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Day 2 of Section 377A debate: Which MPs support the repeal, and what they say

SINGAPORE — The second day of the parliamentary debate on Bills related to the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code and a constitutional amendment on Tuesday (Nov 29) saw a total of nine Members of Parliament (MPs) stating their position in support of both Bills, while four others did not state their position.

 

A view of the Parliament House in Singapore.

A view of the Parliament House in Singapore.

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  • MPs continued the debate on the repeal of a law that criminalises sex between men, as well as a related constitutional amendment
  • On the second day of the debate, nine MPs supported the repeal, four did not explicitly take a position even as they raised certain concerns 
  • In total, 27 MPs stated their support for the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code, four were against both Bills, and eight did not explicitly state their stand

SINGAPORE — The second day of a parliamentary debate on Bills related to the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code and a constitutional amendment saw a total of nine Members of Parliament (MPs) stating their position in support of both Bills, while four others did not state their position.

Over the two days of the parliamentary debate that began on Monday (Nov 28), a total of 27 MPs stated their support for the repeal of Section 377A, which criminalises sex between men, four were against both Bills, and eight did not explicitly state their stand. 

Ms He Ting Ru from the Workers’ Party (WP), who is MP for Sengkang Group Representation Constituency (GRC), said on Tuesday that she will abstain from voting on the constitutional amendment, a similar position taken by WP MP for Aljunied GRC Sylvia Tan on Monday.

Ms Hazel Poa, Non-Constituency MP from Progress Singapore Party (PSP), did not state her stand on the constitutional amendment, though she had said on Monday that she would vote in favour of the repeal of Section 377A.

The constitutional amendment aims to safeguard the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, by including a new Article 156 under the General Provisions of the Constitution that allows Parliament and any public authority to “define, regulate, protect, safeguard, support, foster and promote marriage” as a union between a man and a woman.

While the Government and public authorities are allowed to promote pro-heterosexual family values, the amendment does not enshrine the definition of marriage as a heterosexual union.

SUPPORTING THE REPEAL

1. Associate Professor Jamus Lim, WP MP of Sengkang GRC

“The repeal decision is thus a tradeoff between the removal of a tangible, actual threat of imprisonment, versus a perceived, potential concern over how repeal would undermine marriage. It seems clear to me that there is not, and cannot be, a genuine equivalence between the two. For those who keenly feel the yoke of discrimination, suggesting that we should keep things the way they are — simply because that’s how it’s always been — is more than simply benign neglect; it is an insult to their plight, to the burden that they have been bearing, however silently, until now. It is like telling a prisoner that their desire for freedom is an attempt to stir up unrest in jail.” 

2. Ms He Ting Ru, WP MP of Sengkang GRC

“I do not believe that we should have a law in the books that is plainly and obviously discriminatory. It sends a signal that one segment of society is so morally reprehensible that their identity should be considered criminal, even if it is only on paper. It excuses discriminatory behaviour, and contradicts the pledge we take, as citizens of Singapore, to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality.” 

While in favour of repealing Section 377A, Ms He said that she will abstain from voting on the constitutional amendment, because the proposed amendments will shield laws and policies relating to the heterosexual definition of marriage from judicial challenge.

“The judiciary should be the ultimate arbiter of the constitutionality of legislation, and has an important role in safeguarding the fundamental liberties protected therein. 

"Article 156, while not an ouster clause in the traditional sense, functionally shields legislation from being tested against the protection of fundamental liberties under Part 4 of the Constitution,” Ms He added.

3. Mr Louis Ng, People’s Action Party (PAP) MP of Nee Soon GRC 

“The repeal of Section 377A is a positive step towards making Singapore a more equal and inclusive society. We should recognise and thank the collective efforts of activists and organisations over the years to raise awareness about the challenges that the gay community faces and foster acceptance of gay individuals within our society. We need to continue to have conversations about these issues as our nation progresses.”

