Anti-377A movement holds town hall, calls for political engagement

(From left) Mr Johannes Hadi and Mr Glen Goei speak at the Ready4Repeal town hall on Sept 30, 2018. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - The group behind the latest attempt to repeal Section 377A has urged the public to contact their MPs, marking the first time the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement has asked its supporters to engage with politicians on a large scale.

Ready4Repeal held its first town hall on Sunday (Sept 30), which drew 818 participants to Singapore Management University.

There, the group shared updates on the petition they submitted to the Government, and laid out the next steps.

Speaking after several LGBT people shared how 377A emboldened others to harm them, petition co-author Johannes Hadi said: "We need you to take these stories to your MPs."

"Stories are how you can change the conversation, because if you don't speak up, the government and society will take this as proof that there's no hatred and suffering," he added.

Playwright Glen Goei, the petition's other author, said at the town hall: "We need to speak up, reach out, and make sure we are heard. I sincerely hope that everyone in the LGBT community and our straight allies lend your voices to this movement to keep sharing your stories, to keep the conversation going."

The Ready4Repeal petition was submitted to the Home Affairs and Law Ministries last Friday (Sept 28). It was signed by 44,650 Singapore citizens and permanent residents.

Former president of women's rights group Aware, Ms Constance Singam, is one of the lead signatories. She said: "We are a multicultural society, and that is supposed to be one that is welcoming of all differences. If we discriminate against a section of our community, we dehumanise ourselves as well."

A case has also been filed at the High Court by disc jockey Johnson Ong. It contends that 377A is unconstitutional, and that an earlier 2014 court decision to uphold the law was wrong.

Asked about the petition, a spokesman said the ministries have received the petition. "As the Government has recently made clear, however, there are no plans to repeal Section 377A."

The Supreme Court of India's decision on Sept 6 to strike down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which made consensual gay sex a crime, had renewed the debate about Section 377A here.

Several religious organisations in Singapore have spoken out against repealing the law, including the National Council of Churches of Singapore and the head of the Catholic Church in Singapore, who said the law should not be repealed under the present circumstances.

The Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Pergas) said a repeal of Section 377A could cause several "worrying implications".

A petition arguing for the retention of Section 377A has garnered nearly 109,000 signatures.

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