S’pore Considers Next Steps For 377A While Protecting Current Legal Position On Marriage: Shanmugam

Singapore Needs To Strike Balance Between Next Steps For 377A & Current Position On Marriage

Over the years, Section 377A, which criminalises sex between men, has been a subject of contentious debate in Singapore.

On Saturday (30 Jul), Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said the government is considering the next steps for Section 377A while looking at how it can safeguard Singapore’s current marriage position.

section 377A marriage position

Source: The Straits Times on YouTube

This includes protecting the legal position on marriage against challenges in courts.

Looking at Section 377A changes & our legal position on marriage

On Saturday (30 Jul), Mr Shanmugam spoke to reporters at Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre, saying the government is looking at how to make changes to the law while safeguarding Singapore’s marriage position.

Authorities have been in discussions with different religious leaders, grassroots leaders, Singaporeans from all walks of life, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups.

They gathered that many agree gay sex should not be criminalised. However, Mr Shanmugam said most voiced concerns about decriminalisation leading to other major changes.

Particularly, most wanted the current position on marriage – between a man and a woman – to be retained.

In the same vein, people did not want policies that reference the definition of marriage to change.

He shared that the government understands this. They are trying to strike a balance. Hence, authorities are now considering what to do with Section 377A and how to safeguard the current legal position of marriage from being challenged in courts.

This is in reference to how Section 377A was challenged in a series of cases.

Section 377A Of Penal Code Retained But Not Enforced, Pink Dot Expresses Disappointment

Mr Shanmugam said these matters should be discussed and decided in Parliament rather than in the courts.

Protect Singapore Townhall did not break laws

Previously on 23 Jul, Protect Singapore Townhall, which called for the protection of marriage and family in light of the government’s consideration of repealing Section 377A, was organised. Over 1,200 people attended the event.

Protect 377A Townhall Attracts Over 1,200 Attendees Who Want Govt To Preserve Traditional Marriages

Subsequently, police reports were lodged. However, authorities said no action would be taken against the organisers, and the gathering did not break laws.

During the same interview, Mr Shanmugam explained the decision, referencing how Pink Dot was held on 18 Jun, with many speeches and calls to action.

Similarly, the Protect Singapore townhall organisers had also exercised their rights.

“My ministry has looked at it. Protect Singapore didn’t break any laws in holding the townhall. We will step in if there’s incitement, attacks, or running down of any groups by either side,” he said.

Our duty is to protect the safety of everyone.

Differences should be worked out calmly

As both sides seek to be heard, more such events can be expected. After all, if one side pushes, there will be a push back, as seen in many countries.

In Singapore, this can tear our social fabric apart and cause much harm, said Mr Shanmugam.

Hence, authorities are calling for moderation — to move carefully and “not push positions which can damage society”.

Mr Shanmugam said,

We have to deal with the issues with an open mind and open heart. Avoid exteme positions and avoid extreme demands.

As Singapore moves forward, he stressed that we must try and be united and work on our differences calmly for the country’s sake.

Authorities putting more thought into Section 377A

Despite not being proactively enforced, Section 377A has long remained in the Penal Code to maintain the country’s social cohesion and let the situation evolve naturally.

Nonetheless, as sentiments shift, it’s good to see that authorities have put more thought into the matter.

No matter the outcome, let us have some faith that the government is doing its best to balance views from both sides of the divide.

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Featured image adapted from The Straits Times on YouTube and Jason Wong on Facebook.

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