LGBTQ issues: MHA cautions foreign businesses on advocacy of 'divisive' topics

US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi meet with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore on 1 August, 2022 as part of her official visit to Asia. (PHOTOS: Reuters, Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi meet with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore on 1 August, 2022 as part of her official visit to Asia. (PHOTOS: Reuters, Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

SINGAPORE — Foreign businesses are reminded to be careful about advocacy on issues in Singapore that could be socially divisive, including those pertaining to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

The ministry was responding on Thursday (4 August) to media queries arising from United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's call for the business community in Singapore to support the LGBTQ community here, with more American businesses establishing offices in the city-state.

In its statement, MHA reiterated that while such businesses are free to promote diversity in their companies, they should be careful about advocating such issues.

"These are matters for Singaporeans to discuss and come to a consensus on how to move forward," MHA added.

Pelosi and her delegation was in Singapore on Monday for the first stop of her Asia tour, before making a visit to Taiwan that was condemned by China.

During her visit here, she met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and called on President Halimah Yacob at the Istana. She also met with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, as well as Senior Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

According to a statement issued by Pelosi’s press office after her visit to Singapore, Pelosi and her delegation had "engaged with leaders of the business community and underscored the importance of public-private sector collaboration to foster strong economic growth across the region".

"We asked for their support for the LGBTQ community in Singapore, as more American businesses are establishing and adding offices in Singapore," it added.

Singapore is home to nearly 5,500 US companies, said PM Lee in a speech made last August during a visit to Singapore by US Vice-President Kamala Harris.

With US$315 billion (S$434 billion) in investments in Singapore – amounting to more than its investments in China, India, and South Korea combined – the US is the city-state's largest foreign direct investor.

Singapore considering repeal of Section 377A

On Saturday, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said that the Singapore government is looking at how it can safeguard the current legal position on marriage against challenges in the courts, while it considers whether to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code.

The legislation criminalises homosexual sex between men here but is not proactively enforced. The courts have also consistently taken the position that social issues related to Section 377A are within the province of Parliament. On 28 February, the Court of Appeal dismissed three legal challenges against Section 377A.

Shanmugam told reporters that the government has had extensive discussions with religious and grassroots leaders, Singaporeans from all walks of life, as well as representatives of the LGBTQ groups on Section 377A.

While many Singaporeans agree that sex between men should not be a crime, they do not want the current position of marriage between a man and a woman to be changed, the minister had noted.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore a day after his remarks released a statement calling on the LGBTQ community to "respect our rights to maintain our position on marriage and that the family unit comprises a father, mother, and their children".

Its statement came after a closed-door meeting "Protect Singapore Townhall" attended by some 1,200 people on 23 July, which had called for the protection of families, marriages, and children in relation to a possible repeal of Section 377A.

In March, Shanmugam had spoken about Section 377A in Parliament and said that Singapore's policies need to evolve to keep abreast of the gradual shift in society's attitudes towards homosexuality and that the government is considering the best way forward.

Survey findings released by market research firm Ipsos in June found that the proportion of citizens and permanent residents who support Section 377A has fallen over the past four years, from 55 per cent in 2018 to 44 per cent in 2022.

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