Jamiyah Singapore says repealing 377A 'will do more harm than good'; Maruah says keeping it is 'outstandingly backward'

SINGAPORE - Muslim organisation Jamiyah Singapore said on Monday (Sept 24) that Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men, should not be repealed as doing so "will do more harm than good".

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

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

It said that in Islam, only marriage between a man and a woman is "the accepted way".

The statement follows renewed debate about the legislation, sparked by 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.

Jamiyah added 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".

"Forms of repression and discrimination against the LGBT community should cease and be replaced with some of the universalistic values that Islam preaches, such as kindness, acceptance of repentance and compassion."

But Jamiyah said 377A should not be repealed as doing so "will do more harm than good"because this has the potential to lead to "more demands", which it believes "may impair Singapore's admirable social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), head of the Catholic Church in Singapore and the National Council of Churches of Singapore also rejected repealing Section 377A.

Other parties have called for 377A to be repealed.

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

In a press release, it cited three main reasons for this.

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

Maruah said that it is inappropriate for conduct that "causes no harm - compared to say, homicide and sexual assault - to be a criminal offence merely because a segment of society feels subjectively that it is immoral".

It added that, while the Government has said that 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.

Secondly, it said 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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