SINGAPORE, March 4 – The government is “considering the best way forward” on the law that criminalizes consensual sex between men, saying any changes will have to respect different views, consider them carefully and after consulting with different groups, Business Internal Affairs and Justice Minister K Shanmugam said.
“If and when we decide to move, we will do so in a way that continues to balance these different viewpoints and avoids causing a sudden and destabilizing shift in social norms or public expectations.”
Shanmugam was responding to a question Thursday, March 3, from Derrick Goh, MP for the Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency, on the issue during the Home Office budget debate and following a Court of Justice ruling. appeal on Monday which ruled that Section 377A of the Penal Code is “unenforceable in its entirety” and presents no threat of prosecution.
The experts who spoke TODAY said the decision has indeed given gay men ‘clear legal certainty’ that they will not be prosecuted under Section 377A, but that the position on gay sex remains “stay rather messy”the court did not rule on the constitutionality of the provision.
Shanmugam said the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGCs) were carefully considering the judgment, and reiterated that the government had previously explained its position of a “live and let live approach”.
“We seek to be an inclusive society, where mutual respect and tolerance for different viewpoints and practices are paramount. The government has therefore taken the approach that as long as Section 377A remains on the books, there will be no proactive enforcement. AGC is taking a similar approach,” he said.
This is also why the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act expressly states that any attack on LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other) groups or individuals is an offense and cannot be tolerated, Shanmugam said. .
“LGBT+ people have the right to live in peace, without being attacked or threatened,” he added.
Nonetheless, Shanmugam noted that social attitudes towards homosexuality have changed since 2007, when Parliament last debated the controversial provision.
He noted that members of the LGBT+ community are upset that their experience of being hurt or rejected by their families, friends, schools, businesses is not acknowledged and often denied, but on the other hand, “a vast majority ” wants to preserve the whole tone of the company.
“In particular, the traditional view of marriage as being between a man and a woman, and that children should be raised within such a family structure. Their concern is not section 377A per se, but the broader issues of marriage and family,” he said, pointing out that many in this group also support the repeal of the section. 377A.
“Both of these views are valid and important.”
Therefore, policies must evolve to keep up with these changing views, and legislation must evolve to support updated policies, he added.
“The government is considering the best way forward. We have to respect different points of view, consider them carefully, talk to different groups.
Shanmugam then addressed the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which noted that Singapore’s “compromise” with Section 377A is unique.
“Our approach strikes a balance: preserving the legislative status quo, while taking into account the concerns of those directly affected by the legislation. The court recognized that the government did so in order to avoid driving a deeper wedge in our society,” he said.
The judgment also noted that Singapore’s approach seeks to keep what to do with Section 377A within the democratic space. Previous court judgments on Section 377A have also ruled that these are highly contentious social issues that fall within the jurisdiction of Parliament.
“Social-charged issues, such as Section 377A, call for continued discussion and open resolution in the political realm, where we can forge consensus, rather than win-lose outcomes in court.
“That way we can accommodate competing interests, avoid polarization, and facilitate incremental change.”
Shanmugam went on to note that the court judgment had underscored the importance of creating a space for peaceful coexistence between different groups, as the balance between various interests around Section 377A has become more delicate.
“These opinions align with the approach the government has taken in dealing with Section 377A, and intends to take when considering the changes in our social landscape since 2007,” said he declared. – TODAY