The recent changes to the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (MRHA) include protection for the LGBTQ community against religious-based violence, Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam has said.
In a Facebook post on Saturday (Oct. 12), Shanmugam mentioned a recent dialogue he had with a group of people from the LGBTQ community, who had told him "that they sometimes felt targeted as a community".In response to this, he mentioned the existence of an Explanatory Statement (we'll explain this in a bit), appended to the MRHA as it was passed in Parliament earlier this month, which specifically refers to them and makes it clear that the use of violence against the community on religious reasons will be treated as an offence.
Everyone must feel safe in Singapore
Shanmugam affirmed that it is the government's stance that everyone must feel physically safe and secure in Singapore.
He added that this meant zero tolerance on threats made against anyone, whether because they were of the LGBTQ persuasion or because of their religious affiliations.
He also noted that it was a concern of the LGBTQ community that this position be officially stated — hence the explanatory statement.
However, he also said that the converse applied to the LGBTQ community — any of them (or anyone, really) targeting a member of a religious group would also be considered an offence.
Here is his post in full:
So what does the Explanatory Statement say?
Here's what the Explanatory Statement specifically details regarding religious-based violence against the LGBT community:
"The offence in the new section 17E(1) and (2) deals with the offence of knowingly urging, on the ground of religion or religious belief or activity, the use of force or violence, and the target group or target person is distinguished by religion or religious belief or activity, or by ethnicity, descent, nationality, language or political opinion, or any other characteristic whether or not of a similar kind.
The target group need not be confined to persons who practise a certain religion. The target group may be made up of atheists, individuals from a specific racial community, who share a similar sexual orientation, or have a certain nationality or descent like foreign workers or new citizens."
LGBTQ NGO responds positively to Explanatory Statement
The inclusion of the reference was received positively by Sayoni, an LGBTQ non-governmental organisation (NGO) dedicated to the empowerment of queer women.
In a Facebook post earlier this week, Sayoni said it was the first time a law explicitly extended legal protections to persons of particular sexual orientations.
Not the first time K Shanmugam has interacted with LGBTQ community
Shanmugam has reached out to the LGBTQ community on several occasions.
Last week, Shanmugam posted images from his visit to the T Project Shelter, Singapore’s first and only social service for the transgender community, to Facebook:
And in 2017, Shanmugam met with a representative from Oogachaga, an NGO that provides counselling and educational services to the LGBT community.
At that time, Shanmugam wrote a post about his meeting with them, stating that the government is strongly opposed to any harassment of any group, and will not hesitate to take action if the harassment crosses the line.
Top image from K Shanmugam Facebook page