| MP Baey all for repealing anti-gay law
|The Straits Times, July 16, 2007
MP Baey all for repealing anti-gay law
By Jeremy Au Yong
A PEOPLE'S Action Party MP yesterday spoke out against then non-review of the law banning homosexual sex.
Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Baey Yam Keng said if it comes to a vote in Parliament, he would say 'yes' to doing away with the law which makes it illegal for men to have sex with other men.
He was joined by Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong who had previously made public his opposition to Section 377A of the Penal Code which bans homosexual sex.
Both were members of a forum panel yesterday that included gay activist Alex Au, founder of gay media company Fridae Stuart Koe, and Methodist church leader Reverend Yap Kim Hao.
They were discussing the legislation with about 100 participants. When the Home Affairs Ministry proposed changes to the Penal Code last year, it said it would retain the ban on acts of 'gross indecency' between men.
One participant, academic Russell Heng, 56, asked Mr Baey for his position if Parliament took a vote on this issue.
He said he would vote to repeal the law, a response which drew loud applause.
Explaining his stand, Mr Baey drew an analogy between homosexual sex and drinking or smoking.
'There should be a distinction between what the Government wants to discourage, and what it wants to criminalise,' he said.
'The Government can make it more difficult to access drinking and smoking, but you are still allowed to drink and smoke. So, you can discourage homosexual sex without criminalising it.'
He believed the Whip should be lifted if Parliament were to debate this issue. But he conceded that - from his understanding - not many MPs would share his views on decriminalising homosexual sex.
Lifting the Whip means MPs can vote according to their convictions, and do not have to toe the party line.
But Mr Baey emphasised that he did not think this issue would be decided through public consensus.
'From what I understand of how the Government works, I don't think the Government will make a decision based on a survey...The Government would want to make its own stand and position on issues like this,' he said.
Changing the law would require 'some progressive thinking and also people who are able to influence the Cabinet's thinking'.
Thus, recent remarks by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew were welcome, he added. 'We should be happy he made those remarks, and that will pave the way for some change in the thinking of the current Government.'
In an interview with Berita Harian published two weeks ago, MM Lee said the Government should not act like moral policemen, 'prying on consenting adults'.
He also reiterated his view that homosexuals 'were mostly born that way', but also recognised that Singapore is a conservative society and cannot go as far as some countries that recognise gay marriage.
Yesterday's forum also touched on issues about the gay community and what the religious view on the matter was.
Offering his view, Rev Yap said: 'Contrary to the majority of the Christian views... I personally would call for it to be repealed on the basis that this is God's purpose - the existence of the homosexual community...We know there will always be a proportion of the population, generation after generation, who will be homosexual, and they are created by the heterosexuals.'
At the end of the forum, both Mr Baey and Mr Siew said it was good to have open discussion to increase awareness of the issue, but the absence of a different point of view meant the discussion lacked balance.
Said Mr Baey: 'We were talking to the converted.'
| Let's debate without prejudice, judgment or condemnation
|Anthony Yeo, a SAFE supporter, wrote this letter to the Straits Times's online forum in response to an earlier article 'Can mum, mum and kids make a family?'
We have reprinted his published letter here.
The Straits Times Online Forum, July 13, 2007
Let's debate without prejudice, judgment or condemnation
MR JANADAS Devan made a very bold attempt in exploring the issues pertaining to same-sex parents forming a family, 'Can mum, mum and kids make a family?' (ST, July 7).
His article serves a useful challenge to the majority view that homosexuals, if permitted to carry on their lifestyle, and/or become parents, will only bring disorder and disaster to family and society.
Of particular challenge are the questions: 'Are the children of divorced heterosexual couples better off than the children of my lesbian friends?' and 'How about the children of single mothers or of constantly bickering heterosexual couples locked in loveless marriages?'
I believe there is a need for further consideration and discussion regarding these questions.
In my 35 years of professional practice of psychological counselling and work with families, this is what I have observed.
Of all the thousands of people who sought counselling for psychological disturbance, relationship problems and effects of stress of life, I observed that all of them had parents from heterosexual marriages.
