Five Pink Dots on, government still paralysed


Pink Dot  — 2013’s will be tomorrow, 29 June — is a huge celebratory event, albeit with a serious purpose. Its steady growth over the last five years have testified to the increasing acceptance of LGBT people in Singapore socially. But on the legal and political front, there is nothing to celebrate. There has been no movement, just paralysis — like the proverbial deer frozen in the face of oncoming (pink) headlights.  It’s all a rather depressing state of affairs.

As I will argue below, the policy paralysis we see is part of a larger pattern. The government is poor at coping with social changes, and easily alarmed at evolving values and attitudes, such as a rising skepticism of authority and greater questioning of the social and economic model imposed from above. They first try to pretend it’s not a substantial change or that it will go away by itself, but when changing attitudes and behaviours spread (e.g. the rise of non-mainstream media), they see it as threat and actively try to restore the status quo.

On the gay front across the world, things have been galloping away. Uruguay, New Zealand and France have recently legalised same-sex marriage.  In the US just two days ago, the Supreme Court struck down the 1996 law that barred the federal government from treating same-sex and opposite-sex married couples equally, and in a different decision, effectively legalised gay marriages in California. Approximately 100 million Americans now live in states where same-sex marriage is legal. Survey after survey show a majority of Americans are now of the view that allowing gays and lesbians to marry is only fair. Even in France, where anti-gay marriage rallies attracted huge crowds (and headlines), opinion polls showed that the majority of the French were supportive of the new law.

On Saturday, an Ifop poll showed the proportion of French supporting legalization of same-sex marriage has risen to 63 percent from 60 percent in early January and December, despite weeks of protest against the planned reform.

Support for adoption rights for gay couples also rose by 3 percentage points, although the country remains divided on the issue, with 49 percent in favor, according to the firm.

— Reuters, 27 Jan 2013, Thousands march in Paris to support gay marriage. Link.

Yet, here in Singapore, we still have Section 377A that criminalises homosex. It’s the kind of regressive, discriminatory law that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon spoke out against last December, as a violation of human rights. Singapore belongs to the same basket of human rights violators mostly in Africa and the Middle East, which draw up state policies to appease conservative Muslim and Christian scolds.

Someone mentioned to me just the other day that he was told by a cabinet minister — one of the four men newly inducted into parliament after the 2011 general election — that on the matter of gay equality, the cabinet is largely immovable because of a diehard group of fundie Christian  ministers. The Prime Minister himself doesn’t belong to that group, but like the weakling he has shown himself to be on so many other fronts, can’t or won’t break the impasse.

377A has innumerable consequential effects. Chiefly, it works its way through state and society via two avenues. It underpins all sorts of discriminatory official policies, e.g. censorship and warped sexuality education, which in turn channels only negative visibility of LGBT persons, while blocking positive portrayals and viewpoints. These then entrench homophobic attitudes. Keeping 377A on the books also emboldens all sorts of prejudiced people encouraging them to disseminate their ignorant views, or implement private discriminatory policies (e.g. in the workplace) in the belief that they have law and moral authority on their side. Being such a linchpin, it is important to cut down 377A.

Readers may be aware that a constitutional challenge was heard in the High Court a few months ago. The decision was a setback, but not an unexpected one. Yet, here too, it bolsters the point I am making: The paralysis goes much further than merely the LGBT issue, as I will explain a little further on. The court gave short shrift to the merits of the arguments why 377A is discriminatory and how it violates the constitution. The main thrust of the decision was that it is not the role of the courts to interfere with the executive or legislative branch; the implication of this kind of argument is that no matter how bad legislation is or how flawed the reasoning for them, there is little that courts can do. This should worry us all — a shocking abdication of the role of the courts as check and balance.

As this illustrates, the problem we have in Singapore is that the rot extends far beyond the cabinet. The civil service has been thoroughly politicised, the military of doubtful loyalty to the constitution, mainstream media corrupted (beyond salvation?) and the judiciary demonstrably lacking in self-confidence.

I have said it before and I will say it again: This government’s competencies lie almost exclusively in the domain of building infrastructure and selling itself to foreign investors. This is not to say these aspects aren’t important. Of course they are as can be seen from a track record of development over the last five decades. But these competencies mask failing grades elsewhere. The government is mostly blind and deaf to changing values and attitudes, dismissive of social needs that do not conform to their perception of how society ought to be, and intensely adverse to accommodating these trends and needs even when these have grown beyond deniability. Social change is always unwelcome to them. They have a haughty, moralistic view of such developments. Their reaction is to denigrate the meanings of such trends and changes and if that does not make the “problem” go away, they instinctively move to smack down such intrusions into their notion of “stability”.

