A contact in the Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaobao alerted me to this
Reuters report. Many who read Lee's remarks made last Saturday at St James
Power Station, including my own father, thought it signaled "good
news". I, on the other hand, had said it was hard
to interpret . What does this latest story reveal?
Singapore might have to legalise
homosexuality -- Lee
SINGAPORE, April 24 (Reuters) -
Singapore may eventually have to legalise homosexuality, particularly if
it wants to foster creativity and become more cosmopolitan, former prime
minister Lee Kuan Yew said on Tuesday.
"Let's not pretend it doesn't
exist," he said in an interview with Reuters, adding that he saw
"no option" for Singapore but to decriminalise homosexual sex.
"They tell me that homosexuals are
creative writers, dancers. If we want creative people, then we have to
put up with their idiosyncrasies," Lee said.
Lee, who this week publicly questioned
the city-state's ban on sex between men, said the country would still
need to respect the views of its more conservative citizens.
"We are not promoters of it and we
are not going to allow Singapore to become the vanguard of Southeast
Asia," Lee said.
Under Singapore law, a man who is found
to have committed an act of "gross indecency" with another man
can be jailed for up to two years, though prosecutions are rare.
In November, the Ministry of Home
Affairs said it was considering decriminalising oral and anal sex
between consenting heterosexual adults, but not between homosexuals.
The authorities have
banned gay festivals and censored gay films, saying homosexuality should
not be advocated as a lifestyle. But, despite the official ban on gay
sex, Singapore has a thriving gay scene.
Lee's comments come at a
time when many groups, such as Singapore's Law Society, are clamouring
for a review of the laws against homosexual sex, which they view as
outdated and archaic.
I hope I'm wrong, but my peers in People Like Us
and I think it heralds bad news. As you can see, Lee was reported by Reuters to
have said something along the lines of "may eventually have to
legalise". The Straits Times on Wednesday, 25 April reported his
words as "Eventually I cannot put a finger on it. But I would say
if this is the way the world is going and Singapore is part of that
interconnected world, and I think it is, then I see no option for
Singapore but to be part of it."
"Eventually" does not sound
like anytime soon. My feeling is that he is saying the government is
still not going to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code -- which makes
"gross indecency" between men an offence.
And what does he mean by "we are
not going to allow Singapore to become the vanguard of Southeast
Asia"? The government wants Singapore to be first in this and that,
including creativity and the arts for which Lee believes
"homosexuals" (notice how he refuses to use the word
"gay") have much to contribute.
Does he mean Singapore should wait
until other Southeast Asian countries have decriminalised too? Well,
then he should read up a bit more, or just look at this map:
Far from being satisfied by Lee's
latest utterance, I can imagine gays and lesbians saying that it is
quite insulting, because it sounds like an attempt to pacify the gay
minority by making vague promises but not actually doing anything
concrete. That is, taking us for fools.
Furthermore, I disagree with Lee's
reasoning as to why decriminalisation should come about. He has put it
in purely utilitarian terms: because gay people can be talent that
Singapore wishes to attract or retain. He does not seem to understand that the law
is wrong not because gay people are "useful" but because it is
plainly and simply wrong to discriminate, especially when he has
acknowledged that homosexual orientation is innate. How can any
government stigmatise and discriminate against people who have caused no harm and are just being
themselves? It is in fact quite outrageous that he and the government so
completely shuts out principles of fairness and social justice
Going by this utilitarian argument, the
unemployed and the aged aren't "useful" economically. Shall we
make it an offence to be old and/or not working? Shall we apply strict
censorship so that depiction of senior citizens and the out of work are
Thirdly, now that the government has --
finally -- come to realise that it is morally untenable to criminalise a
section of Singapore's citizens -- the nature argument having been
accepted -- then the wrong should be righted immediately. To
deliberately prolong the wrong is to compound it.
It's like someone saying, yes I admit
that I've been committing adultery and that eventually I will have to
stop seeing the other woman... but not yet. What shred of moral
integrity will that man have left?
Lee said last Saturday that some people
still have "strong inhibitions". So what? In so many areas,
this government claims it does the right thing for Singapore even if it
isn't the popular thing. (That's why they have to pay themselves so much
money, to salve their pain, you understand.) Why not here?
Isn't it like the adulterous man
saying, if I stop seeing the other woman, I would meet with objections.
From whom? From the woman I'm seeing.
The anti-gay law should be repealed.
The various anti-gay policies that draw justification from on this law
-- on licensing, censorship and employment -- should be rectified.
© Yawning Bread
|You want more analogies? Here's
A government accepts that the
evidence is strongly in favour of evolution, and that it will
have to do away with the law that criminalises anyone who
teaches or advocates evolution. The country's progress requires
it to be in step with the scientific world.
But not yet.
What greater laughing stock is
The oracle from St James.
Return to where you left off
Here is the transcript of the Reuters
interview. It came via Fridae.com
April 24, 2007
Q: Okay and then, homosexuality. You had a discussion with Young PAP members at the weekend. You know we study the Straits Times words
for whatever they write to say about you. You seem to indicate that you wanted to decriminalise homosexuality. However, the Ministry of
Home Affairs, when they viewed the Penal Code at the end of last year, they didn't say that. Do you think that in the new
cosmopolitan Singapore, the government wants homosexual act between men should be legalised?
Mr Lee: I am not in charge of government policy. I am just a Minister Mentor. When my son became Prime Minister he wanted to make
it quite clear to everybody that I don't decide policy. I am just a Mentor. My value is that of a mentor. So, I expressed my views, they
make the decision. I just received a copy of my The Cam (?), the Cambridge University magazine. The latest Cam has one article of how
homosexuality has been more or less part of Cambridge life and even part of Cambridge literature. I don't know if that is so. But I mean
they produced documents, not documents, they produced books and they have photographs of the people involved. I was surprised not to see
John Mayorarchis (?) photo in there. Because he is well known to be that way inclined. Maybe they didn't have enough evidence. So, they
didn't want to put something which was tendentious or they couldn't prove. It shows how the Americans have pushed this, followed by the
Europeans and given a lot of push to homosexuals the world over. And they say, look, let's go with the world, let's not pretend it
doesn't exist. I think Muslim societies will be loath to change.
Q: Of course.
Mr Lee: I believe Buddhist and Hindu societies maybe more accommodating over a period of time… But the Minister for Home
Affairs… it… He has… the pulse of the heartlands and we don't want
to unnecessarily go against… the people.
Q: Of course you said mainly the policy you have basically is that we don't want to promote it as a lifestyle, you know, sometimes you
ban gay events or gay films but of course…?
Mr Lee: We are not promoters of it.
Mr Lee: And we are not going to allow Singapore to become the vanguard of South East Asia…
Q: Exactly. Exactly.
Mr Lee: We will follow the world. A few respectable steps behind.
Q: But would you consider, I mean, did we read this correctly you saying that we should decriminalise it eventually?
Mr Lee: Eventually I cannot put a finger on it. But I would say if this is the way the world is going and Singapore is part of that
interconnected world and I think it is, then I see no option for Singapore but to be part of it. They tell me and anyway it is
probably half-true that homosexuals are creative writers, dancers, etcetera. And there is some biblical evidence of that and if we want
creative people then we got to put up with their idiosyncrasies. So, long as they don't infect the heartland.