On Tuesday, John Lam (one of our Council members who is a lawyer) and I attended the briefing by Law Minister, Shanmugam, for the National Council of Churches Singapore. These are the updates that we shared with the Board and Council after the event.
Pauline: So here’s the update about the briefing with Shanmugan and NCCS earlier. There were about 440 people in attendance and the MHA briefed us on the various areas that are will be undergoing penal review. The Law Minister’s stand with regards to 337A was that he decided not to include it in this review, and he gave his reasons why. A lot of it has to do with current public opinion and the concerns that repealing this law will have a follow-on effect of people asking for marriage equality, and the definition of family being challenged, etc. Various ones spoke up in support of keeping the law and some even wanted guarantees that a repeal will never be tabled. Shanmugam said he couldn’t guarantee that and he was trying to be fair to both groups in this debate. I was one of the last few speakers, and I said I wanted to share a slightly different opinion because I believe there are Christians who share my view, and it’s important for the Church to consider this issue more deeply. What the Church may consider “sin” does not equal to what society should deem as a crime. The repercussions of criminalizing a group of people is something we have to consider. I told them in my pastoral ministry, I work with lgbt people, both Christian and non-Christian, and when we criminalize a group of people, it only legitimizes bullying due to ignorance and prejudice, and increases the shame and stigma for families who have lgbt children. Shanmugan responded by saying that he is aware but reiterated the concerns that people had about what would happen after repealing 377A. He said most people might not be adverse to repealing the law itself but were concerned about the follow on effects as mentioned earlier. Thio Su-Mein was sitting in front of me and turned back to give me a death stare after I spoke, and I smiled back at her. I realized that the more people tried to intimidate me, the more courage rose within me because I know I’m doing the right thing. She came to talk to me after the session and tried to advice me to draw a clear line and do what’s pleasing to God, etc. Anyway, I’m glad we were there to present a different view and hopefully get the Christians who were there thinking a little deeper about this issue.
John: The important thing was that the minister was very careful with his words – we have certain key arguments that we can make. He has left the door open for potential future repeal and appears to be of the view that it is a matter of time. The steer on policy direction is protection of the vulnerable, ensuring proportionate response, and other factors such as effectiveness of criminal sanctions in deterrence. We should also be concerned with the other proposals that they put up, like marital rape.
We will be having a short briefing about the 377A issue this Sunday so do come join us.
On another note, our 15th Anniversary is fast approaching and we would love for everyone to come, enjoy, give thanks and participate in whatever way you can. Please find the details below.