What are these trends that meet with a similar paralysis or antipathy that gay people have experienced? Here are some examples:

There is a rising demand for transparency and accountability. Yet, there has been no movement to accommodate these demands. From Temasek Holdings to the land and building costs of public housing, we are no more informed than in the previous century.

There is a growing appetite for alternative sources of news and current affairs information, but the government is doing everything it can to curb media sources it does not control. Only technical limitations and a fear of wider economic damage stop them from going too far.

The outcry over the proposed development of Bukit Brown caught the government on the wrong foot. Suddenly they found that people’s expectations were different from what they had assumed — “but didn’t you say you want more housing?”– but instead of re-looking at their plans, they have largely stonewalled alternative ideas. They look intent on bulldozing ahead.

There is a rising unease about wage stagnation and a widening income gap among Singaporeans, reflecting changing attitudes to the uber-capitalistic model that has been so ardently followed. The government was not only slow to catch on, it has largely reacted in a way that revealed its contempt for demands for more socially-conscious policies. When compelled by the tide of opinion to act more progressively, it has taken but half-hearted steps, couched in double-speak.

And now the wave of popular frustration with the high rate of immigration is yet another unwelcome change in attitudes. Once again, the reaction we see from the government is defensive, signalling a preference for pressing on according to its own agenda.

All these and more share a common thread: public opinion on what kind of society we should be, how our individual and collective priorities should be ordered, and the relationship between rulers and ruled are changing fast. On all these fronts, we are faced with either paralysis or resistance, often both. Paralysis in the form of incapability to think afresh and imagine a different Singapore along with the changing public; resistance because that’s all that is left to do when embracing change is just not on the cards. At best, the government scrambles around for small gestures it can make to look progressive, but which actually deliver little or nothing at all.

It’s the story of gay struggle in Singapore. But it’s the story of so many other struggles here too.

65 Responses to “Five Pink Dots on, government still paralysed”

  1. 1 oute 29 June 2013 at 09:01

    SINGAPORE: The Singapore Armed Forces has promoted more than 500 personnel as part of its annual promotion exercise.

    Among those who have risen through the ranks is Chief of Defence Force, Major-General Ng Chee Meng, who is now a three-star Lieutenant-General.

    Air Force Chief Brigadier-General Hoo Cher Mou was promoted to the rank of Major-General.

    Director of Military Intelligence and Chief of Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence Rear-Admiral Joseph Leong is now a two-star Rear Admiral.

    In addition, six Colonels were promoted to the rank of Brigadier-Generals.

    In total, 402 officers, 75 military experts and 41 warrant officers from the Army, Air Force and Navy were promoted.

    All promotions take effect on 1 July 2013

  2. 2 MaxChew 29 June 2013 at 09:16

    How the PAP Govt wishes Alex Au was on their side! There are a few others like CSJ, KJ, AL etc but methinks AA hits their raw nerve every time his post appears. And he’s not even aligned to any Opp party but is apolitical to all intents and purposes…..
    I’m sure they await this intellectual’s every new post with bated breath!
    I believe the G has hundreds of brilliant scholars working for them…..why aren’t they, maybe just a few, coming out from their comfort zones to refute and debate and prove him wrong?
    One reason……when the facts and right is on your side mostly, who can contradict and refute you?

    • 3 Duh 1 July 2013 at 16:52

      The PAP will never have people like Alex Au on their side because people like Alex Au have independent minds and will not hesitate to speak out against groupthink. The PAP is good at self-sustaining their common dogma by selecting like-minded and subservient individuals to get into their ranks, thereby perpetuating this groupthink effect. The same effect also resulted in the PAP being unable to initiate change from within.

      If you perpetually keep recruiting yes-men and yes-women, you will find that your ‘orders’ are carried out swiftly and efficiently. BUT when it is time for a paradigm shift, you will realise that those yes-men and yes-women are incapable of generating novel solutions for you. On the contrary, they will only know how to continually sustain that illusory bubble for you that all is well leading you, as a leader, disconnected with reality. Reality shocks will come one after another and you, as a leader, cannot fathom why because you are surrounded by toadies that block this reality from you.

