Activists submit online petition, but Singapore has ‘no plans’ to repeal anti-gay law

Activists submit online petition, but Singapore has ‘no plans’ to repeal anti-gay law

SINGAPORE,. There are no plans to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code — which criminalises sex between two men — said the authorities, after the team behind an online petition calling on its repeal said they have submitted the document with almost 45,000 signatories.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Law Ministry (MinLaw) said yesterday: “MHA and MinLaw have received the petition from Ready4Repeal.

“As the Government has recently made clear, however, there are no plans to repeal Section 377A.”

Earlier in the day, the Ready4Repeal team, which launched the petition on September 9, said during a townhall that it submitted the document to the authorities on Friday. The petition contained signatures of 44,650 Singaporeans and Singapore Permanent Residents.

The effort was part of an ongoing public consultation ending September 30 on the latest proposed amendments to the Penal Code.

This was despite the Government indicating at the outset that the Penal Code review would not cover Section 377A and the use of the death penalty.

More than 800 people attended Sunday’s townhall for the petition’s signatories.

Speakers at the event organised by Ready4Repeal, including lead signatories such as former Aware president Constance Singam, called for more action, including greater engagement with Members of Parliament (MPs).

Singam called on those present to “be an activist every day of your life”. She added: “You cannot stop at (signing the petition) we cannot stop at that. It cannot be that every 10 years, we sign a petition (and that’s it).”

Pink Dot Singapore spokesperson Clement Tan, who was also speaking at the townhall, called for the “sharing of personal stories how (Section 377A) affects us in so many ways”.

He urged those present to “take it to your MPs…(and to) talk to them” about how the law affects them, while highlighting that the debates over the Penal Code review will take place later this year.

Other speakers also called on “straight allies” — heterosexual friends of those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community — to speak up for their peers who might be afraid to do so out of concern for potential backlash.

The petition will continue to be available online, even after the document has been submitted to the authorities.

While there are no plans on when the petition will be officially shut down, one of the petition’s authors Johannes Hadi said that it would be kept open until Parliament debates the changes to Penal Code, which would be around November to January.

Pink Dot’s Tan said that it will “remain as a way to track our progress”. “We want the climate, we need the conversation to be constantly in their minds,” he added.

Lawyer Remy Choo, who is part of the Ready4Repeal team, told reporters: “(The movement) cuts across political sensibilities (and) partisan politics. I think we have made it clear that it is not a political issue. It is an issue of removing a bad law.”

The townhall organisers also addressed questions surrounding the sudden change in venue. Signatories were informed on Thursday that the location for the event had been changed to the Singapore Management University, from Suntec Singapore.

A statement from Ready4Repeal on Friday said it had received an email from Suntec Singapore two days earlier that the venue booking had been cancelled “due to unforeseen circumstances”.

Suntec Singapore, when contacted by TODAY on Friday, had said it had no records of the event being planned or booked at its premises.

Yesterday, Glen Goei, one of the petition’s authors told the townhall that he had gone to Suntec Singapore to make the booking. He even paid for the booking and received confirmation.

It was only on Wednesday morning, that he received news that the venue had been cancelled by an “unforeseen person”.

Another petition urging the Government to keep Section 377A of Penal Code attracted more than 109,000 signatures, as at September 24, when it closed.

Earlier this month, spurred by India’s recent ruling to repeal a similar law, and comments by veteran diplomat and international lawyer Tommy Koh to the gay community here to challenge the law here, disc jockey Johnson Ong, 43, filed the latest court challenge against Section 377A.

Ong’s case will highlight the concept of human dignity, which was not argued in a previous challenge filed four years ago. They will also adduce expert opinion, which was also not led in the 2014 case that was struck down. — TODAY