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MP, NMP attend forum on repeal of gay sex law | Gay News Asia

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16 Jul 2007

MP, NMP attend forum on repeal of gay sex law

For the first time in the history of forums on gay issues in Singapore, a member of parliament from the ruling People's Action Party and a Nominated Member of Parliament were part of a 5-member panel convened to discuss whether homosexual acts should remain criminalised.

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Organised by theatre company W!ld Rice in conjunction with Happy Endings: Asian Boys Vol 3, a gay play that is currently being staged, the forum attracted some 250 people on Sunday evening.

Top of the page (from left) Reverend Dr Yap Kim Hao, Fridae CEO Dr Stuart Koe, PAP MP Baey Yam Keng, NMP Siew Kum Hong, moderator Ken Kwek, and gay activist Alex Au. (Photos courtesy of W!ld Rice.)
A People's Action Party (PAP) member of parliament Baey Yam Keng and non-partisan Nominated Member of Parliament, Siew Kum Hong, sat alongside gay activist Alex Au, Fridae CEO Dr Stuart Koe and Reverend Dr Yap Kim Hao, who has on numerous occasions spoke in support for gays and lesbians on Fridae and in various mainstream media.

While all the members of the panel with the exception of Baey have made known their opposition to retain Section 377A of the penal code which criminalises gay sex acts, Baey for the first time publicly voiced his support for the law to be repealed.

"Personally, I think that the whip should be lifted for a very open debate and open expression of opinion by the MPs. And if that is so, I would vote for a repeal of the act."

"From my understanding of my parliamentary colleagues, my guess is that I will be the minority." He said in response to questions posed by member of the floor Dr Russell Heng, an academic and gay activist.

In April, MM Lee Kuan Yew told Reuters that he saw "no option for Singapore but to be part of it" when asked if the government would decriminalise gay sex acts eventually.

Opening the session was a discussion on whether the main opposition to repeal Section 377A is from a small vocal minority who is religiously motivated. Baey posited that not everyone who expresses discomfort with the concept of homosexuality was doing so because of his or her religious beliefs. Au further distinguished those who might be uncomfortable because they are unfamiliar with gay people from those who are reacting based on religious convictions and those who use religion and the gay issue for political aims.

Citing a Straits Times article in which PAP MP Lim Biow Chuan referenced the church, Dr Koe called for a clear separation of church and state and urged all elected officials to represent their constituents - who could be of other faiths or none - without bias.

When asked what his thoughts on homosexuality was, Lim was quoted in the papers as saying, "I think the position of the Church is correct, which is that we should hate the sin (homosexuality) but embrace the sinner."

Other topics that were discussed include whether the majority needs to agree with repealing the law or should the government take the lead, and whether proponents of the repeal of Section 377A should take a more pragmatic approach as mooted by NMP Siew.

Sworn-in in January this year, Siew, who is an outspoken critic of Section 377A, first came to the notice of the gay community in 2003 when he wrote a letter carrying 32 signatures (all of whom are heterosexual) to the Straits Times in response to an anti-gay column. In it, he urged "all gays in Singapore to take heart from our letter, to know that there are a lot more people out there who support their personal rights and freedoms."

Siew, who is of the belief that an argument based on civil rights would not go very far with the current administration, told the forum: "You've got to phrase it in the lingo that will convince the government. I think we all know. It is all about growth, job, money. If you can make a convincing case that 377A is somehow affecting that, then I think you've got a really good chance."

That view was however met with opposition from Au and Dr Koe who believe that civil rights should not be tied to a person's economic worth.

Au, a founding member of gay advocacy group People Like Us and Fridae columnist said: "Taking the economic argument presents a danger, which is to buy into the whole ideology that ultimately humans are digits. I want to base an argument purely on the human rights. Gay identity is very fundamental; it is as fundamental as your ethnic identity, as your linguistic identity, as your religious identity. That being the case, therefore the state through its tools, law, should give equal recognition to that liberty to express your identity."

The extensive review of the Penal Code, Singapore's primary criminal legislation, is expected to come up for debate in parliament in early 2008.

Reader's Comments

1. 2007-07-16 20:51
I believe that gay rights should be a civil right and not be tied to a person's financial worth. Granting rights based on worth is like saying: "If you are rich, you can be gay; if you are poor, don't be!" This is akin to MM Lee's national day speech many years ago where I think he said that if the parents are both smart, that they should have more children because there is a better chance that the children will be smart as well.
2. 2007-07-16 22:31
I am really looking forward to the day when the Penal code 377A would be repealed from the Singapore Law. Although, for that to happen it would take quite some time for it to happen. Just like how any other bill is passed through the parliment. Giving us the freedom would really draw back those who have left the country and allow them to contribute to the economy here. Wouldn't that be better for everyone???
P.S. I didn't know that our Fridae CEO Dr Stuart Koe was that handsome.XD
3. 2007-07-16 22:34
I agree with AsianQ on that. Again (and again and again and again), rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, people keep forgetting that we really don't have any choice over the matter of our sexuality.
Comment #4 was deleted by its author
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6. 2007-07-17 00:50
Singapore aim to be No #1 is many areas, yet we are behind many developing countries when comes to being tolerant.

