Tough questions to ask about Section 377A

To resolve the issue of the viability of Section 377A, we all need to ask ourselves some hard questions and be honest with our answers.

First, should proponents of Section 377A continue to interfere in the private lives of others?

In a secular society like Singapore, should they demand that others conform to their religious beliefs and moral codes? Should their objection to gay sex and the gay lifestyle be assisted by the law?

Second, should the opponents of Section 377A stop their repeal effort for the sake of not dividing the country? Should they bow down to the majority's opinion and the strong emotional hostility from various religious groups?

Or should they even bother as the legislation is not being enforced anyway? Are they concerned only about social equality or are they planning to push further for a wider lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) agenda?

Third, does the Government think that keeping but not enforcing Section 377A is still tenable given the accusations of irrationality and contradiction?

How should it respond to the fact that other former British colonies have already taken decisive action to repeal the same law?

If the status quo is to be maintained, should all other forms of personal or private sexual, non-sexual, deviant and unconventional behaviour also be subjected to criminalisation without enforcement?

Should its decision be dependent on the fear of incurring the wrath of religious or conservative people and the loss of their votes? Or should the priority be the restoration of rationality and respectability to our legal system by adhering to its original guiding principles and objectives?

And finally, as a repeal of Section 377A is not an endorsement or an encouragement of the LGBT lifestyle, all Singaporeans should ask themselves which option helps us to uphold the values of our society - to continue to criminalise gay sex as a sign of rejection of the LGBT lifestyle or to repeal Section 377A as a symbol of respect for an individual's rights to privacy and personal autonomy?

Lee Hock Seng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2018, with the headline 'Tough questions to ask about Section 377A'. Print Edition | Subscribe