In Parliament on Monday (Apr. 4), Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam said that the government is assessing the "best way forward" with regard to Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men.
He was responding to parliamentary questions posed by People's Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP) Yeo Wan Ling and Progress Singapore Party (PSP) Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Hazel Poa.
Shanmugam then proceeded to ask Poa or her fellow PSP NCMP Leong Mun Wai to clarify PSP's position on the matter.
Two main viewpoints about 377A: Shanmugam
In her parliamentary question, Yeo asked about "how the government is and will be engaging different groups when considering the best way forward on Section 377A of the Penal Code".
Responding to Yeo's question, Shanmugam reiterated what he had said in Parliament on Mar. 3 — societal attitudes toward homosexuality have gradually shifted since it was discussed in Parliament in 2007.
Currently, there are two "main viewpoints" and "many subsidiary viewpoints", Shanmugam said, laying out the two "main viewpoints":
"On the one hand, the vast majority of Singaporeans are of the view that the heterosexual marriage between a man and a woman must remain the bedrock of our society.
On the other hand, many Singaporeans — including some of those who believe in the traditional family structure — feel that private consensual sex between men should not be criminalised."
He added that the government has been, and will be, speaking with "diverse groups of Singaporeans" to understand their viewpoints better.
The government will "consider the various views carefully and assess the best way forward that tries to balance the different viewpoints".
Asked Poa or Leong to state PSP's position on Section 377A
Shanmugam then noted that Poa had asked a related parliamentary question for a written answer.
Poa had asked what indicators the government monitors on whether society is ready for the repeal of Section 377A, as well as how these indicators are monitored, in light of the Court of Appeals' dismissal of three challenges to the law in February.
Shanmugam queried, "Since this is an important issue, I would like to invite Ms Poa or any other parliamentarian from her party — basically Mr Leong — to state her or their party's position on Section 377A. It'll be good to know."
In response, Poa said, "As the Minister has pointed out, there are two different camps with different views on this particular issue."
She added, "And for us, within the party itself, we also have people with different views. So this is not an issue that we actually have a consensus on at this moment in time."
Shanmugam then responded, "There are many different ways of saying 'I don't know'. So I assume that Ms Poa is saying, either the party has no position, or they don't know what their position is."
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Top photos via CNA.