Why is there a need for PLU to declare we are gay by coming out? Why can't non-PLUs come out by telling "i'm str8".

We are humans too.

"If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" ~ William Shakespeare
7. 2007-07-17 01:56
"we should hate the sin (homosexuality) but embrace the sinner"?
So PLU are sinners because they were born this way? That's what a Christian minister is encouraging its people to do?

When you look in our eye, you see something you hate in me?

What a load of crock. Why doesn't he just grow some balls and come out and give his REAL opinion, instead of quoting the Chruch. F*ckin' pathetic
8. 2007-07-17 07:24
haha.. yaya Agree!
Fridae CEO Dr Stuart Koe, is so handsome ;X
9. 2007-07-17 09:51
Economic WORTH? Is that all we're good for? Haven't we proven that we can bring in millions of dollars in revenue from the parties we've held before THEY took it away? What's the target dollar value we have to hit before we're accepted? I expected more from Siew.

Baey said that the govt treats homosexuality like alcohol and cigarettes. Does that mean they'll increase taxes on gay people? I know he's pro the repeal but still...toe-ing the party line. SIGH.

What's the point of us contributing to nation-building when we're never gonna be a part of it?

10. 2007-07-17 09:53
hehe i do agree....dr stuart is yummy haha
11. 2007-07-17 10:41
Should we not count our blessing rather than focus on what is percieved and a shortfall?

It is rather clear the the government has closed both eyes to all things gay in Sg. If they had a 3rd eye, I suspect that would be closed too.

We should really stop pointing to the govenment, because it is not them but rather the general Singapore public who marginalise minority groups.

And one more thing, posting something about how someone is hot and cute following a forum like that above just trivialises us.
12. 2007-07-17 10:49
"Haven't we proven that we can bring in millions of dollars in revenue from the parties we've held before THEY took it away?"

That above comment - why would any government encourage a drug fest viceful public orgy? That make situations blurred and conducive for lapses of rational judgement and hence the more likely spread of the bug? Are they not protecting us then? In this sense, it suggests we are worth more than those "millions of dollars in revenue" that's referred to in that above statement.

Have they not already highlighted some very high flying gay people at recent National Day rallies??
Comment #13 was deleted by its author
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16. 2007-07-17 13:05
Personally my stand is with Mr Au & Dr Stuart Koe, bt MNP Siew does have a point...let's face it folks, this is SIngapore- statistics, digits, ecomony,NOT civil rights- counts. I wish i didnt sound like a cynical *******, bt sadly, that is all i have seen in this country I've grown up in. Which is why you gt people like Lim Biow Chuan -PAP hello anyone???- staffing the govt posts. And don't get me started on those lawmaker-scum, whoever they are, that suggest extempting heterosexual fellatio fr
Section 377- even a 5-yr old can see through the blatant discrimmination.
17. 2007-07-17 13:06
As for the Church, well- same old tired stand, bt @ least it makes clear where it stands on this issue, so why should we act at all surprised?
18. 2007-07-17 14:45
Singapore is supposed to stand proudly on its meritocracy pedestal. Where is it now? The GLBT society at large should question where's the current lawmakers/govt's respect to it's national pledge of Democracy, Justice and Equality as well. We should question the current govt's respect to MM Lee's opinion and the consulted S'pore Law Soc's committee that was put together to review this Penal code 377. Why don't the current lawmakers accept the Committee's recommendation? Wouldn't it be a slap to the integrity of this Committee then and worst, it's founding Father? Above all, we should crucify hardest on the infringement of religion into its execution of law making policy too. In view of the upcoming S'pore's National Day, let's not lose sight of nation's pledge in relation to what's happening:
We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
progress for our nation.
So for the sake a united people's Happiness, it's definitely wrong & bias to allow oral sex for heteros alone and not other types of humanity. Prosperity & Progress - isn't S'pore well known for it's foresightness esp in view of making the place a central luxurious entertainment & MICE hub in Asia? Why are these lawmakers so stubbornly blind, aren't they myopic enough (figuratively)? So much is at stake, the Govt/lawmakers should quickly upturn the restrictive Penal code 377A and do damage control already. Have faith in freeing the GLBT industry as the way it frees its trade. They've gone a big way in the casinos & IRs and it contradict its need to attract talents to the country. Surely, its generous, peace and gaiety-loving people can accept the reality of GLBT people already living in their midst. Be brave & be truly Uniquely Singapore, please.
Comment #19 was deleted by its author
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21. 2007-07-17 15:09
having been in and out of SG for the last 15 years (!) i see myself in full agreement with caesar2003! as sad as it may be for singaporeans, but there is absolutely nothing unique abt this little island that is so busy with itself that most of its ppl have no clue abt the real world outside it! if there is anything thats unique abt singapore, its all the wrong reasons - this one included!