      This is precisely the flaw of the PAP – efficiency via recruitment of toadies at the expense of self-renewal capability.

    • 4 Apache 24 July 2013 at 12:35

      I am not a government scholar, but I have to disagree that AA is not just facts. A lot of it is opinions. I just read Duh’s response to your comment and it seems more of an answer as to why the government is failing.
      I think the root problem is that the government feels too secure in its position, having never seen a change in ruling party. This comes in part due to so many parties taking a very similar stance on many issues.

      Short of starting a new “I wanna clean up SG politics” party, I dont think there really is a choice for the people to do much. (well the other option being voting out this party, which I dont think we are capable of doing in 2016….) And the stability that the “G” talks about, well thats the growth that we have seen. Almost all of Europe is in recession, care to give compare and see if Singapore and its “G” are doing well?

      My point is that the government needs to do a lot, but I think its too stuck up on its ideology. So come up with ideas and gather signatures towards a petition. If that is struck down on unreasonable grounds, then we have a rot.

  3. 5 Peon 29 June 2013 at 15:10

    I think even the PAP, decide to put their innate bigotry aside and do what’s morally right for a change, they still wouldn’t. They don’t want to lost he votes of all those silent homophobic majority.

    • 6 yawningbread 29 June 2013 at 15:37

      I disagree that the majority is all that homophobic or that they care very much which way policy goes. Even LHL admitted this way back in 2007. And other countries’ experiences show that when government leaders provide leadership on this issue, people drop their homophobic ideas quite fast. Example: although African Americans were considered famously resistant to gay rights and rap music (esp by Black artists) used to be well known for its homophobic lyrics, as soon as Obama made his position clear last year, these views have receded amazingly fast. There’s a growing genre of pro-gay rap music.

      From Macklemore and Ryan Lewis:

    • 7 Steve Wong 30 June 2013 at 16:19

      This is something that the government has nothing to lose. Why not just do a referendum and go with the flow based on that? Oh, of course, unless the ministers themselves are the stumbling blocks.

  4. 8 ape@kinjioleaf 29 June 2013 at 15:19

    “At best, the government scrambles around for small gestures it can make to look progressive, but which actually deliver little or nothing at all.”

    Going by my experiences, there’s a lot of changes, very fast indeed and mostly as described by you. And once in a while, change for the worse such as the most recent by MDA.

  5. 9 Fouridine 29 June 2013 at 16:03

    While attitudes are improving, the majority according to this survey 2010 still negative towards gay people
    “In 2005, 68.6 percent of respondents expressed negative attitudes, 22.9 percent had positive attitudes and 8.5 percent were neutral. In 2010, 64.5 percent of those surveyed held negative attitudes towards homosexuals, while 25.3 percent expressed positive attitudes and 10.2 percent were neutral. ”

    • 10 yawningbread 29 June 2013 at 23:28

      When media is controlled such that positive portrayals of LGBT people are filtered out, when gay-affirmative organisations are officially banned and thus handicapped from raising their cause, when sexuality education in schools is used to reinforce a prejudiced silence on equal rights for gay people, when the law exists and discrimination authoritatively endorsed with the result that many LGBT people still prefer to stay in the closet and thus reduce the community’s visibility in society, it is hardly any wonder that general opinion is the way it is in Singapore. The opinion we see is not worth very much; it is only a consequential symptom of state brainwashing.

  6. 11 yuen 29 June 2013 at 20:03

    a political decision need operators in the political arena; do you anticipate any opposition party picking up the issue? would activists in this domain form their own party?

  7. 12 Edward Low 29 June 2013 at 21:12

    ‘In the US just two days ago, the Supreme Court struck down the 1996 law that barred the federal government from treating same-sex and opposite-sex married couples differently’

    I believe this is a typo?

  8. 14 Singapore Son 29 June 2013 at 22:36

    Spot on, Alex! Another insightful post. It’s been more than two years since GE2011. No real and tangible change. Fundamental policies remain the same. The ruling party is really stuck deep in the mud. In fact, for some policies the PAP has actually regressed (eg MDA licensing on the website)!

  9. 15 JG 30 June 2013 at 06:06

    This is called lacking in moral courage. Nothing less.
    Why do I say that? The Govt had always hide behind the excuse that they’ll never legislate in front of society, ie. society sets the face. I can agree with that when it comes to controversial topics like gay marriage or equality. But S377A is a glaring discrimation. Even the Govt admits as much when it says that the law is there, but it will not be implemented.

