CNA: Singapore won’t repeal homosexual law


By Hoe Yeen Nie, Channel NewsAsia

Posted: 05 July 2009 2015 hrs

SINGAPORE: Law Minister K Shanmugam has said Singapore will not decriminalise gay sex but the courts have the power to decide how the law, Section 377, is applied. Section 377A of the Penal Code deems sex between men a crime.

A recent ruling by the New Delhi High Court legalising gay sex between consenting adults in India raised questions on whether Singapore might go the same way. Both countries share the same Penal Code, inherited from the colonial British.

In a dialogue with Punggol residents on Sunday, Mr Shanmugam said Section 377 will remain as homosexuality is still not accepted by most Singaporeans.

He said: “We have the law. We say it won’t be enforced. Is it totally clear? We, sometimes in these things, have to accept a bit of messiness. And the way the society is going, we don’t think it’s fair for us to prosecute people who say that they are homosexual.”

But he said that while the government will not take the lead in repealing the law, the legal courts in Singapore have the power to decide how Section 377 is interpreted and applied.

Mr Shanmugam, who is also the Second Minister for Home Affairs, said the government will play a more active role in other areas, such as creating ways for new citizens and Permanent Residents to interact with the community.

But he said all parties must also make an effort. “It’s not a quick process. You can’t wave a magic wand and say, ‘oh, integration takes place’. It takes many years. And why talk about foreigners? Even amongst ourselves, different races, religions – how long has it taken to get to this stage?”

During the hour-long dialogue, one resident noted that the minister had spoken of affirmative action for Malays five years ago and asked if he felt this was still necessary.

In reply, Mr Shanmugam said the community had come a long way, but clarified that he was not calling for a quota system at the time.

Instead, success must be founded on meritocracy.

Mr Shanmugam said: “We don’t talk about quotas, that’s not our approach. We don’t talk about…so many places for Malays, so many places for Indians, so many places for Chinese. That’s a wrong way to go. It has got to be meritocratic. But assuming 10 people make the cut-off, try and look for some who are also from the Malay community.”

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