Image Credit: tembusu.nus.edu.sg
Yesterday, ambassador-at-large and agent provocateur Dr. Tommy Koh published an important ST op-ed on why 377A should be repealed.
The original title was ‘Section 377A: There’s a difference between a sin and a crime’, but it has since been amended to ‘Section 377A: Science, Religion and the Law’.
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Here’s a summary of what the good ambassador said:
He gives three main reasons for why 377A shouldn’t exist. The first reason is science.
“Scientists do not know what determines a person’s sexual orientation, but they theorise that it is caused by a complex interplay of genetic, hormonal and environmental influences and do not view it as a choice. They favour biologically based theories, which point to genetic factors.”
“Scientific research has shown that homosexuality is a normal and natural variation in human sexuality and is not in itself a source of negative psychological effects. They also believe that there is insufficient evidence to support psychological interventions to change sexual orientation.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has long since deleted homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. The scientific community generally considers homosexuality a normal part of human sexuality.
As a ‘scientific’ and ‘rational’ people, Singapore should follow suit.
Secondly, he points out that there is nothing ‘Asian’ about sodomy laws, and nothing ‘Western’ or ‘liberal’ about decriminalizing homosexuality.
In the United Nations, 72 nations criminalise homosexuality and 124 do not, including Asian countries like Japan and China.
Of the 72 nations, they are mostly Arab states and former British colonies like Singapore.
“Singapore is part of the minority mainly because we inherited from the British a penal code which criminalises sodomy. For a country which embraces science and technology, it is surprising that, on this one aspect, the law has not been updated in the light of the scientific evidence.”
We inherited it from the Ang Mohs, but we shouldn’t keep it because it’s outdated.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, Dr Tommy Koh wants the law removed because Singapore is a secular state.
Religious leaders like the National Council of Churches, the Catholic Archbishop, and the Islamic authorities consider homosexuality a sin.
But he would like to ‘respectfully remind’ them that secular states like ours should not enforce religious dogma.
“There is an important point which I wish to make to the Christian and Islamic authorities. I would respectfully remind them that Singapore is a secular state. It is not a Christian country or a Muslim country. It is not the business of the state to enforce the dogmas of those religions. In Singapore, there is a separation between religion and the state. Church leaders and Islamic leaders should respect that separation.”
In short, respect the separation of church and state.
Do not “pressure the government” to “criminalise behaviour they consider sinful”.
The article goes on to list a few other countries that have repealed 377A, along with laws similar to 377A.
But it concludes with a firm statement:
“In 2014, the issue of the constitutionality of Section 377A was considered by the Singapore Court of Appeal in the case of Lim Meng Suang versus Attorney-General. The court ruled that the law was not unconstitutional.”
“I believe that the court’s judgment was wrong. I hope that the Court of Appeal will overturn its 2014 decision if it is presented with an opportunity to do so.”
The court’s judgment was wrong. Wew.
It’s quite rare to see a Singaporean establishment figure brave enough to take a stance on this issue. Respect to Dr. Tommy Koh for not passing the hot potato back to ‘Singapore society’ like the rest.
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