    The problem is that in the debate over repeal of S377A, all these issues have gotten mixed up. The Govt lacks the moral courage to repeal a law they’ve explicity say is essentially discrimatory and will not be implemented. I believe a LKY govt would have acted more decisively.

    To me, saying that the majority is not ready is not a valid excuse. The majority is not ready for abolishment of slavery. The majority of whites will never have voted for racial equality. Heck, the majority of Singaporeans are not even in favor of giving maids a day off!! Moral courage is about doing what’s right and showing the requisite leadership. Its not hiding behind “the majority is not ready”.

    The only way to force change (ie. repeal of S377A) is to keep raising the issue and essentially, embarass the Govt in the eyes of foreigners. They’re hyper-sensitive to how they are perceived by foreigners, even if they don’t give too hoots about locals.

    • 16 Alan 1 July 2013 at 18:34

      What majority are they talking about when our PM said that the majority is not ready? Does he mean a majority of PAP MPs, majority of PAP Ministers or majority of the people ? When one spoke with such conviction, it has to be supported by facts.

      There can only be a majority of the people if the G had indeed carried out a referendum. But since there is no referendum, so did he actually lied to us and just based on his personal opinion ?

      • 17 JG 2 July 2013 at 01:21

        “Majority” here refers to attitudes conveyed in those surveys cited in the earlier comments. I’ve no doubt that in Singapore, the majority is not in favor of gay marriage. Even in the USA, many states have majorities not in favor of gay marriage. Attitudes take time to change. I accept that.

        My main beef is with S377A. It is blatant discrimination. Taliban-istic.

        When the Govt says that the law stays but will not be implemented, it shows the law is flawed. Just like, you know, how the netizen community screamed bloody murder when the Govt comes up with new Internet regulations and say it will not be implemented against blogs, though it is empowered to. You feel reassured?

        And in choosing not to either decide to implement S377A or to repeal it, the Govt shows no moral courage. I’d love to see an equivalent S377A for the straight community in which all married adulterers will be jailed. Adultery is wrong, isn’t it? The Bible is against it, isn’t it? The Old Testament even calls for stoning, doesn’t it? Why not legislate against it, but oh … just say that it will not be implemented.

  10. 18 Raymond 30 June 2013 at 14:36

    For someone who have served in the uniform and made all the sacrifices for people like you, i think you not fair to the military. Also, you conveniently left out surveys after surveys that showed two third of Singaporeans are against homosexuality. Don’t just pin it on the Govt. That two thirds are also entitled to their views and rights. Thought you believe in democracy. Or is this the dictatorship of the vocal minority? Only your point is always the right one and valid one?
    Sometimes I think you are the stubborn unreasonable one who refused to listen.


    • 19 yawningbread 30 June 2013 at 17:28

      I believe in human rights, and democracy is meaningless without respect for human rights. Equality is a right and should never be subject to majoritarian permission.

      • 20 Duh 1 July 2013 at 16:56

        Precisely Alex. Raymond, if you are a jerk and everyone around you hates you, can we vote to have you executed or perhaps jailed for life?

        Just because (perhaps) many people are uncomfortable with homosexuals in Singapore, it doesn’t mean that homosexuals should not have equal rights. One cannot ‘vote’ equal rights of any group away.

    • 21 octopi 1 July 2013 at 09:27

      It shouldn’t be a problem for the military. The US military has already changed its standpoint on gays. And they’re the ones fighting all the wars.

      Like it or not, thousands of gay people have served in the SAF, even in combat. They just don’t declare 302, that’s all. Wonder if you’ve seen the pictures of Vincent Wijeysingha in his number 4?

    • 22 yawningbread 1 July 2013 at 12:54

      > i think you not fair to the military.

      I believe you are referring to my statement that the military’s loyalty to the constitution is doubtful. Well, let’s do a thought experiment, then.

      Suppose an election is held in which the present ruling party claims it has been reelected. There are, however, widespread allegations of fraud with considerable evidence circulating, and an opposition party claims to have been the actual winner. Massive sit-ins and protests break out. The army is called in to break them up; shoot if necessary. Do you think the army generals will obey and move their troops into position and issue live ammunition?

