Debate is raging in Singapore about whether the government should repeal anti-gay laws. | Photo: Change.org
A petition to keep the ban on gay sex in Singapore has more than double the number of signatures than a petition that calls for an end to it.
Inspired by India’s historic Supreme Court ruling to repeal its homosexual sex ban, Singapore’s LGBTI decided to launch a campaign to follow in India’s footsteps.
Section 377A of the Penal Code criminalizes consensual sex between men. Inherited from British colonizers, the LGBTI community in Singapore have called for the government to scrap 377A.
‘How much longer must gay Singaporeans live as second class citizens; branded criminals by laws meant to protect all Singaporeans?’ the petition reads.
The petition quickly got 30,000 signatures and at the time of publishing almost 40,000.
Singapore is a socially conservative city-island state in south east Asia with a population of about 5.6 million people.
The keep 377A movement
But conservative groups launched a counter petition in favor of keeping 377A. It already has more than 100,000 signatures.
‘By repealing the section 377A penal code, it would begin to normalize homosexual behaviours as a societal norm and lead to greater push for other LGBT rights in our conservative society as we have seen played out in other western societies today,’ the petition reads.
The popular petition comes as a coalition of church groups do not support repealing 377A.
The influential National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) said in a statement ‘that the homosexual lifestyle is not only harmful for individuals, but also for families and society as a whole’.
NCCS represents about 200 churches in Singapore where Christianity is the second biggest religion after Buddhism.
‘The repeal of Section 377A would result in the normalisation and promotion of this lifestyle (homosexuality), which in turn would lead to undesirable moral and social consequences, a slippery slope as seen in some countries taking this step,’ the statement read.
Petitions are not the problem
Leow Yangfa is a long-time advocate and executive director of LGBTI support group Oogachaga. He said he was not concerned about how many signatures the petition had.
Leow told Gay Star News that the NCCS does not represent all Christians or even all religious people in Singapore.
‘What I am more concerned about (is) the fact that we lack open and factual discussions about how 377A impacts LGBT individuals, couples, families and communities. For many, it is not intuitive how legislation, even when not “proactively enforced”, can impact all of us. It is usually easier to sign a petition after reading an emotionally charged appeal,’ he said.
Leow also said the petition didn’t concern him because Singapore mandates a separation of church and state.
In 2009… then Deputy PM and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng, stated that: ‘If religious groups start to campaign to change certain government policies, or use the pulpit to mobilise their followers to pressure the government, or push aggressively to gain ground at the expense of other groups, this must lead to trouble’.