Section 377A: Religious groups call for unity; poll finds 43% support repeal, double those against

A poll this week found that more than four in 10 respondents supported the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Religious groups have called for unity and constructive dialogue, following the announcement that the law that criminalises sex between men will be repealed.

Separately, a poll this week found that more than four in 10 respondents support the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code, while two-thirds support a proposed amendment to the Constitution to protect the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman from legal challenges.

On Thursday (Aug 25), the Singapore Buddhist Federation was the latest religious group to respond to the news, and said it is time for the country to move forward together to prevent further polarisation on this divisive issue.

The message echoed the Methodist Church in Singapore's statement earlier this week that it does not want battle lines to be drawn, and that it is reminding its congregants to love their neighbours, whatever their creed.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the National Day Rally on Sunday (Aug 21) that S377A will be repealed, and that the Government will amend the Constitution to stave off legal challenges on the definition of marriage.

The amendment will make clear that it is Parliament's prerogative to define marriage as between a man and a woman and to make pro-family policies on that basis, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said on Monday (Aug 22).

Earlier this week, Muslim community group AMP Singapore, the Hindu Advisory Board and the Sikh Advisory Board also said they support the Government's move to protect the institution of marriage from challenges in court.

The Singapore Buddhist Federation noted that S377A has surfaced for discussion since 2007, and that the Government has had in-depth discussions with both civic and religious organisations.

"Robust exchanges and the ensuing animosity between the two camps on this divisive issue in recent years will only lead to a polarised and divided society," it said, and called for middle-ground dialogue to soothe tensions that may have built up over time.

Meanwhile, the Methodist Church in Singapore stressed its disagreement with attempts to characterise Christian beliefs as harmful discrimination.

"We therefore affirm the Government's call to exercise restraint, and to avoid extreme demands," it said. "We fully agree on the need to protect our capacity to live together peacefully and render mutual assistance to each other."

AMP urged the Muslim community to remain calm and maintain civility when discussing the issue, and expressed hope that discourse would be respectful and accepting of differences in opinion.

In a study conducted after the Rally, Blackbox Research found that 43 per cent of the 650 Singaporean adults aged 18 years and above that it had polled expressed support for the decision to repeal S377A.

This is more than double the 21 per cent who oppose the repeal. A total of 34 per cent neither support nor oppose the repeal, and 2 per cent preferred not to state their stand.

More than half of those under 35 years of age support the repeal.

On marriage being protected from legal challenges, two-thirds of respondents are for the Government amending the Constitution to protect marriage.

A total of 55 per cent are opposed to gay marriage.

As with the issue of repeal, age proved to be a dividing factor on the issue of gay marriage. More than 60 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 said they support gay marriage, while only 15 per cent of those aged 50 and above support it.

In a separate poll, YouGov found that the repeal of S377A ranked third out of eight key issues mentioned during the Rally that mattered most to Singaporean voters.

The public opinion firm had asked 912 Singapore citizens aged 21 and above to select the issue from PM Lee's speech that affected them the most.

Economic challenges due to inflation and rising costs of living was the issue of greatest impact, followed by the easing of mask-wearing regulations indoors.

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