      We don’t know. We can’t be sure that they WON’T obey. And that uncertainty is precisely my point: the loyalty of the military to the constitution is doubtful.

      So many SAF generals have been inducted into political service, one wonders to what extent that military is serving as the PAP’s youth wing.

      • 23 octopi 1 July 2013 at 14:56

        The govt can never order the SAF to shoot at the people, because the SAF is the people. Personally I would shoot my officer if he ordered me to fire on rioters.

      • 24 yawningbread 1 July 2013 at 23:48

        That’s all very well in theory, in practice, conscription armies have been used to fire on protesters. The Thai army is a conscription army, but in 2010, they obeyed orders to shoot fellow citizens in Bangkok and other cities. Around 90 civilian persons were killed. I was there, close to the frontlines and witnessed the shooting. Chile also had conscription through the long years of Pinochet military rule. The army repeatedly suppressed the opposition.

        I am not as sanguine as you that our conscription army is a cut above that.

      • 25 octopi 2 July 2013 at 12:11

        Let’s hope that things are different in Singapore.

        In Tiananmen, they got soldiers from the provinces to shoot at the Beijing students. Which is possible because they aren’t the “same type of people”. If they want to deal with rioters, they’ll have to send in the Gurkhas. They’d have to figure out which ones of their units are more easily brainwashed. For me that’s the MPs.

        And if they run out of Gurkhas and MPs, that’s it. Because reservists / NSF / regular Singapore dudes shooting regular Singapore dudes, everybody’s from the same city. It doesn’t work that way.

  11. 26 Janice 30 June 2013 at 16:04

    It is funny that you use the phrase “The civil service has been thoroughly politicised”, before going right on to politicise LGBT issues. The civil service is very clearly established to work with the Cabinet (who are all obviously politically-aligned) to achieve objectives for our nation — so it is quite idealistic to expect the civil service not to be politicised.

    On the other hand, as Yen also commented, there is no formalised effort to champion the LGBT agenda. If you expect political change in this area, there needs to be a formalised team leading this effort publicly. A 21,000 showup at Hong Lim is very impressive, but it is still a passive and informal effort.

    I strongly support the LGBT cause, but I also feel it is quite unreasonable to lump the “gay struggle” together with all the other issues you have listed.

  12. 27 Mace 30 June 2013 at 16:24

    I lik this sentence:

    “The Prime Minister himself doesn’t belong to that group, but like the weakling he has shown himself to be on so many other fronts, can’t or won’t break the impasse.”

    “mainstream media corrupted (beyond salvation?) and the judiciary demonstrably lacking in self-confidence

    This are wise words that needs to be highlighted in bold.

    • 28 wengseng 30 June 2013 at 20:03

      By the way why does the PM always appear in pink if he does not support the gay movement? He even earn himself a nickname for that and got a manly looking wife. (Delete if inappropriate), sorry don’t know how to phrase in a proper way… :]

  13. 29 John 30 June 2013 at 16:47

    This is a poorly documented article. We do NOT have to follow the westernized social changes. Look at how america has seen its abortion and divorce rates hit the roof over the past 2 decades with your so called ‘social changes’. With people’s views of marriages and casual sex being subtly changed from the bombardment of social media.. we should ask ourselves is it a good thing? Over the past decade, singapore has started to westernize itself through its social media and our views of pre-marital sex have likewise shifted away from the conservative. Divorce rates in Singapore has doubled from 05′ to 10′ and our marriage institution is now being threatened. But the point that I would like to espouse is that what is morally right will always be right even if its a century later. Values do not change over time and this is something that the writer and most people fail to realize. When I look back and reflect on the S377A which was enacted years ago I question myself the reason on why did our political leaders view homosexuality in such light? The fact is homosexuality defies nature which is the ability to pro-create and this is something that will never change. Unlike animals which practice homosexual acts, we as humans have the capability to differentiate the wrong from right. Would we want our children in future to learn about homosexuality in schools? Would we want our children to grow up with the mindset that they can marry both man and woman? Homosexuality may be instrinsic BUT not all homosexuals were born this way. Some change due to rejections and others for various reasons. With that said, we should not discriminate homosexuals for who they are BUT this doesn’t mean we have to agree with gay marriages. Not agreeing with gay marriages does not equate to being homophobic.

