A petition to maintain the law which criminalizes male homosexual sex in Singapore has received over 60,000 signatures.
The petition says that repealing Section 377A would ‘normalize homosexual behaviours’ and ‘lead to greater push for other LGBT rights in our conservative society.’
A WhatsApp message calling on Singaporeans to contact their elected representatives to convey their support for the law has also been circulating.
This comes in response to renewed calls from rights groups and public figures in Singapore to repeal Section 377A.
Section 377A, a statute which bans male homosexual sex in Singapore, is rarely enforced, but effectively criminalizes gay men in the island republic. It traces its roots back to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which India’s Supreme Court repealed earlier this week.
Following the decision in India, a veteran Singaporean diplomat suggested that the LGBT community mount another legal challenge against the law. The country’s law minister, however, claimed that a majority of Singaporeans want Section 377A to remain.
The petition is fast approaching its target of 75,000 signatures at the time of this article’s publication.
The petition’s description states: ‘As a conservative society which values traditional family values, we like to reiterate our desire to keep the penal code to convey to our future generations that marriage act should only be an acceptable norm between a man and a woman.
‘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,’ it continues.
The WhatsApp messages advise similar courses of action, saying: ‘In view of the call for Singaporeans to decide about laws against gay sex, the first line of response is now necessary and each citizen ought to make a stand.’
The message continues, ‘Here is one initiative – whether you are of any religious or moral conviction, it is best to voice out and write in now,’ before calling on recipients to contact their local MP and express support for maintaining Section 377A.
LGBTI activists have announced that they will start a counter-petition calling on the government to repeal Section 377A, though an older petition with a similiar statement has also been revived.
‘Society has got to decide’
Following the ruling by India’s top court, Singapore’s Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said that it was up to Singapore’s society to decide whether to keep or repeal Section 377A.
‘I think society has got to decide which direction it wants to go. And the laws will have to keep pace with changes in society and how society sees these issues,’ Shanmugam said on Friday (7 September).
However, several prominent establishment figures expressed their support for challenging or repealing Section 377A.
Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh argued that LGBTI groups should start a renewed legal action against the statute in a Facebook comment. In a separate Facebook post, chief of the Singapore government’s communications Janadas Devan agreed with Koh, and wrote: ‘377A is a bad law; it is bad law. Sooner or later, it will go. Pray sooner rather than later.’
Divisive issue in Singapore
Section 377A has been a controversial and divisive law in Singapore for years.
A campaign to repeal the law failed over a decade ago. In 2014, Singapore’s Court of Appeal ruled Section 377A constitutional.
In July, Singapore’s annual Gay Pride festival, Pink Dot, explicitly called on the government to repeal the law. This was the first time in the ten-year history of Pink Dot which made a direct statement on repealing Section 377A.
In early August, a coalition of LGBTI rights groups sent an open letter to Singapore’s prime minister calling for greater equality for the LGBTI community.