Singapore’s prime minister Lee has indicated that he does not believe Section 377A, the law that criminalizes gay sex, should be repealed.
A delegate at the Institute of Policy Studies’ Singapore Perspectives conference yesterday asked why a secular country like Singapore has ‘an old and archaic law that nearly discriminates against a whole [group] of people’.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong responded that in countries that do not criminalize homosexuality ‘the struggles don’t end’, Singapore’s Today newspaper reports.
‘Why is that law on the books?’ Lee said. ‘Because it’s always been there and I think we just leave it.’
In response to another question about polarizing public debates, Lee cited the example of gay rights.
‘These are not issues that we can settle one way or the other,’ Lee said. ‘And it’s really best for us just to leave them be, and just agree to disagree. I think that’s the way Singapore will be for a long time.’
Lee has been Singapore’s prime minister since 2004. In 2007, in the face of a campaign to repeal Section 377A, Lee made a speech in parliament justifying his decision to retain the law.
‘I think we have also been right to adapt, to accommodate homosexuals in our society, but not to allow or encourage activists to champion gay rights as they do in the West,’ Lee said in his parliamentary speech in October 2007.
Section 377A, a British colonial-era law, is currently being challenged in court by Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, who say the law contradicts Singapore’s constitution.
Recently, heated rhetoric from church groups in favor of retaining the law was silenced by the Attorney-General Chambers (AGC) who said the arguments were in danger of compromising the court case.
‘If comments made by pastors – and the consequent rebuttal from gay rights advocates – were enough to warrant a warning from the AGC, what more a prime minister declaring that we should leave Section 377A alone?’ said Kristen Han, journalist, blogger and social justice activist in a column about Lee’s comments.