    • 30 octopi 1 July 2013 at 09:51

      The following assertions that you have made are false:

      1. Homosexuality is a recent and western phenomenon. Confucius was neutral to it. It was accepted in the Tang dynasty. It was prevalent among the Japanese samurai. It was mainstream during the time of the Greeks. The opposition to homosexuality

      2. Homosexuality threatens heterosexual marriage. Denying gay people the right to marry is more threatening towards heterosexual marriage. Real estate prices is a bigger threat to the institution of marriage but so far nobody is talking about taking the real estate agents, lining them up against a wall and shooting them.

      3. 377A is about homosexual marriage: not it is not. IT is about putting homosexuals in jail. It is clearly discriminating against gays.

      4. Homosexuality is against nature: What is against nature differs from person to person. For a homosexual to have sex with the opposite sex would be considered unnatural.

      5. Right and wrong do not change over time: What is considered moral and upright changes with the times. At various points in human history, it was considered sinful to marry a person of a different race. Left handedness was considered sinful. Even having twins was also considered sinful, and you had to kill one of the twins at birth. All these attitudes have since been decisively overturned.

      6. 377A did not originate from our political leaders. It started with the British. And the British decriminalised it starting from the 1960s.

      7. Having sex for purposes other than procreation is wrong. Well then you’d better ban 50 year olds or 60 year olds from having sex.

    • 31 Do they know it's corruption at all? 1 July 2013 at 10:29

      What rubbish. ” But the point that I would like to espouse is that what is morally right will always be right even if its a century later. Values do not change over time and this is something that the writer and most people fail to realize.”

      Women were not allowed to vote and taking multiple wives was common. Interracial marriage was practically disallowed and racism institutionalized.

      Values definitely change over time. It’s happened again and again. Go study your history textbook lah.

    • 32 Mike Gan 1 July 2013 at 11:56

      Mr John, The world is flat if u haven’t notice.

      How long can u “protect” our children of the future from your so call “westernization”? In this time of internet, answers which are not found in school, people learn through life experience and if we don’t teach the children proper knowledge all the misconception on confuses them and lead them astray. Some think gay is all abt sex, some think being gay is a sin and commit sucide, some suppress themselve marrying a woman in the end continue to lead a hidden life. If being gay is a choice, why would anybody wants to choose a life of no children, being outcast, and being discriminated?

      I have seen a few cases which straight people take for granted while gay man/woman have to fight for.

      1) Gay spouse whom are together to long time when 1 pass away and want to leave her assets to her partner was objected by the siblings and contested in court. Do u need to fight for your wife assets if she past away?

      2) Partner in coma but only family can make decision. This medicial issue have existed for a long time.

      3) Partner goes overseas to work longterm unable to apply spousal permit and have to be seperated.

      That is just some of the impact of law to people having a same-sex life partner. How does this affect the children? How does this affect u?

    • 33 Edwin Dai 1 July 2013 at 12:11

      John’s comments are a classic example of why conservative elements in the society should not be allowed to dictate policy.

      Firstly, it is unclear why John thinks that the increased in divorce and abortion rates have anything to do with rights of the LGBT community.

      Next, it is also unclear what is wrong with educating our kids to not turn out to be bigots like yourself. I’m sorry to burst your bubble John, but simply informing your kid about the existence of gay people and that they ought to be treated as equals will not turn your kid gay. Please get an education.

      I found this statement the most hilarious:

      “… the point that I would like to espouse is that what is morally right will always be right even if its a century later”

      Obviously, John believes that children should still be stoned for talking back to their parents, women drowned for adultery, and that certain tribes of people should be sold into slavery. Because, you know, things that were considered moral in the past will always be moral. Always. In any case, whether or not morality is permanent is irrelevant, you still have not explained why homosexuality is inherently immoral.

      Finally, its hard to see how you are not homophobic, given how your bigoted, ill-informed, and uneducated views betray your underlying position.

    • 34 Chow 1 July 2013 at 15:35

      “But the point that I would like to espouse is that what is morally right will always be right even if its a century later.” Ok, I shall assume the bits before that are irrelevant…

      Values do change over time. Some of the earlier comments have already detailed that so I won’t go over it. I just want to say that this is about ‘equality’. Treating others equally without discrimination, just like how it goes in the pledge: “Regardless of race, language, or religion”. The Pledge does not include sexual orientation, but I would interpret that the spirit of the Pledge incorporates that aspect as well.

