Distinguish the act from the opportunity for adultery


Desmond Chew Tse Sern

Published: 4:02 AM, October 30, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, October 31, 2013

The question of whether morality can be legislated has been debated for centuries, and that it has resurfaced with regard to Ashley Madison is no surprise.

In “Morality more than just about sexuality” (Oct 29), Mr Sanjay Perera sought to show that because adultery is legal, the law is not always in sync with moral values per se.

The argument is noted; jurist Patrick Devlin also argued that adultery was “too generally regarded as a human weakness not suitably punished by imprisonment”.

It does not mean that laws are not necessarily connected with morality, but illustrates the difficulty of enforcing a law against adultery.

In this light, Mr Makoto Hong was misunderstood to have conflated public morality with sexuality. (“Extramarital dating site: Society has right to enforce public morality”; Oct 28).

He was trying to show that sexuality is one aspect of public morality society is able to have an opinion about, and he distinguished the act of adultery from the opportunity to foster adultery.

While adultery is not banned, our society can intervene by blocking Ashley Madison from creating opportunities for adultery, without the same difficulty as enforcing a ban on adultery, as the Media Development Authority has the ability to regulate websites in Singapore.

Interestingly, Mr Perera stretched his argument to include the laissez-faire system of economic markets, and whether the Government should intervene where injustice arises.

However, that policies, framework and practices should “allow people to bring to the fore our latency to do what is right” illustrates implicitly how morality issues are involved.

One cannot simply say what is right without looking at his or her moral guidance on the issues at stake. Ashley Madison has outraged many Singaporeans, which shows the need to do what is right, and legislation is an opportunity to illustrate that.