State of the Family 2022 - Remarks by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 11 March 2022

1.   Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, Mr K Shanmugam, was the Guest-of-Honour at the State of the Family 2022, organised by Focus on the Family Singapore.

2.   In his opening speech, Minister spoke about the importance of families as the basic, essential building blocks of society, and the policies and plans in Singapore which support the family structure.

3.   These cover a number of areas, including : the areas of public housing, tax rebates, cash benefits and various leave benefits.

4.   Minister also highlighted

(a)   the support given to lower-income families, through schemes such as KidSTART and ComLink;

(b)   the key recommendations of the Family Violence Taskforce, co-chaired by Minister of State Faishal Ibrahim and Minister of State Sun Xueling, to address issues relating to family violence.

Q&A on s377A and Other Issues

5.   There was a short Q&A segment. Questions on the Government’s position on Section 377A, following the recent Court of Appeal judgment were raised. One participant asked if the Government was going to change the law, while another asked about the potential “ripple effects” if 377A were to be repealed.

6.   Minister said that he cannot go beyond what he had said in Parliament. The Statement in Parliament was a carefully considered one, and delivered on behalf of the Government. Collective Cabinet responsibility will mean that individual Ministers are bound by Cabinet's decisions on Government policy, and should refrain from expressing their own personal views on the matter. Minister added that he had said a fair bit in Parliament and that he will answer the questions asked, by reference to what he had then said.

(a) As he had said in Parliament, social attitudes and views have changed, and when these change, our policies and laws must also evolve.

(b) He emphasized that there are two valid and important viewpoints that the Government will have to consider in dealing with this matter.
(i)   One is that a vast majority of Singaporeans believe that the heterosexual marriage, between a man and a woman (as provided in the Women’s Charter), remains the fundamental building block of society.
(ii)   The second, and not necessarily an opposing view, is that many Singaporeans (including many who are in the first category : i.e. those who believe in the traditional family institution), believe that private consensual sex between men should not be criminalized. They want to see s377A repealed.

(c) Minister said that as one of the questions to him (at the FOTF event) showed, the concern of many was not s377A per se, but what the follow-on consequences would be, if s377A was repealed. This is something the Government was aware of and must deal with.

(d) The Government will need to have frank and honest discussions with different groups and stakeholders, before deciding on next steps.

7.   Minister was asked if there would be changes to sexuality education if s377A was repealed. Minister said that if there are changes in the law, every Ministry will have to work through the potential impact and consequences, and ascertain what needs to be done, in line with our society’s values.

8.   Minister was also asked what he would personally desire to see, as the state of the family five years down the road. Minister said that he would hope to see more family formation, a reversal of Singapore’s total fertility rate (which he acknowledged was not going to be easy), and that family bonds continue to be strengthened. Minister also expressed his wish (given our fast aging society), for our seniors to age in place, with more basic healthcare and other services brought to the community and homes.