  14. 35 NiceGal Li 1 July 2013 at 02:02

    Dear Alex,

    a) while one can passionately support the eradication of Sec 377, the fact is one must be honest and recognise that Singaporean society is divided on the issue of gays. Even for those who are sympathetic or supportive, more are likely to accept the right to gay sex than they would for gay marriages and parenting. This is because unlike two men screwing each other ,which is a matter between two consenting adults, the institutions of marriage and family belong to society at large.

    b) So unless You are saying that your position is restricted to 377 and you are not fighting also for gay marriage and gay parenthood, you are completely bigoted to not understand that just as gays have rights, those who oppose a gay lifestyle have the right to be heard and to campaign against the gay lobby too. The contest of imperatives is part and parcel of the workings of a democracy.

    c) As for the State? Yes, it has not decided to follow the fashion of angmor countries (where incidentally legalising gay issues is a matter of fairly recent history and not since the dawn of time) but it has been sympathetic to its gay citizens. Enforcement of 377 is an exception and the fact that there has 5 Pink Dot events, suggest that they have accommodated the growth of the gay movement in Singapore without molestation.

    • 36 mike 1 July 2013 at 13:06

      regarding point (b). You may have heard of the saying: Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.

      It is completely within your right to oppose, and try to convince others by rational means, your opposition to homosexuality and ‘gay lifestyle’—whatever that is.

      However, it is quite something else if, in your actions to oppose and convince larger scale adoption of your opposition, you cause pain and suffering to others, regardless of the dehumanised opinion of the other you may happen to have. There are examples abound, even within this page alone, that show how a homophobic position brings harm to people.

      Now, you may certainly turn around and use this principle on the pro-homosexuality movement, and here, it is your responsibility to show that there is actual pain, suffering, ‘moral decay’ or what have you, that advocating for equal treatment of homosexuals brings about.

      A government should not possess, as a matter of law, a regulation that treats its citizens differently for something that they cannot change. If you are going to say that homosexuality is something that can be acquired, I would strongly suggest that you get to know some homosexuals, and (with humility) please educate yourself as to the nature of homosexuality.

    • 37 ape@kinjioleaf 1 July 2013 at 13:33

      “The institutions of marriage and family belong to society at large”
      Hmmm… does that mean we should criminalise divorces or married couples without kids? I’m sure that’s not what you mean.
      If marriage and family belong to society at large, why are we restricting it to heterosexual couples? Homosexuals are not members of society?

    • 40 octopi 1 July 2013 at 13:55

      People who oppose Indian and Malay rights do not actually get heard in Singapore. In fact, they are persecuted under the racial harmony act. These people don’t have rights, and neither are they supposed to. Yes, it’s possible that a majority of people oppose Malay or Indian rights, but we don’t really care, do we? Because eventually we will realise that gay rights are more or less the same as women’s rights or the rights of people of different races.

      The thing is – when you say that the family is about society at large, gay people belong to this society too. The institution of gay marriage is two steps ahead because we (meaning all of us because I’m not gay) have to get rid of 377A first. But eventually we will tackle that because the times are changing. Because what you are basically saying is that the institutions of marriage and families belong to the men screwing the women. Well gay people will have something to say about raising children, and believe me, most of them will be telling their adopted kids that they do not wish for those kids to be gay. Then again it’s not a matter of wishing or not.

      The anti-gay lobby is fighting a losing battle and the best they can hope for is to set back the progress of the gay movement by 5, 10 years. It is for your benefit to realise that you are fighting a losing war.

      Regarding the mindless copying of angmor countries, 377 was a law that was passed down to us by the British. Later on, after 1965 they realised that it was a mistake and they struck it down, but it’s still on Singapore’s books. But we are still blindly copying angmor countries in this regard. The opposition to homosexuality mainly came from the Judeo-Christian tradition, and the conservatism of the Qing dynasty of recent times.

    • 41 Chow 1 July 2013 at 16:02

      “…the institutions of marriage and family belong to society at large…”

      I’m a little unclear what you mean by that statement. Did you mean that it is important for the State to regulate marriages? Or that we (Society) has a prevailing interest in the types of marriages approved?

      If it’s the former, I wouldn’t quite know what to think about it except that the word “eugenics” will be always at the back of my mind.

      If it is the latter, I’d say that the quality of care and parenting is more important than the sexes of the parents involved.

      Perhaps it is still worth repeating that you don’t catch homosexuality like you catch a cold.

