well unless they say you can which if we take the reported statements made by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam will be in the far distant future, if at all. 

So while we can applaud the Government’s decision to repeal section 377A, understand that this is a well-planned strategy and nothing more. If anything, it is time for the LGBTQI+ community, their families, relatives, friends, and allies to come together like never before. To work within their respective communities at changing perceptions, breaking down barriers and stereotypes so that ultimately when the time comes for the next general election that more people use their vote in favour of building a democratic society based on justice and equality regardless of religion just as every Singaporean has pledged to do. 

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