Let Government make decision about divisive issue

Professor Tommy Koh made another call for Section 377A to be repealed (Section 377A: Science, religion and the law; Sept 25).

Eminent voices, like Prof Koh's, not only revive contestation on the issue, but they also influence public opinion and split further an increasingly polarised society.

Elsewhere, Associate Professor Eugene Tan has noted that "the Government is unlikely to take the lead in nudging or moulding social attitudes on this matter; instead, it will follow public opinion".

I wonder if Prof Koh should be nudging social attitudes repeatedly if the Government has adopted a neutral stance.

Scientific evidence has often been cited as a compelling reason for why Section 377A should be repealed.

Prof Koh wrote that scientists "favour biologically based theories, which point to genetic factors". However, literature reviews paint an inconclusive picture. One should proceed cautiously because sample sizes of related research have often been too small, or contain biased, self-selected samples, to be statistically significant. When American geneticist Dean Hamer's "gay gene" research was replicated in several studies, the data failed to yield significant results.

Interestingly, scientists themselves raise concerns about biologically based theories.

Professors J.M. Bailey, R. C. Pillard, M. C. Neale and Y. Agyei, who conducted research on heritable factors and sexual orientation urged that "our results be evaluated cautiously… they are not conclusive".

After the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders in 1973 with a 58 per cent vote, it put it back several times. The decision was not as unanimous or made with as much conviction as thought.

Prof Koh stated that homosexuality "is not in itself a source of negative psychological effects". Research corroborates this but has nevertheless shown that those who practise homosexuality face greater risk of mental and physical health problems.

Religion and politics are best kept separate. But we need to recognise that, in former minister for home affairs Wong Kan Seng's words, "religious individuals have the same rights as any citizen to express their views on issues in the public space guided by their teachings and personal conscience".

Since we are all rational people, let us make our laws and policies based on facts, science and reason and let Parliament decide on deeply divisive matters where legal resolutions may not be justified. Let us work towards the collective good of our entire community.

Live and let live.

Lena Soh Kwee Kim (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2018, with the headline 'Let Government make decision about divisive issue'. Print Edition | Subscribe