The picture that emerges
The picture that emerges from a list of convictions under Sections 377 and
377A of the Penal Code (See the appendix List of Section 377 and 377A cases)
is quite interesting, and I am going to discuss three thoughts that came
to mind, when I perused at it.
As most readers would know, Section 377 of our Penal Code criminalises "carnal intercourse against the order of nature", which generally means buggery or sodomy (a term that also includes fellatio).
Section 377A on the other hand, criminalises "gross indecency" between males, that is, any kind of sexual relationship short of sodomy.
Although the Section 377A cases are in
the bottom half of the table (in the appendix), we'll start with them
first; they are easier to dispose of.
The Section 377A cases
Through a 15-year period, 1988 - 2003, there were only 8 convictions under this law, involving 7 incidents (2 convictions were for the same incident). So this law is not often used. Moreover, it has not been used against consensual sex for 10 years, since 1993.
Of the 7 incidents, only 2 involved consensual sex: Tan and Lau, who had sex with each other, in 1988, and Abdul Malik in 1993. For some reason that is not clear, Abdul Malik's partner was not charged.
After Abdul Malik's case in 1993, there were no more cases of consensual sex.
Ng Huat's case (1995) involved the accused touching the genitals of his adult patient against the patient's will.
The cases of Kelvin Lim (1998), Philip Lim (2003) and Armstrong (2003) involved underaged victims.
Kong's incident in 1995 might have been consensual, but it was aggravated by an attempt to extort. His partner was the complainant for the extortion and was not charged under Section 377A. It is arguable then whether the gross indecency charge should have been left out, leaving only the extortion charge for Kong to face.
The list thus supports the view that consensual sex between males has not been brought under Section 377A since Abdul Malik's in 1993.
However, other laws have historically been used against gay males, notably Section 354 for Outrage of Modesty. This was the preferred law used in entrapment cases; however, entrapment ceased by the end of 1993. Its cessation is discussed more fully in the article How entrapment ended.
There is also Section 20 of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, dealing with public indecency. Yawning Bread knows that as recently as 2001, the two men pulled out of One Seven sauna were convicted under this law. See The arrests at One Seven and section 20. Like me, you'd find it troubling that a law against public indecency was used against a private act that took place within a locked cubicle.
Technically, Section 20 is not an anti-gay law as it applies to both males, females, opposite sex and same sex indecency, but whether it is disproportionately used against gay males is not answerable at this time without data.
Anyway, coming back to Section 377A, I
think we can conclude from the list of cases that it is no longer used
against consensual homosex.
The Section 377 cases
The list of cases associated with Section 377 is much longer. There were 25 cases in the 10 and a half years from late 1992 to early 2003. Of these 25 cases,
- 12 cases had underaged female victims
(age 17 and below)
Jaberali's case (2001) involved fellatio with a man, but was followed by robbery and assault, so the prosecutor probably threw in a Section 377 charge for good measure.
Leaving aside his case, it is quite clear that Section 377 has not been used against consensual sex between males since the list began in 1992.
5 of the 6 cases involving adult women victims also included force, and rape was often added to the charges. The case of Lim Chee Yong (2000) was peculiar in that no force or undue influence was alleged, so one would have thought it was consensual, but the woman was the complainant and the judge believed her when she said she didn't agree to it. Personally, I feel it is this kind of case that shows up how problematic such morality-based laws are. The possibility exists that one could have consented to something, but afterwards one might regret it, and with the law handy, proceed to redirect one's guilt by blaming the other and making a police report. The fact of the act itself would be enough to convict the other party even though at the time of the sexual act, the other party had every reason to believe that it was entirely consensual. (Or else, if you want to profit by it, blackmail the other party.)
The great majority of the prosecutions under Section 377 have been for cases involving underaged victims. Of course, it is ridiculous that we don't have a proper law that deals with sexual inducement and sexual assault on the young; and we have to resort to using the sodomy law to deliver justice. This only shows how prudish our lawmakers are that they behave as if just having to revise and update our sex laws is already too dirty an activity for them!
At this point, all my readers will have noted that of the 18 cases involving the underaged (and here it generally means 17 year-olds and below), 12 had girl victims and 6 had boy victims.
I am now compelled at this point to touch on
pedophilia (sexual contact with pre-pubescent children) and ephebophilia
(sexual interest in post-pubescent adolescents, sometimes referred to as
And I mean 'touch on'. The fact that
pedophilia and ephebophilia are different concepts -- and you can guess,
different operative factors -- will tell you it's an exhaustive subject
which I cannot afford to go into very much.
Sexual abuse of the young
Although the sample base of 18 cases is really too small to draw conclusions from, the one-third proportion of boy victims is consistent with data from America.
This one-third proportion has been seized upon by anti-gay groups to make the claim that gays are more likely to be pedophiles. The Christian rightwing group Family Research Council says on its website that
There are both factual and conceptual problems with the above. Firstly, these Christian groups always understate the number of homosexuals in the population (they like to say 1%, when most researchers think 5 - 10% is more accurate), so that when you divide the number of crimes by a much smaller denominator, the crime rate per homosexual looks so much more alarming.
Secondly - and this is one that even gay men don't realise - just because the victim is a male child doesn't mean the perpetrator is gay. The reverse also applies - just because the victim is a girl doesn't mean the perpetrator is heterosexual.
(Virtually all perpetrators of child sexual abuse are male; female perpetrators are almost unknown. Whether this reflects reality or a reluctance to report incidents to the police is another matter)
Gregory Herek, Professor of Psychology,
University of California, Davis, and a renowned authority on sexual
prejudice, has found that persons attracted to children don't have
any erotic interest in other adults, and thus we can't classify them as
straight or gay. In his website,
Thus, these perpetrators of child molestation do not have sex lives that we commonly know as "straight" or "gay". People who turn out to have molested boys have generally shown no prior interest in other adult males, such that no one among their friends and families would have thought them "gay".
William C. Holmes, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, authored a study published in the December 1998 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, reporting that 98% of all male perpetrators who had sexually abused boys were identified in their families and communities as heterosexual. (William C. Holmes, "Sexual Abuse of Boys", JAMA, December 2, 1998, p. 1855-1860.)
I will hazard a guess that if you got together a group of boy-molesters, made them wear penile gauges and sat them a in room to watch adult gay porn -- you know, the type with beefcakes grunting upon each other -- you'd find no sexual arousal at all.
There is something else about the list of Section 377 and 377A cases. A disproportionate number of offenders seem to be minority race (Singaporeans can tell from the names). What does this mean? There can be any number of explanations including bias in reporting and prosecuting; I have no idea at all.
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