On 377A Penal Code

On 377A Penal Code

And so section 377A will be retained and gay sex continues to be a crime. Sodomy between a male and female is fine, but gay sex remains a crime. In fact, lesbian sex is fine as well, it’s just gay sex that is criminalized. After all we have to keep a balance between conservative society and gays as PM Lee has articulated.


I am a proponent of decriminalizing gay sex. I do not see the reasons why it should be criminalized. And the legislation, by excluding females and singling out a specific group of men stinks of pure and blatant discrimination, in the same league as racism.


What disturbs me is the debate going on at Parliament. What disturbed me the most was the speech by Professor Thio Li-ann. It absolutely makes no sense at all. She says that the arguments supporting decriminalizing of gay sex are flawed. I quote:

These flawed arguments are marinated with distracting fallacies which obscure what is at stake—repealing 377A is the first step of a radical, political agenda which will subvert social morality, the common good and undermine our liberties.


What I don’t understand is how decriminalizing gay sex will do the so-called subverting. Exactly how it will subvert the social morality (together with the common good and our liberties) is something we are not told. It just will. It is as if the floodgates will open once gay sex is decriminalized and something drastic will happen. This tactic is also known as fear-mongering. After all, and I quote her very words, “Debate must be based on substance, and not sound-bites.” Her four arguments are as follows:


1. To say a law is archaic is merely chronological snobbery.


For the uninitiated, chronological snobbery is one of Prof Thio’s pet phrases. Just because something is modern does not make it good. Similarly, just because something is old does not make it bad. This is something I agree with. However, it is not chronological snobbery to suggest that today’s society should do the correct thing, the non-oppressive thing, to decriminalize gay sex. This is not asking for every Singaporean to embrace homosexuality, to advocate it and to promote it in schools. Who does that? Which country in the world which has decriminalized gay sex intend to promote it or has in fact promoted it? Can one promote heterosexuality? Is it even something promote-able, for lack of a better word?


2. You cannot say a law is regressive unless you first identify your ultimate goal. If we seek to copy the sexual libertine ethos of the wild wild West, then repealing Section 377A is progressive.


So basically, this tells us that not all things Western should be imitated and followed. This obscures the issue of repealing section 377A. The whole East / West argument, the whole Asian Values thing, is a blanket argument without substance. One cannot and should not simply label something and term it as a conclusive argument in itself. The wild wild West is where we got section 377A in the first place. They were not always wild, apparently.


3. To say a law which criminalizes homosexual acts because many find it offensive is merely imposing a ‘prejudice’ or ‘bias’ assumes with justification that no reasonable contrary view exists. This evades debate.


Okie, this takes some time to understand. Basically, this law here, s 377A is not prejudicial or bias per se, cos there might be a reasonable contrary view. She goes on with the argument.


4. There is no neutral ground, no ‘Switzerland of ambivalence’ when we consider the moral issues related to 377A which require moral judgment of what is right and wrong. Therefore, the demand for objectivity in the 377A debate is intellectually disingenuous.


Like many people out there, I’m not sure what the term ‘Switzerland of ambivalence’ means. It’s one of those 10 dollar phrases that I don’t understand. So there’s no objectivity cos where moral standards are concerned, right is right and wrong is wrong. The thing about the argument is that she is so very certain that gay sex is wrong. She reiterates this point:

“[Sexual] Diversity is not licence for perversity. This radical liberal argument is pernicious, a leftist philosophy based on radical individualism and radical egalitarianism. It is unworkable because every viable moral theory has limits to consent.”


She calls it perversity. Based on what? The bible? So what if the bible calls it perverse? The bible calls a lot of things perverse, along with sodomy (and the bible was quite fair in its labeling, both male and female gay sex were deemed perverse). But let’s not bring religion into play, it’s a blog post for another day. But yet, there is no reason why she calls it perverse. Gay sex just is. Perhaps she appeals to the instinctive repulsiveness that one reacts with when one first hears about gay sex. But to criminalize it? To actually say that it is a crime? A lot of people who are uncomfortable with adultery would not want to criminalize adultery. Simply because one is uncomfortable with something does not mean that one should criminalize the act.


PM Lee has said that abolishing section 377A could send the wrong signal and push gay activists to ask for more, such as changing what is taught in schools and advocating same-sex marriages and parenting.


First, I’m not very sure how it would change what is taught in schools. What is taught in schools anyway? Is there an active heterosexual syllabus? I know my tone sounds mocking here, but I’m seriously thinking about where I’ve been taught about my heterosexuality. I’m sure it didn’t come about naturally, something like that must have been taught to me.


Second, the repeal of section 377A is a moral issue. It is a moral issue because you make a stand to do what is right to protect the minorities’ liberties. It is cold comfort to retain a law and say that one will not enforce it. If one does not enforce it and do not intend to, then the law should be repealed. There is no reason for the law to stay except to placate the majority, and so as not to offend your constituents. If one simply wants to do the popular thing, then that is also understandable, but one will lose the right to stand on the moral high horse and his or her moral authority.


To be honest, I’m not completely comfortable with homosexuality either. But that is different from wanting a law that criminalizes something I’m not comfortable with to stay. The fact that it has remained sends a clear signal of intolerance and certain cowardice, nothing more.

2 Responses to “On 377A Penal Code”
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  1. […] On conservatism, part I – Abao’s Rants: Religion-ism: To what extent – The human condition: On 377A Penal Code – Yuhui’s Blogger: 377A will be repealed one day, just not […]

  2. […] On conservatism, part I – Abao’s Rants: Religion-ism: To what extent – The human condition: On 377A Penal Code – Yuhui’s Blogger: 377A will be repealed one day, just not […]

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