On 22 July, Saturday afternoon, over 1,200 Singaporeans gathered for a town hall event in Singapore Expo, urging the government to not repeal section 377A of the penal code.
According to the two event organisers, Mr Jason Wong and Mr Mohamed Khair, the event was held in the interest of “safeguarding (Singapore’s) marriages, families, and freedom of conscience.”
Mr Wong is a founder of the Dads for Life movement, and the Yellow Ribbon Project which helps ex-offenders. He is also a board member and former chairman of a Christian organisation, Focus on the Family.
His co-organiser, Mr Mohamed Khair, is the CEO of SuChi Success Initiatives training company, an organisation which runs marriage preparation courses for Muslim Couples amongst other training programmes.
Who Were Amongst the 1,200 attendees?
The Town hall gathered people from all walks of life, all with the common interest of preserving traditional marriages for one reason or another.
The invite-only event was attended by people of different races and backgrounds, as well as current and former LGBTQ members who came forth to share their experiences.
Mr Wong told TODAYonline that Mr Mohamed Khair and his team of organisers were “a group of citizens who have been watching LGBT activism in Singapore and globally, and find that it puts the current institutions of marriage and family at stake, as activists call for their redefinition to include same-sex couples on the basis of equality”.
Apart from the two lead organisers, there were also two other speakers shared more during their segments. Their identity is not disclosed to the public as per the event’s rules to its attendees, and the media was also not invited to the event.
What was Discussed during the Closed-door Event?
In a now circulating pamphlet that was distributed during the town hall, it was revealed that the organisers had said that LGBTQ groups were pushing for “many changes to law, policy and society”, including repealing Section 377a, the central topic of the townhall discussion.
The organisers also called for the government to instil a “new political package” in place of Section 377a, the law which criminalises sex between two man, should it be repealed. Otherwise, they stated it would be “unwise” to repeal this widely-debated law.
The pamphlet also stated that in the package, provisions that protect marriage as a “man-woman union and the natural family unit” should be included.
Children were also one of the key groups that the organisers put forth as at risk of being negatively affected in the possibility of a repeal, as it had stated “Children, too, must be protected from “indoctrination in LGBTQ+ ideas and beliefs”. And for those who do not accept such beliefs, they should be protected from being “pressured, bullied or discriminated against” by others who do.”
The same sentiment of protecting the interest of Children, and being “Silent No More” against those who outwardly condemn anti-LGBTQ+ individuals, was shared in Mr Wong’s Facebook post following the event:
In his post, Mr Wong wrote, “We’ve been relatively restrained in the face of an intolerant, vocal minority that seeks to overturn the order in all areas of society – be it marriage, education, businesses, or beliefs, while demonising all those who disagree as ‘bigots’ or ‘haters’, instead of engaging us with good faith. We will be silent no more.”
He appeared to have support online, but it could’ve been merely a filter bubble; watch this to the end and you’d understand:
The Event’s Aftermath and Response
While a few members of the LGBTQ+ community had caught wind of the event and attempted to lodge police reports, no action has been taken as no criminal offense was disclosed, according to the Singapore Police Force’s assessment of the situation.
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Home Affairs also came forth with a statement that the organiser had applied for a permit from the police to hold the event. However, as the event was by invite only involving members of the organisation and invited guests, a police permit was deemed not to be required.
He also added, “Everyone, including religious groups, is entitled to their views on different matters, including on LGBT issues, and to express their views, so long as they do not denigrate any groups of persons, and do not break any laws.”
In response to an article from TODAYonline, organiser Mr Mohammed Khair has further conveyed frustration at the lack of “Diversity and Inclusivity” being applied to his organisation and those who share similar views.
He also thanked the MHA for standing by them and allowing the event to continue undisrupted.
The Current Position on Section 337A
Since 2007, a parliamentary debate on whether Section 377A should be repealed gave rise to the decision of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who called for the status quo to remain, but for it to not be proactively enforced.
Section 377A of the Penal Code is still not actively enforced as of today, as per the Court of Appeal’s ruling on 28 February this year.
However, while the court had reinstated its position that the law would not be actively used to prosecute men for engaging in consensual sex, a debate was sparked once again on whether Section 377A should be repealed entirely.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon held that 377A was “unenforceable in its entirety” until the Attorney-General of the day signals a change in the prosecutorial policy.
When asked about the issue in Parliament in March, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said that the Government was carefully considering the best way forward.
“If and when we decide to move, we will do so in a way that continues to balance these different viewpoints, and avoids causing a sudden, destabilising change in social norms and public expectations,” he said.
He has also stated in parliament back in April, that “When societal attitudes change, policies and laws must also evolve, and that every ministry will have to work through the potential impact and consequences of such changes in line with society’s values.”
As such, he expressed that the government will be consulting diverse groups of Singaporeans on the law as it decides on the next steps for our country.
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Featured Image: Facebook (Jason Wong)
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