Its all abt money, making money and yet more money... thats why the casinos were allowed and thats why evrything will b allowed that rakes in money... and the gov't.s only reason in favour of repealing 377A have so far ALL been linked to the pink dollar...
uniquely singapore? yes, uniquely shameful!
22. 2007-07-17 16:14
I read so much anger and frustration from some Posters at the implication that we as a gay community are only able to demonstrate our equal value to our community by a measure of economic contribution. While this anger is justified, and shared, it seems to be poorly aimed at Siew. He's not speaking (hopefully) on behalf of his personal beliefs, but rather he is expressing his understanding of what it truly takes to influence the making and breaking of current policy in the Singaporean government. In order to create social change within a social system, you absolutely must understand the inner-workings of that system. Otherwise, you will never be able to produce enough political leverage to rewrite law. The comments of caesar2003 and turrificturk serve testament to the economic stagnation that 377 is creating by pissing off the "pink dollar". If the exploitation of this truth gives the GLBT community the necessary fuel to repeal 377, it should be used, for the benefit of us all. It seems that Siew is simply being honest with us about an ugly truth. But that is far preferable to the avoidance and distain we are all so accustomed to.
Comment #23 was deleted by its author
24. 2007-07-17 22:15
I believe that Singapore will drop that rule 377A.. because every politician has run and done everything that Lee Kuan Yew has said in the past.... ^^

But also, isn't it so boring how religion has to come into every homosexual topic!! These church-lovers keep trying to maintain the world in perfect order, men loving women only etc, but if that was the way it is supposed to be, then cactuses wouldn't grow here in Singapore...





25. 2007-07-19 08:06
I wish I could share
All the love thats in my heart
Remove every doubt
It keeps us apart

And I wish you could know
What it means to be me
Then youd see and agree
Every man should be free

Lamb/Taylor
26. 2007-07-19 17:43
Many months ago I have suffered from depression.I went back to my camp declaring to my medical officer(M.O) that I am a homosexual..I was referred to a psycharist at NUH. I went back to my camp again for medical review.However my Pes statues (Pes B)remains unchanged.I was wondering whether an NSmen who declared he is a gay needs to go back for his ICT(In-camp-training)??
27. 2007-07-20 21:55
hi there Vodkalime.. time has changed, even str8 people wanna keng as Gay... and for your info.. even Gay NS man, no difference at all... Just your status changes that's all.... also need to serve their ICT...
28. 2007-07-21 10:00
Homosexuality is the church's litmus test on our government: will the government kow tow to their demands because of a few lines in the bible? Some people are using religion as a means of getting more power and influence in our country.

They should keep their opinions in church, and we should have the rights to live our lives in love in our own sanctuaries, without the law being against us.

Asians running around with biblical names opposing gay rights are embarassing. Truth is: Christianity and the likes are foreign imports. Homosexuality has been around since sentient beings became intelligent.
Comment #29 was deleted by its author
30. 2007-07-21 15:27
The economic argument has often been put to our breeder brothers to justify greater acceptance of the GLTB community. Mostly because it's something simple & practical they can understand and goes 'straight' to the bottom line: if you make money for us we're willing to put up with you. Look at all those pink dollars the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Madi Gras brings into that city offsetting the considerable costs needed to host the event. Similarly in Thailand there is a perennial debate about how queeny katoeys on TV shows might be negatively influencing the behavior of kids and they should be banished. A defensive argument has always been the foreign exchange katoey's bring into the country entertaining hoards of ma & pa Korean and Taiwanese tourists particularly at cabaret shows like Tiffany's, Simon's or Alcazar. The reason Phuket and TOT gave the green light to Nation VI party was a much needed post tsunami dollar injection although tsunami or no tsunami we can never get enough of your pink dollar. "We'll put up with campy muscle maryies sashaying up and down Karon and Kata beaches for a few days as long as you spend spend spend!..." Sure it sucks that we have to justify our existence this way but it works. The SG GLTB community would benefit from "proving" to their lawmakers (& undoers) how much they contribute financially to the SG economy, how much social diversity contributes to a city's vitality attracting bright minds, ideas and prosperity. Surely in particularly money & success orientated SG this is a language everybody understands?
31. 2007-07-24 13:07
I agree with the comments below that gays in Singapore should add the economic argument to their arsenal to convince the government to repeal antigay laws. Gay tourism is BIG business. In Canada, local, provincial and federal governments heavily sponsor gay events to attract gay tourists. Just check the ads for Gay Montreal (paid by city hall) on gay.com for instance. Ottawa Tourism (a government sponsored agency) even appointed a gay marketing officer to take care of promoting gay events in the region. They went as far as inviting 2 gay participants of the popular reality show The Amazing Race to come to Ottawa and get married (gay marriage is legal in Canada) in a huge celebration that was covered by all the local and national media. Obviously there's big money to be made by attracting gay dollars and I'm sure that Singapore wants that money.
32. 2007-09-10 16:45
Late last year, I went to the "meet the people session" with MP Baey Yam Keng told him that in order to control the raise in HIV cases in Singapore, the government must face it head on else things will go underground and situation will get worst. Section 377A of the penal code which criminalises gay sex acts must be repealled. If this is not done, the Singapore Government is actually putting a death sentence on the Gay Community - HIV will spread like wild fire among the community.

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