Pergas rejects repeal of Section 377A as it can cause 'worrying implications'

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Pergas) said that it does not support the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men.

This is because it can cause several "worrying implications", such as affecting the growth of Singapore's population, the association said.

In a statement on Wednesday evening (Sept 19), Pergas said: "This stand is based not only on religious grounds, but also due to our concern towards moral and social values that can affect the family institution as well as the fabric of society."

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.

Pergas said that, according to syariah objectives, the purpose of the family unit is to give birth to the new generation and protect the existence of mankind. "To achieve these objectives, Islam emphasises on the formation of a family through legal marriage between a man and a woman," Pergas said.

It added that a repeal of Section 377A would affirm and normalise the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer lifestyle.

The association said this conflicts with the Government's policy of building strong family units to strengthen the fabric of society, and could cause confusion among the younger generation regarding "morality and moral values".

Pergas is of the opinion that if Section 377A "is to be repealed, it will further affect the population growth of this country, which we understand is a major concern of the Government", it added.

The association also cited a recent survey by Ipsos Public Affairs, an independent market research company, which showed that 12 per cent of Singapore residents opposed Section 377A. Pergas said this reflects the view that most Singaporeans still hold on to traditional family values, and a repeal of 377A would go against this view.

But despite the differences in opinion, members of society, especially the Muslim community, should "maintain good manners and act wisely" in discussing the issue, said Pergas.

The head of the Catholic Church in Singapore and the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) have also rejected repealing Section 377A.

Archbishop William Goh said in a letter on Tuesday that Section 377A should not be repealed under the present circumstances.

He said that "until and unless Parliament puts in place a formulation that more perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the law, guaranteeing the protection of the rights of the majority who favour the traditional family, and that no further demands be made to legalise same-sex unions, same-sex adoption of babies, surrogacy, or to criminalise those who do not support the homosexual lifestyle, I am of the view that 377A should not be repealed under the present circumstances".

The NCCS said it believes "that the homosexual lifestyle is not only harmful for individuals, but also for families and society as a whole".

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam has said that any decision on Section 377A is "a matter for Parliament", adding that public opinion is "often relevant" during policymaking in Parliament.

The Government has made clear that an "uneasy compromise" to keep but not enforce Section 377A "remains the only viable position" for Singapore at the moment.

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