Yawning Bread. April 2007

Highly paid moral weasels




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 [1]. 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such as Singapore's Law Society, are clamouring for a review of the laws against homosexual sex, which they view as outdated and archaic.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 totally.

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 marginalised?

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. Now. 

© Yawning Bread 




You want more analogies? Here's another one:

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 there?







  1. See 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
Reuters transcript:

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.

Q: Exactly.

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.