377A repeal would do more harm than good: Jamiyah

Muslim organisation Jamiyah Singapore said yesterday that Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men, should not be repealed as it "will do more harm than good".

"The Islamic law (syariah) on this particular lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issue is clear... homosexuality and its related acts are prohibited," Jamiyah said in a statement.

"Islam teaches that believers should neither participate in nor support such acts but (deal) with issues of this nature in the best of ways."

In Islam, only marriage between a man and a woman is "the accepted way", it added.

The statement follows renewed debate on the 377A legislation sparked by the Supreme Court of India's decision on Sept 6 to strike down that particular section in the Indian Penal Code.

Jamiyah said that it acknowledges the "diverse and heterogeneous nature of our population" and is of the view that "we must accept and accord all individuals and groups - irrespective of sexual predispositions and orientations - human and civil rights".

However, it said 377A should not be repealed as doing so "will do more harm than good" because this has the potential to lead to "more demands", which it believes "may impair Singapore's admirable social cohesion, growth and future progress as a nation".

 
 
 

Earlier this month, the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Pergas), the head of the Catholic Church in Singapore and the National Council of Churches of Singapore also rejected repealing 377A.

Other parties have called for 377A to be repealed.

Human rights organisation Maruah said in a press statement yesterday that it found the Government's decision not to take steps at this time to repeal 377A "bewildering, disappointing and disturbing".

It cited three main reasons for this.

First, it said, 377A "entrenches and promotes discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community".

Maruah said that while the Government has said 377A is not enforced, its presence in the statute book causes LGBTQ individuals to be regarded as "less than full members of society", thus marginalising them.

Second, matters which "profoundly affect" human rights cannot be decided by polls.

"Negative attitudes towards LGBTQ people can hardly be expected to change when various government policies make it very difficult for misconceptions about them to be dispelled," it explained.

Finally, Maruah said that repealing 377A would "help to ensure a secular common space" and that retaining the "archaic law" is "outstandingly backward".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2018, with the headline '377A repeal would do more harm than good: Jamiyah'. Print Edition | Subscribe