Those children who have suffered from physical, emotional/psychological and sexual abuse did not have parents from same sex relationship.
In fact, practically every case of sexual abuse involved a parent, usually the father or step-father, uncle, brother and someone known to the family. They were mostly heterosexual encounters.
Of all those who sought counselling with marital problems involving one spouse having extra-marital affairs, practically all of them involved the spouse having a heterosexual relationship.
I have had experiences with men afflicted with sexual addiction, such as pornography and those who engage in paid sex. Most of these men were married heterosexuals.
As I ponder over Janadas' questions, I am also wondering about the tendency to ascribe social and family problems to the threat of a homosexual lifestyle and relationship.
It is so easy to make proclamations that if homosexuals were to be accepted and homosexual acts decriminalised, then society and family life will inevitably deteriorate.
My observations, experiences coupled with research done do not bear this out in any way.
In fact, if my 35 years of professional experience were to be credited with any validity, I am more inclined to ask the following questions:
1. Is there an ideal form of family life?
2. Are parents from heterosexual marriages any safer for children?
3. Could it be possible that such parents are more likely to cause harm to children, leading to long-term psychological problems?
4. What evidence do we have that children of same-sex parents might not be better adjusted people?
5. How do we reckon with the fact that almost all known homosexuals have parents from heterosexual marriages?
In sharing my observations and questions, my intention is to appeal for a reasoned dialogue over this matter without prejudice, judgment or condemnation.
It serves no purpose to persecute any human being, most of all people with different sexual orientation from the majority in society.
Homosexuals are human beings deserving of dignity, respect and acceptance even if we have difficulties understanding them and/or accepting their sexual orientation and lifestyles.
Counselling and Care Centre
| SAFE's letter in response to Janadas Devan's article
|The following letter was sent to The Straits Times online forum. It was not published. We have reprinted the letter in full here.
We refer to the article, "Can mum, mum and kids make a family?" by Janadas Devan, on 7 July 2007.
We commend Mr. Devan as he has so clearly pointed out that families can and are made up of different combinations of adults and children. At SAFE (Supporting, Affirming and Empowering our Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered family and friends), we believe that any adults in a loving and stable relationship should have children if they want to.
As family and friends of LGBT Singaporeans, we applaud Mr. Devan's willingness to see beyond the usual homophobic attitudes of judging others. We believe that it is possible for society to change and we would have a more just and fair Singapore if we treat all our fellow citizens with respect regardless of race, language, religion or sexual orientation. As long as there is love and respect and the parents bring up their children well, what does it matter if a family is made up of Mama, Mama and kids or Papa, Papa and kids?
- Khoo Hoon Eng
| Can mum, mum and kids make a family?
|The Straits Times - Thinking Aloud, July 7, 2007
Can mum, mum and kids make a family?
By Janadas Devan
I HAVE a good friend who is a lesbian. She believes she was born one, not having experienced any heterosexual inclinations since she became sexually conscious in puberty.
My friend has a partner. They are not legally married, since the state they live in in the United States does not recognise gay marriages. But their partnership was solemnised in a Quaker ceremony, witnessed by family and friends, including myself. To all intents and purposes, theirs is a stable marriage.
It is also a fruitful marriage, for my friend has two children, both biologically hers. She conceived them by means of artificial insemination, the sperms having been donated by suitably screened men.
Apart from the fact that there is no father in the picture, my friend's family is normal and exemplary in every way.
The two children are healthy, cheerful, intelligent and well-behaved. They have two loving parents. My friend and her partner are highly educated, with five university degrees between them.
They own the home they live in, they pay their taxes, they save for their children's education, they are charitable, they never fail to vote, they attend church every Sunday. They are model citizens.
Of course, there are any number of other model citizens - in the US and Singapore, in China, India, Indonesia and elsewhere - who would think my friend's family is anything but normal. Homosexuality is against the laws of God and Nature, they would say. Artificial insemination is all well and good for heterosexual couples - but not for homosexual ones. A family must consist of a husband, a wife and children - not same-sex parents with children. I find all these assertions incomprehensible.
