In his response, Mr Wong said the issue has to be managed and dealt with carefully and sensitively because it pertains to our social values and norms.
Like race or religions, these are issues where different segments of society hold deep and sometimes opposing views.
“Our way of addressing these sort of issues is to engage the different groups and see if we can work out some common understanding, some way of having mutual accommodation and compromise without causing deep polarisations and divisions in our society or deeper polarisations and divisions,” he said adding that that is the process the government is undertaking right now.
On being ‘very embarrassing having a law like that when you are trying to bring people to come to Singapore’, Mr Wong pointed out that 377A was not something that the Government of Singapore introduced. It was a legacy from being a British colony.
While many Asian countries which were former British colonies have repealed the law, in Singapore, there are many segments who feel that it’s not just about the law, but the law is a marker for other things that they care about – about society, societal values, about family and about marriage, he said.
In other words, there are 2 issues here. The law is one matter. Views on the law and criminalisation of homosexual behaviour has evolved and changed, Mr Wong said. But there are also views around family and marriage which is different from the first matter. And people do feel strongly about family values and marriage, he added.
The broader issue, as Mr Wong said, is not about 377A.
“It is about how we organise ourselves as a society, whether or not values around family, around marriage will be changed, and those are the concerns that the larger segment of Singaporeans is concerned about.”
Mr Wong added that 377A is ‘a live issue for us because we are in the midst of discussing and engaging different parties on this.’
“And that is why as I mentioned just now, we are having this conversation even right now, engaging different groups and considering how best we might move forward in a way that will not cause deeper divisions in our society,” Mr Wong said.