Section 377A review: Govt considering how to safeguard 'current legal position on marriage', says Shanmugam
- Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam addressed the issues of Section 377A and the Protect Singapore Townhall
- He said that the Government has had extensive discussions with various groups, including religious leaders and LGBT groups
- He noted that most people want the current position on marriage — between a man and a woman — to stay
- The Government understands this view and is considering how to safeguard the legal position on marriage, Mr Shanmugam said
SINGAPORE — The Government is considering how to safeguard "the current legal position on marriage" from being challenged in the courts, after receiving feedback that most people want the current position on marriage to stay, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Saturday (July 30).
“These matters really ought to be discussed in Parliament and decided in Parliament, and not decided in the courts,” he told reporters at the sidelines of community events in Yishun.
Mr Shanmugam was responding to media queries on updates about the Government's review of Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men.
He said that the Government has had “extensive discussions” with different people including religious leaders, grassroots leaders, Singaporeans from all walks of life, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) groups and more.
He noted that many agree that men who have sex with each other should not be imprisoned, and that gay sex should not be criminalised.
Mr Shanmugam said: “At the same time, most do not want any decriminalisation to cause other major changes.
“In particular, most people that we've spoken with want the current position on marriage to be retained. And the current position is that the law defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.
“People don't want that to change. And people also do not want any change to the current policies that take reference from this definition of marriage,” he added.
Mr Shanmugam said that the Government understands this view and it is “now considering how best to achieve this balance”. He did not elaborate.
He added that the Government was already aware of this stance in March when he addressed the issue of Section 377A in Parliament.
At the time, he told the House that the Government was “considering the best way forward” on Section 377A while respecting different viewpoints.
This followed a Court of Appeal judgement which ruled that Section 377A is “unenforceable in its entirety” and poses no threat of prosecution.
Mr Shanmugam said on Saturday: “The two questions we are dealing with are therefore, one, what is to be done with section 377A?
“And two, at the same time, we are also considering how can we safeguard the current legal position on marriage from being challenged in the courts so that it does not get challenged, like the way Section 377A was with a series of cases.”
WORK ON DIFFERENCES IN CALM WAY
Mr Shanmugam also spoke about the Protect Singapore Townhall which took place about a week ago.
Following the town hall, which called for the protection of families, marriages and children in relation to a possible repeal of Section 377A, some LGBTQ groups expressed concerns that the gathering might encourage further discrimination against the community.
Police reports were also made against the town hall. The Ministry of Home Affairs said earlier this week that no action will be taken because the gathering did not break any laws.
Noting that the Pink Dot rally was held on June 18 with various speeches and calls to action, Mr Shanmugam said: “Likewise, the people who organised the Protect Singapore town hall exercised their rights."
Reiterating that the town hall organisers did not break any laws, he added: “We will step in if there is any incitement or attacks or running down of any groups by either side. And I've made that clear several times. Our duty is to protect the safety of everyone.
“We can expect more of this as both sides seek to get heard and these events really illustrate what the Government has been saying for a long time: If one side pushes, then there will be a pushback and we have seen this happen in many countries.”
He warned that if this happens in Singapore, the “ruptures will tear our social fabric apart and cause a lot of harm”.
This was the reason why the Government has been pushing for moderation, moving carefully and not pushing positions that can damage society, he said.
“Passions can run high. People genuinely believe in one or another view with great intensity, and we have to try and deal with the issues with an open mind and open heart, avoid extreme positions and avoid extreme demands," he said.
“Move forward. Try and be united. Work on our differences in a calm way, for the sake of Singapore.”
In response to how to make these discussions more constructive and conducive, he said that the Government has made it very clear that it will move in if there is any incitement or call for attacks or running down of any religion, race or group such as the LGBT community.