“We will be silent no more”. This was part of the call-to-action for the “Protect Singapore Townhall – Safeguarding Our Future” event on July 23. It was a gathering of people who didn’t want the government to repeal Section 377A, because they believed that repealing it would erode the sanctity of man-woman marriages.
About 1,200 people gathered at Singapore Expo convention centre in an event the organiser said was “oversubscribed”. They also said there were over a dozen “brave souls” formerly of the LGBTQ+ community.
On 377A and marriages
“We’ve been relatively restrained in the face of an intolerant, vocal minority that seeks to overturn the order in all areas of society – be it marriage, education, businesses, or beliefs, while demonising all those who disagree as ‘bigots’ or ‘haters, instead of engaging us with good faith,” according to the event organisers, Jason Wong and Mohamed Khair Mohamed Noor.
Townhall organisers want Section 377A to be retained until or unless a “new political package” is put in place to “protect” heterosexual marriages, family, and children from the supposedly negative impact of LGBTQ activism.
As AWARE Singapore puts it, rhetoric around “protection” falsely assumes that the rights and recognition of one group impinges on those of another. There are no indications that heterosexual marriages/families will stop being upheld by policies and laws in Singapore simply because other people are no longer criminalised.
“Is there anything about man-woman marriage that is so fragile that it requires constitutional protection?” asks Youtuber Pauriahcarey. As many netizens have pointed out, repealing 377A has no impact on hetero marriages; many commented that banning divorce and criminalising adultery would better safeguard marriages.
Co-founder of Kampung Collective, Andee Chua commented that they have “no interest in ‘destroying’ heterosexual marriages and relationships. We respect what’s yours, and you could do the same for us.”
“It is not right for a group to hold the whole country hostage on social progress, especially when the concessions that they are demanding in return for acceptance of repeal will disadvantage a group that they do not represent,” Pink Dot SG spokesperson Clement Tan said in a statement.
Jason Wong has clapped back in a Facebook against Chua Mui Hoong’s opinion piece in The Straits Times. He stated: “there is currently a dearth of articles expressing a pro-retain position”. He also said that “even the opinion pieces which support a so-called ‘common ground’ that seemingly presents differing views will ultimately be spun towards the repeal of Section 377A.”
Section 377A and order…
Some advocates for 377A seem to be focused on the act of anal sex, calling it “unnatural”. However, the mother statute, Section 377 (prohibiting oral and anal sex between consenting adults) was actually repealed back in 2007. Only 377A – which affects similar acts between men – was upheld. This means that other couples can engage in “carnal intercourse,” but not when it comes to two men.
Some people also argue that it isn’t just an issue of religion, despite the fact that groups who are most vocal are of religious backgrounds. The Catholic Church in Singapore has reiterated its position that while it respects the dignity of the LGBTQ community, the “family unit” comprises a father, mother, and their children.
Recently, Hwa Chong Institution suspended a counsellor after a sex ed talk depicting inaccurate content about the LGBTQ+ community. He also showed videos from True Love Is, a Christian group that openly promotes conversion therapy.
LGBTQ people continue to face bullying and discrimination in many facets of life. People who can’t be open about their sexual orientation face increased stress, limited social support, and negative mental/physical health consequences. A recent NUS study found that LGB individuals experience unique and often chronic stressors arising from their stigmatised sexual identities. Naturally these can negatively impact mental health.
The biggest stressor is microaggression, followed by rejection anticipation (when they fear someone would find out about their orientation) and internalised homophobia (when the hold negative views towards their orientation). Advocates for repealing 377A say that its continued existence provides a green light for society to discriminate against the LGBT community.
Before this happened…
Section 377A was a colonial law that has roots in racism and discriminates against all queer people. It’s not just about sexual activity between consenting gay men, who deserve to live a life with dignity.
The Court of Appeal ruled that 377A would be retained in February this year. However, it cannot be used to prosecute two consenting male adults engaged in a sexual act in a private place. Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said the Government has had extensive discussions with different people on Section 377A of the Penal Code, and is considering how best to balance this.