Town hall urges against repealing Section 377A without safeguards for marriage, families

A town hall attended by about 1,200 people was held on July 23 arguing for Section 377A to remain. PHOTO: PROTECT SINGAPORE TOWNHALL

SINGAPORE - A group of people have called for the law criminalising sex between men to be kept on the books, until there are guarantees to protect the traditional definition of marriage and family.

Calling themselves the Protect Singapore Townhall, the group held an event at the Singapore Expo convention centre last Saturday (July 23), which was attended by more than 1,200 people.

Organisers Jason Wong and Mohamed Khair Mohamed Noor published brief updates on the session in similar Facebook posts titled Silent No More the same day, after the event.

They wrote: "We urge the Government to maintain the current political package and not to repeal Section 377A unless and until there are adequate safeguards for our marriages, families, and freedom of conscience.

"This includes enshrining man-woman marriage in the Constitution."

The Government has been consulting various groups of Singaporeans on the law in recent months, as it decides on the next steps.

Currently, the law - Section 377A of the Penal Code - is not actively enforced, a position that has been reiterated by the authorities since it was discussed at length in Parliament in 2007.

However, a Court of Appeal ruling on Feb 28 this year that the law cannot be used to prosecute men for gay sex reignited the debate on whether the law should be repealed.

Asked about the issue in Parliament in March, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said the Government is carefully considering the best way forward.

"If and when we decide to move, we will do so in a way that continues to balance these different viewpoints, and avoids causing a sudden, destabilising change in social norms and public expectations," he said.

Social and Family Development Minister Masagos Zulkifli told Parliament the same month that traditional societal norms and values will be reflected in policies and laws concerning marriage, parenthood, adoption, fertility treatment, as well as housing and inheritance, among other things.

"We'll continue to adopt the approach of civil dialogue, working with all, involving all stakeholders, as we chart our own unique Singapore way forward without creating sudden shifts and deep divisions in our society," he added.

The organisers of Saturday's event, which the media was not invited to, said it was attended by people of all ages, races and backgrounds, including people who formerly identified as part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer (LGBTQ) community and who shared their experiences.

Mr Wong and Mr Khair wrote: "Youths, parents, workers and more decided that it was #timetoact to protect family, marriage, our freedom of conscience, and most importantly our children, who are at the heart of these social institutions."

They added: "We've been relatively restrained in the face of an intolerant, vocal minority that seeks to overturn the order in all areas of society - be it marriage, education, businesses, or beliefs, while demonising all those who disagree as 'bigots' or 'haters', instead of engaging us with good faith. We will be silent no more."

Mr Wong is a former board member and chairman of Christian organisation Focus on the Family, while Mr Khair is executive chairman of SuChi Success Initiatives, which runs marriage preparation courses for Muslim couples and other training programmes.

Organisers Jason Wong (left) and Mohamed Khair Mohamed Noor speaking at the event at the Singapore Expo convention centre on July 23, 2022. PHOTOS: PROTECT SINGAPORE TOWNHALL

The Straits Times has contacted the organisers for comment.

In a statement on Monday (July 25) night, a spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the organiser had applied for a permit from the police to hold the event.

Under the Public Order Act, a police permit is required for a public assembly whose purpose is to demonstrate support for or opposition to the views or actions of any person, group or government. It is also required for assemblies seeking to publicise a cause or commemorate any event.

The organiser told the police that entry to the town hall was by invitation, involving only members of her organisation and invited guests, the spokesman added.

The police had assessed that a permit was not required as it was a private event.

MHA added: "Everyone, including religious groups, is entitled to their views on different matters, including on LGBT issues, and to express their views, so long as they do not denigrate any groups of persons, and do not break any laws."

The spokesman also confirmed that police reports have been lodged relating to the town hall. "We will not be taking any action against the organisers as there is no criminal offence disclosed," he added.

Correction note: This story has been corrected to say that Mr Jason Wong is a former board member and chairman of Christian organisation Focus on the Family.

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