Section 377A should not be repealed now: Singapore Archbishop William Goh

Archbishop William Goh. (PHOTO: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore)
Archbishop William Goh. (PHOTO: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore)

Singapore should not repeal Section 377A, which criminalises sex between men, under present circumstances, Archbishop William Goh said on Tuesday (18 September).

In a pastoral letter posted on the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore’s website, he also wrote that he would not object to a repeal of the law “if it were merely aimed at removing all potential criminal penalties against homosexuals”.

“However, until and unless Parliament puts in place a formulation that more perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the law, guaranteeing the protection of the rights of the majority who favour the traditional family, and that no further demands be made to legalise same-sex unions, same-sex adoption of babies, surrogacy, or to criminalise those who do not support the homosexual lifestyle, I am of the view that S377A should not be repealed under the present circumstances,” he added.

The debate over Section 377A was reignited in recent days after the Indian Supreme Court’s decision earlier this month to strike down a similar law and a top Singapore diplomat urged a challenge to the gay sex ban.

Petitions have since been started by activists on both sides of the divide, with religious groups weighing in, and a deejay filing a fresh legal challenge. Most Singaporeans still support keeping the ban, a survey showed.

Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam had said that any decision on 377A is a matter for Parliament. Depending on the legislation, public opinion is “often relevant” during policy making in Parliament, he added.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung has also weighed in on the issue, stressing that there is no discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community “at work, housing (and) education” in Singapore.

In his message, Archbishop Goh touched on the dilemma he is facing over the debate.

“On one hand, I feel the struggles and pains of those with same-sex attraction, who sincerely love God and desire to live up to His divine plan for humanity,” he wrote.

“On the other hand, I share the anxieties and fears of those who subscribe to the traditional and scriptural views of marriage and family, that repealing S377A would lead the country down a slippery slope,” he added.

Nonetheless, he is of the view that Section 377A should not be repealed because “by accepting homosexual acts as a social norm, the dreadful consequences for the stability of our families, the well-being of our children, and the risks to the common good will be long-term and irreversible”.

He ended his letter with: “Looking at the dire consequences for countries which normalised same-sex unions and the ramifications that followed, may we not repeat the mistake that others have made! I pray that we will not walk the slippery path of no return.”

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