The existence of S377A of the Penal Code makes Singapore the only developed country in the world that still has laws criminalizing homosexual acts. Despite lobbying from NGOs and LGBT rights activists, the government has maintained a policy of passive aggression. “We’ll keep S377A but we won’t enforce it” is a common reply parroted for years. When pressed for answers as to why the government would still retain an archaic colonial-era law, the “Conservative Asian Society” excuse is frequently brought up.
When interview by the BBC’s Stephen Sackur on S377A, PM Lee Hsien Loong had this to say:
“My personal view is that if I don’t have a problem this is an uneasy compromise. I am prepared to live with it until social attitudes change.”
There are many fallacies to this line of reasoning. I will attempt to present the argument that you can support the repeal of S377A even if you’re a social conservative. Here’s why.
1. S377A has nothing to do with Same-sex Marriage
Many conservatives are worried that the repeal of S377A would open the doors for same-sex marriage to be legalized in the future. They often cite examples of religious persecution in the West where churches are forced by the state to perform Gay weddings and businesses forced to serve LGBT customers.
The freedom to practice one’s religion is a right that many Singaporeans hold close to their heart. But the reality is that the fear of persecution only exists because people perceive the state to have too much power. If the state can wield its power to suppress the rights of the LGBT minority to satisfy the conservative majority, it can one day wield that same power to restrict the religious freedoms of Singaporeans. The problem lies, not with the LGBT agenda but a state that meddles in the private affairs of its citizens.
If you believe that it’s wrong for the Government to force a church to conduct a gay wedding, logically it should also be wrong for the Government to micro-manage the private lives of LGBT Singaporeans in the form of S377A. Both are simply 2 sides of the same statist coin.
2. There are far bigger threats to the family unit than the LGBT minority
If you believe that marriage and the family is the building block of society and must be defended, the least we can do is be pragmatic about it. The reality is that a small community of LGBT activists are unlikely to damage the fabric of Singaporean society by destroying marriage and the family.
According to Singstat, the divorce rate in Singapore is steadily increasing. Among men, the proportion of divorcees aged 45 years and above rose from 30 per cent in 2005 to 42.4 per cent in 2015. For women, the proportion rose from 20.1 per cent to 27.5 per cent.
More than half (53.7 per cent) of plaintiffs in civil divorces cited “unreasonable behaviour” as the main reason for divorce, while 42.6 per cent cited “having lived apart or separated for three years or more”
For the young child, divorce shakes trust in dependency on parents who now behave in an extremely undependable way. They surgically divide the family unit into two different households between which the child must learn to transit back and forth, for a while creating unfamiliarity, instability, and insecurity, never being able to be with one parent without having to be apart from the other.
Statistically speaking, divorce is wrecking far more families and marriages than the schemes of LGBT activists. So why aren’t we affording more attention to this pertinent issue? If we are truly a society that values the family, shouldn’t we be focusing our efforts to stem the rising tide of divorce in Singapore?
3. Our culture has already normalized other forms of “vice” and “sin”
“Homosexuality is a sin, therefore we should retain S377A”, many religious conservatives argue. But there are dozens of other vices that remain legal that are clearly condemned by religious texts. Adultery, while morally reprehensible, is not illegal in Singapore. Moreover, other forms of vice generally frowned upon by religious conservatives have been normalized in our culture. Whether it’s nightclubs, R-rated movies, violent video games, pre-marital sex or smoking. If you support S377A because it legislates morality, how do you then justify the multitude of other sins that remain legal in our country?
4. There is no logic in keeping a law that isn’t even enforced
A law is only useful if enforced. Imagine if murder was illegal in Singapore but the government never bothered to enforce it? What good is that law in maintaining order? The same can be said about S377A. The Government has repeatedly said it will not actively enforce S377A. This defeats the purpose of even retaining that law in the first place.