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On Singapore’s Penal Code Section 377A

The Singapore government will soon be reviewing its Penal Code which has not been reviewed in 20 years. One of proposed amendments to the Penal Code is on Section 377A[1] which outlaws sex acts between men will not be repealed but laws that criminalise anal and oral sex between opposite-sex couples will be repealed.

The National Council of Churches in Singapore (NCCS) has commended on the government on this stance, and in its statement release, it says: “We are aware that the proposed amendment to delete section 377 PC but on the other hand retaining section 377A PC may be controversial in some quarters. Nevertheless, we consider homosexual acts to be sinful, abhorrent and deviant, whether consensual or not. The NCCS commends the Government on taking a clear, unequivocal and bold stand of neither encouraging nor endorsing a homosexual lifestyle and opposing the presentation of the same as part of a mainstream way of life. At the same time, we do not condemn homosexuals as the Bible calls us to hate the sin but love the sinner. Given that section 377A PC criminalises homosexuality whether done private or publicly, we are of the view that a similar prohibition ought to be enacted in respect of lesbianism, considering that lesbianism (like homosexuality) is also abhorrent and deviant, whether consensual or not.”

In response to the NCCS’s statement on the proposed amendments to the Penal Code, the Free Community Church and other NGOs in Singapore have issued statements objecting to NCCS’s call to criminalising lesbian acts and advocating the retention of Section 377A. Below is the statement released by the Free Community Church[2].

Statement from the Free Community Church

The Free Community Church expresses shock and dismay over the National Council of Churches in Singapore’s feedback to the Ministry of Home Affairs, published in the March 2007 issue of The Methodist Message, commending the retention of S377A of the Penal Code, and further calling for a similar criminalisation of lesbians.

In particular we strongly object to the NCCS feedback in the following respects:

  1. It is outrageous that an organisation, purportedly representing members of the Christian faith, is calling for the criminalisation of an entire group of people—the lesbian and gay community. The reality is that the gay and lesbian communities contribute significantly to the well-being and development of Singapore and we should allow them to live their lives in peace.
  2. While as Christians we can preach our moral values, we should not seek to impose our point of view by advocating our view be made law that governs a secular state that includes non-Christians in a pluralistic society. This is tantamount to trying to impose Christian values onto non-Christians, not to mention that there is, in reality, no consensus regarding homosexuality even among Christians ourselves.
  3. By its statement the NCCS undermines the very love commandments of Jesus who, at every point of his life, fought against the marginalisation, condemnation and oppression of minorities. Why is it that similar pronouncements have not been made of divorce or adultery, against which Jesus had much more to say?
  4. The NCCS view not only undermines the Singapore Constitution Article 12(1), which states “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”, it also undermines the Christian belief that all human beings are equally persons of self-worth created by God in God’s image.
  5. The reality is that societally and globally, homosexuality is no longer viewed as unnatural by most legislatures except those that (i) have carried over the Christian ethos of the British Empire or (ii) are theocracies. Almost every secular legislature in the world no longer criminalizes homosexual acts between consenting adults. Today, homosexuality has been accepted by sociologists as a sub-culture.

In its 8 Nov 2006 press release, the Ministry of Home Affairs revealed that the approach to amending the Penal Code is, amongst others, “to update its provisions so that they remain relevant and effective in view of societal and global changes”. With this aim, the government has made the initial step in proposing to repeal S377, abolishing the crime of anal and oral sex when carried out by heterosexuals in private. NCCS’ call to further criminalise lesbians (never before included in this section of the penal code) is a retrograde step and a regressive move backwards.

To deny this, the Church neglects to take seriously its task of doing theology, being critical, constructive and contextual, re-thinking God anew in the ever-changing contexts of every generation that leads to justice for all God’s people.

Footnotes:
  1. Section 377A of the Penal Code (PC) provides for a 2-year jail term for “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.”
  2. The Free Community Church of Singapore “affirms that all individuals are persons of sacred worth and created in God’s image. Given the discrimination that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) persons still face in society, our Church affirms that same-sex relationships are consistent with Christian faith and teachings, when lived out in accord with the love commandments of Jesus. Instead, it is discrimination based on sexual orientation and homophobia that are inconsistent with Christian teachings.” The FCC welcomes all LGBT persons to its family. For more information on the FCC, please surf to www.freecomchurch.org.