What is Section 377A?
The provision of the law in Section 377A makes it a crime for a man, whether in public or in private, to commit any act of “gross indecency” with another man, and carries a jail term of up to two years.
The law, however, is not actively enforced, a position that has been reiterated by the authorities since it was robustly debated in Parliament in 2007.
Many agree gay sex should not be criminalised.
“Many agree that men who have sex with each other should not be thrown into prison. Gay sex should not be criminalised,” he said.
Most also want the current postion on marriage to be retained.
“At the same time, most do not want any decriminalisation to cause other major changes. In particular, most people want the current position on marriage to be retained.”
Current position on marriage
The current position is that the law defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.
“People don’t want that to change,” Mr Shanmugam said. People also do not want any change to the current policies that take reference from this definition of marriage.
“The Government understands this view. We are now considering how best to achieve this balance,” Mr Shanmugam said.
Safeguarding the current legal position on marriage
The Singapore Government is looking at how it can safeguard the current legal position on marriage against challenges in the courts, while it considers the next steps for Section 377A of the Penal Code.
“The two questions we are dealing with are therefore: One, what is to be done with 377A; and two, at the same time, we are also considering how we can safeguard the current legal position on marriage from legal challenges in courts so that it does not get challenged in the courts, like 377A was in a series of cases,” said Mr Shanmugam.
Moderation, not extreme positions
The LGBT community here has also been vocal in its bid to repeal S377A, with the most high-profile event being the annual Pink Dot SG rally. Attendees this year were urged to speak up for the change they want to see in Singapore.
On July 23, about 1,200 people took part in the event called Protect Singapore. It was organised by Mr Jason Wong and Mr Mohamed Khair Mohamed Noor, who argued that retaining S377A was needed to protect families, the institution of marriage, children and freedom.
In a Facebook post on the event, Mr Jason Wong, a former senior civil servant, and the founder of the Yellow Ribbon Project and the Dads for Life movement said:
Mr Shanmugam called for moderation from both sides and for them “to avoid extreme positions and demands”.
These events illustrate what the Government has been saying for a long time: that if one side pushes too hard, then there will be pushback, he said.
This has happened in many countries. “If it happens here in Singapore, and we are a very small place, the ruptures will tear our social fabric apart, cause a lot of harm,” he said.
This is why the Government has been advocating moderation and to not push positions that can damage society, he added.