If homosexuality is against the laws of God and Nature, how come there are so many homosexuals? What sort of iron-clad laws can these be if they can allow for so many exceptions to the rule?
The demographics on sexual orientation is hazy, but it is evident that a fair number in any population is either homosexual or bisexual. Alfred Kinsey's famous studies of sexuality in the 1950s claimed that as much as 10 per cent of American males were homosexual. Most experts today believe this was an over-estimation.
Recent studies suggest 3 to 6 per cent of adult American males, and somewhat fewer adult females, are homosexual. Surveys in other countries reveal similar or somewhat lower proportions. It is possible such surveys underestimate the number of homosexuals, since homosexuals are often reluctant to admit to their sexual orientation.
Whatever the correct figure, it is impossible to believe God (or Nature) is of the view that Socrates and Alexander the Great, Walt Whitman and Ludwig Wittgenstein, W.H. Auden and E.M. Forster, are all somehow deformed versions of humanity simply because they were gay.
'Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.'
It is astonishing the number of people who profess to be religious who manage to forget this most momentous of statements in Christ's Sermon on the Mount. (There are similarly powerful statements in all the major religions.)
As for the belief that there is an ideal family unit - father, mother, children - and that any straying from this model is somehow dangerous, it is worth remembering that the nuclear family as we know it was not always considered the norm.
Till recently, the norm in many cultures was the extended family. Some cultures are matrilineal, with the line of descent and inheritance being determined by the mother, not the father.
No single model of the family has dominated throughout history. The traditional nuclear family just happens to be a structure that contemporary society finds stable and workable - and it too is changing, as women become more educated and have careers. And even among today's supposedly ideal nuclear families, how many live up to their billing?
One in two heterosexual marriages in the US ends in divorce. Are the children of divorced heterosexual couples better off than the children of my lesbian friends?
How about the children of single mothers or of constantly bickering heterosexual couples locked in loveless marriages?
No matter how happy and well-adjusted the children of lesbian couples may be, they are always, by virtue of their parentage, morally suspect in comparison to the products of broken heterosexual marriages?
The only problems the children of my lesbian friends would face derive, not from the circumstances of their birth, but from the nature of the wider society in which they may find themselves. Fortunately for them, they are growing up for now in a university town, a liberal and tolerant milieu. If they were growing up in Utah, say, it would be a different story. 'You've
two mothers and no father? You're a freak.'
One can imagine the taunts they might face in school if they were growing up in Utah or Alabama instead of Massachusetts or California.
What about Singapore?
It is probably closer to Utah than to California in this matter. Despite none other than Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew saying 'homosexuals are mostly born that way, and no public purpose is served by interfering in their private lives', there is considerable social resistance to accepting gays as equals.
Male homosexual acts remain, officially, crimes under Section 377A of the Penal Code. The Singapore Government has in effect adopted a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy where homosexuality is concerned. And as for gay marriage, Mr Lee himself, despite his progressive views on homosexuality, has said: 'We cannot go that far. We are a more conservative society.'
What are homosexuals in Singapore to do?
They really have no alternative but to accept the somewhat larger scope the Singapore Government has now afforded them and work to change society. That is not going to be easy, given the deep-seated views - the prejudices, actually - of the majority.
The fact that the Government - usually never shy of forcing through a policy, no matter what the public resistance to it might be, if it believes the policy is correct - finds it necessary to give way to public sentiment in not officially decriminalising male homosexual acts, indicates the depth of the prejudice against gays.
On the hopeful side, two factors would favour homosexuals in the long run: One, the growing evidence that homosexuality has a genetic basis. And two, the growing cosmopolitanism of Singapore.
What will those who hold that homosexuality is against the laws of God say when it is definitively established that homosexuality has a genetic basis? That God deliberately made a mistake with the DNA of gays - and wishes us to persecute them for his mistake?
And what will they say when they discover homophobia renders Singapore a less attractive place to the talented and creative, both local and foreign? There is a reason why some of the most creative cities in the world - San Francisco, Boston and London - are also among the most accepting of gays.
Clever people cannot abide intolerance.