4. Ms Janet Ang, Nominated MP

“Repealing 377A is the right thing to do and doing so sends a statement to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community that they are safe being who they are, even if their behaviour is still not accepted by the mainstream community in Singapore.”

5. Dr Tan Yia Swam, Nominated MP

“In the schools, I urge the Ministry of Education to review the sex education component, to ensure that it is based on science and facts, while controversial opinions and trends are clearly stated as such. This will be a guide for parents to use in their own conversations at home with their growing children. To fellow parents: If you, like me, grew up without knowledge of LGBT terms, let us educate ourselves. What is hetero, homo, pan or asexual? What is trans or cis gender? What is sexual orientation vs sexual identity? Then we are equipped to guide our children as they grow and explore. This is when we can meaningfully share our personal beliefs, our religious convictions and allow the child to find his or her own way, with love and support.”

6. Mr Xie Yao Quan, PAP MP of Jurong GRC

“Some have commented that this is effectively one step forward, two steps back for the gay community. I respectfully disagree. I think this is real progress. Gay sex is decriminalised in Singapore, finally. And at the same time, we are coming together as a society, and coming to terms with the reality that a majority of us are not ready to give up our fundamental beliefs including on marriage, so let’s find a balance, let’s find mutual accommodation. This is a mark of our maturing society. This is real progress.” 

7. Ms Nadia Samdin, PAP MP of Ang Mo Kio GRC

“While we may choose to educate and guide our families based on our own personal values, we ought to avoid passing down entrenched positions to future generations, especially in our secular shared space.” 

8. Mr Derrick Goh, PAP MP of Nee Soon GRC

“We need to remember that the passing of the two Bills after this debate will not make this issue any less divisive. We should expect diverse and passionate views from different stakeholders in society to carry on after today. As such, we will need to continue to ensure a safe space for healthy and civil conversations, just as we did over the last many months so that our society evolves peacefully.”

9. Mr Louis Chua, WP MP of Sengkang GRC

“Every individual in Singapore should be able to contribute in their fullest capacity without fear of being discriminated for who they are — be it over race, language, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. Only then can Singapore be truly a global, cosmopolitan, harmonious home that we can all be proud of.”

POSITION NOT EXPLICITLY STATED 

1. Mr Abdul Samad Abdul Wahab, Nominated MP

“I wish to emphasise that most Singaporeans still want to maintain the current family and social norms, where marriage is between a man and a woman, and children are brought up in such a family structure. These are sentiments I’ve heard first-hand on the ground that we must remain mindful of. I therefore applaud the Government’s decision to amend our Constitution to introduce a new Article 156 (Institution of marriage) in Part 13 of the Constitution.”

2. Ms Ng Ling Ling, PAP MP of Ang Mo Kio GRC
 “I am of the view that this Parliament has the duty to set in place constitutional amendments to clarify our definitions of marriage and family. I have also taken careful note, as a community leader, of the wider views, especially among our younger generation whose opinion must also be valued.” 

3. Miss Rachel Ong, PAP MP of West Coast GRC

“As Singapore progresses and continues to expose ourselves to global issues and movements, there will only be more opportunity for diverging opinions to rise in our society, and we must ready ourselves. We must work towards a society that can hold difficult conversations where we make room for disagreements and do not force people to a corner of hate.”

4. Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development who is PAP MP for Nee Soon GRC

“As what (Mufti Naziruddin Mohd Nasir, the top religious leader for Muslims here) has mentioned, although homosexuality is a sin, the Malay-Muslim community should not ostracise them. We should still be holding onto our principles although we have different views, and see what is best for the community as a whole. This is why the Government is supporting the repeal of 377A and the amendment to the Constitution to protect marriage. As we move forward, I would like to call on everyone to keep calm and exercise moderation as we work out a consensus for the betterment of Singapore, as one united society, as we have always done.”

Click here for the latest news and reports on Section 377A.

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