Singapore

Govt has no plans to repeal section 377a for now

Govt has no plans to repeal section 377a for now
PM Lee Hsien Loong. TODAY file photo
Published: 4:00 AM, March 2, 2017

Singapore society is still not that liberal, and for now, the Government has no plans to repeal a section in the Penal Code that criminalises sex between men, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“It is a matter of society values. We inherited this from British Victorian attitudes,” Mr Lee said in response to a question from veteran BBC journalist Stephan Sackur on whether the Singapore Government would remove Section 377A of the Penal Code as a symbol of change in the country. “We are not British. We are not Victorian. But this is a society which is not that liberal on these matters. Attitudes have changed, but I believe if you have a referendum on the issue today, 377A would stand.”

Mr Sackur, who described Section 377A as a “repressive law on homosexuality”, then asked if having been in power for over 12 years, Mr Lee should signal to Singaporeans that the country can adapt to changing social mores.

But Mr Lee pointed out that the Government’s role was not to do so on social moral issues. “People believe this, some of them believe this fervently — it is a vexed issue in every society,” he said.

Would the Prime Minister change his view on Section 377A if his children or grandchildren were gay, Mr Sackur asked.

“I think that it’s a law which is there,” said Mr Lee.

“If I remove it, I will not remove the problem because if you look at what has happened in the West, in Britain you decriminalised it in the 1960s, your attitudes have changed a long way, but even now gay marriage is contentious,” he added, noting that the issue is also a controversial one in America and other parts of Europe.

Pressed for his personal view on the matter, Mr Lee added: “My personal view is that if I don’t have a problem, this is an uneasy compromise, I’m prepared to live with it until social attitudes change.”