Published: 28 November 2022
Mr Speaker Sir,
1. I have spoken to groups who have the whole spectrum of views on this subject, often strongly held with regard to s 377A, given my roles at the Ministry of Social and Family Development, Ministry of Home Affairs, and previously the Ministry of Education. I would like to share on the engagements and the feedback from all these various groups and individuals.
2. First, I have met with groups such as Young Out Here, Greenhouse, Oogachaga, Sayoni, T Project, and others who run support groups to help LGBTQ+ persons. These ground-up initiatives provide a safe space for their community to come together and support one another, where they can be seen and heard, where they are not treated as invisible and where they will not be judged.
3. I understand that to the gay community, s 377A while not actively enforced, is seen as society’s judgement of them – a rejection of their right to exist, criminalises their right to love and be loved in return, and makes them feel like a lesser citizen. It also hangs like the Sword of Damocles over them, since the law exists and reminds them they are criminals, even when what they are engaging in is private consensual act between adults.
4. They may also suffer from stigma, discrimination, and be disproportionately impacted by mental health concerns. At T Project’s shelter for their community, I saw how a small shelter for six persons was stacked with suitcases and personal items of about another 10 individuals. The owners of these items have no permanent abode and move from place to place as their life is often complicated by mental stress, poverty, and unemployment. In conversations with Greenhouse which runs a support group for 200+ gay individuals, some shared that they have struggled since young to find acceptance from their family, but love and acceptance were not forthcoming. This has consequences on their physical and mental health, ability to find and hold a job and increases their risk of committing offences and suffering from substance addiction. They shared that substance addiction becomes a coping mechanism for them when they are unable to find acceptance in society.
5. We understand their concerns and are working with social service agencies to be open and sensitive to the diverse needs of clients and to provide social support, regardless of their backgrounds and sexual orientations.
6. At the same time, I have also spoken to many individuals who are worried about where our society is headed should s 377A be repealed. In an engagement with over 100 members of the public who had written to their MPs, some youths recounted how they had experienced being ostracised or “cancelled” in schools and universities because they were seen to be “conservative” and not advocating gay rights. Others spoke about how they were singled out at their workplaces because they are religious and by default seen to be homophobic and therefore at odds with the company’s diversity and inclusion policies. I saw a grandmother’s hand trembling, as she spoke about her grave concerns should Singapore go down the slippery slope as some other countries have after decriminalising gay sex.
7. I would like to clarify that employees are protected against discrimination under the Tripartite Guidelines for Fair Employment practices (TGFEP), and these guidelines require employers to make employment decisions based on merit and factors relevant to the job. The Ministry of Manpower is also looking at enacting workplace fairness legislation.
8. On being “cancelled” for one’s beliefs, the government is looking into policy solutions to preserve space for persons of different views to share what they think, safely. But ultimately, what is important is that we maintain mutual respect when we engage with one another, and not tear each other down.
9. I also met with leaders of religious groups, some of them four to five times. They have been steadfast partners in our nation-building. They have worked tirelessly to bring Singaporeans from different races and religions together to build common spaces and common values. The religious leaders shared views from their communities on s 377A – views anchored on hopes for Singapore to continue to be strong and stable, and a place for families. Many of their congregants have a great sense of gratitude and pride in how far our nation has come, and wish for nothing more than for our children and future generations to thrive and prosper, and they see the heterosexual family unit as the bedrock of our society.
10. Mr Speaker Sir, all these individuals, gay or straight, from different walks of life, have stepped forward to share their views because they want to make Singapore a better place – a better place for future generations, to safeguard Singapore society, and safeguard communities. And I want to thank them for being considered in their approach and for sharing the views of their communities in a constructive manner. We have heard their views and will continue to work with them to navigate a way forward.
11. The two bills that stand before us allow us to repeal s377A in a careful and considered way. The issue that stands before us is one of public policy, as to whether gay sex in the context of private sexual behaviour between consenting adults, should remain a crime under Singapore laws.
12. Having heard the views from various parties, the two bills have been drafted with great care, and aim to address their concerns:
(a) That the majority of Singaporeans still want the heterosexual family structure as the norm.
(b) Most accept that private consensual sex between men should not be criminalised.
(c) For those who are against the repeal, the main concern is about what the repeal would mean for social norms, and not that they want to criminalise sex between men.
13. Though the bills are voted on separately, they should be seen holistically because this is not a zero-sum game, where one side wins and the other side loses. And in the spirit of how the two bills are drafted, we hope that Singaporeans with all their varied views on the issue, can be united in our desire to find common ground so that we can move forward together. Let us be united in wanting Singapore to be a home for all, a tolerant and inclusive society, where all Singaporeans feel a sense of dignity and have collective confidence in our future.
14. Mr Speaker Sir, in Chinese please.
15. 李总理在2007年的国会辩论上，提到 “政府决定将保留377A，但不会积极执行这条法律。” 当初的决定是基于当时社会的反馈，并且是一种暂时、折中的方案。但是，不废除377A法案，立法与执法不能完全一致。
22. 有人担心同性恋人士会造成社会问题。但是我们也看到，他们当中有的人正是需要社会的理解和救助。我曾经去拜访过一家给同性恋人士提供援助的互助会，当中有些人从小就不被家庭接受、之后在生活中遇到各种问题，比如受霸凌问题、心理健康问题、经济问题，有些人在面临生活危机的时候感觉 “上天无路，入地无门” 。这些人也是新加坡的同胞。我们不必按照别人的生活方式来生活，但也不必强求别人按照我们的生活方式来生活。己所不欲勿施于人。
32. 在政府解决这些重要的民生问题的当儿，也要解决其他的问题。废除377A，维护婚姻制度，同样关系到新加坡同胞的生活， 他们同样需要我们的关注。