NDR 2022: Churches say Section 377A repeal very regrettable, Pink Dot hails 'victory'

Composite image of Pink Dot participants and an overhead shot of the event. (PHOTOS: Reuters)
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made the announcement to repeal the colonial-era law during the National Day Rally 2022 on Sunday. (PHOTOS: Reuters)

SINGAPORE – The decision to repeal Section 377A (S377A) of Singapore's Penal Code, the divisive law that criminalises sex between men, has been met by disappointment from the Alliance of Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches of Singapore (APCCS).

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made the announcement to repeal the colonial-era law during the National Day Rally 2022 (NDR 2022) on Sunday (21 August). Singapore plans to amend its Constitution to enshrine the definition of marriage and prevent the issue from being challenged in the courts, Lee added.

In a media statement released after NDR 2022, APCCS chairman Reverend Yang Tuck Yong said, "The repeal is an extremely regrettable decision which will have a profound impact on the culture that our children and future generations of Singaporeans will live in.

"However, we also recognise that the government seeks to bring about a balance among many differing viewpoints on this matter.

"We strongly urge the government to entrench the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the Singapore Constitution. That would be the most prudent way forward."

Should the matter be put to a parliamentary vote, the party whip should be lifted as part of due democratic process in multi-religious Singapore, APCCS said, so that Members of Parliament can represent the voice of all people, including the religious, and vote according to the feedback they have received.

Catholic church seeks protection of family and marriage

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore also responded to the repeal of S377A, saying, "We do not seek to criminalise the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer), for they too are children of God and loved by Him."

In a statement on its website, the church added, "However, we seek protection of the family and marriage according to natural law; and our rights to teach and practise them unhindered. We must not allow reverse discrimination to take place against those who believe in marriage as defined between a man and a woman."

Taking comfort in the government's plan to enshrine the definition of marriage in the Constitution, it added, "Otherwise, we will be taking a slippery road of no return, weakening the fabric of a strong society which is founded on the bedrock of holistic families and marriages."

Humanist Society celebrates repeal

The Humanist Society, which seeks to represent non-religious people in Singapore, said it "celebrates" the announcement to repeal S377A.

"S377A, a vestige of British colonial rule, criminalised sex between consenting male adults. It dehumanised individuals, infringed upon the most personal of liberties, and imposed a religious code on a secular public," it said in a statement.

"We note that while some individuals or organisations may have disagreed with the repeal, we hope that they will eventually come around to see that building a fairer, more inclusive, secular society benefits everyone, regardless of race, language, religion, or sexual orientation."

"With this repeal, we can look forward to a more progressive Singapore society, based on justice and equality."

Pink Dot SG, a support group for the LGBT community, said that while the repeal is a "hard-won victory", it comes as "far too late for many" due to past victims of S377A who had faced threats such as raids and criminal charges.

It also expressed disappointment on the proposed constitution amendment to enshrine the definition of heterosexual marriage, urging the government not to heed recent calls from religious conservatives for such a move. "Such a decision will undermine the secular character of our Constitution, codify further discrimination into supreme law, and tie the hands of future Parliaments."

The announcement to repeal S377A comes after years of contentious debates and legal challenges from various parties who either argue for and against the law.

In 2007, Parliament amended the Penal Code but left S377A unchanged.

S377A, which refers to sexual acts between men but not women and specifies the punishment for violation, reads, “Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years.”

The government had maintained that while S377A is written in law, it would not be actively enforced in order to reach a “messy compromise” between the conservative majority who want to preserve the sanctity of marriage and family, and top legal professionals, civil activists, the LGBT community and others who have been pushing for its repeal.

Read more about the National Day Rally 2022, including what were some of the major announcements and the reactions to PM Lee's speech.

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