  15. 42 Sam 1 July 2013 at 15:31

    This programme on the BBC makes for interesting listening:

    With the rest of the world (save for Russia and a few places in Africa/Middle East) what will happen to all the same sex couples that turn up here for work? With companies wanting equal rights for all their employees it is just a matter of time before the government will have to tow the line. Discrimination is bad for business.

  16. 43 Roger 2 July 2013 at 08:04

    i find both the arguments for and against gay ‘rights’ unpersuasive and unintelligent. for gays, they don’t have a right to do what society deems unacceptable, and spore society deems it unacceptable. for anti-gays, the burden of proof is on them to show why being gay is morally wrong. i have read my fair share of views on this issue and neither side has been convincing in their arguments. people are busy shouting at each other without actually having a serious conversation.

    i think the likes of kumar (transvestite) are hideous and a freak of nature. i wish my children do not turn out like him. i think i have a valid concern. but before we can actually have a serious conversation on whether kumar is indeed hideous looking and behaves in an off-putting matter, i will get jumped with a label of ‘bigot’, like it means anything.

    when it comes to the law, it should be amoral and 377a has to go.

    let’s be clear. there is nothing moral about being gay. most gay relationships sink. there is however, a moral quality to straight marriages. i find the denial of the gay community of this difference unreasonable.

    and let’s also be honest. gays won’t stop at 377a. next would be same-sex marriages.

    i want to highlight that before a serious conversation about sexuality and transvestites has taken place, and before gays have addressed valid misgivings about gay lifestyles, they just keep pressing on with their ‘rights’. this is the part which is starting to get annoying. since when was it that i have to like the kumars of this world? i accept kumar as a human being but i don’t like him. to say that it’s ‘fine’ to turn out like kumar and anyone who feels otherwise is a ‘bigot’ is something i reject.

    • 44 yawningbread 2 July 2013 at 21:29

      My understanding is that Kumar does not claim to gay. He is a cross-dresser, cross-dressing for performance. He is a representative of LGBT persons as a Chinese person with shoe-polish on his face in a comedy club is representative of Africans.

      Since your entire comment is based on a reference to Kumar, now that I have clarified his position, all the rest you have written is moot.

      • 45 bookworm 3 July 2013 at 23:37

        5555 touche…

      • 46 Roger Chua 4 July 2013 at 10:58


        Kumar publicly admits he is gay

        the information in this article suggests you are mistaken, and what I have written is therefore not moot.

        and, to clarify, i made three points in my posts, which are not necessarily dependant on a reference to Kumar:

        1. a gay relationship is not moral, in the same way that there is nothing moral about premarital sex. sure you can do it but it is NOT the same as a straight marriage, which is moral.

        2. individuals do not have a right to do something that is unacceptable by society.

        3. a serious and intelligent conversation about sexuality and homosexual issues needs to take place before we can make any conclusions about gays.

        and I should add that while I personally would vote to repeal 377a because i feel taxes and time should not be spent on catching two men who wish to have sex, the complaint that gay men are not treated fairly under the law can be rectified by making it illegal for lesbians to have sex. so ‘equal rights’ is not really what you are after, is it?

      • 47 V 4 July 2013 at 13:27

        Kumar came out in 2011 in his book Kumar: From Rags to Drags. He was also one of the Pink Dot Ambassadors in 2012.

        Roger, you totally remind me of this cartoon:
        Conservative to gay person: “I don’t like your kind. You’re evil, God hates you, I hate you! You don’t deserve rights.”
        Gay person: “Stop that!”
        Conservative: “ZOMG! I’m being oppressed!”

      • 48 Passerby 5 July 2013 at 21:22

        Sorry, Alex, but Kumar is indeed gay.

        However, just because Roger is right on this doesn’t mean he’s any less bigoted and ignorant about everything else in his post.

    • 49 octopi 3 July 2013 at 16:08

      “let’s be clear. there is nothing moral about being gay. most gay relationships sink. there is however, a moral quality to straight marriages. i find the denial of the gay community of this difference unreasonable.”

      It is a chicken and egg issue. The gay marriage thing is an attempt to make gay marriage “moral” – and who ever said it was not. People need to see it more and get used to it before we have people becoming convinced that it is moral, and banning it doesn’t help.

      • 50 Passerby 7 July 2013 at 16:56

        Sorry, the double negatives got me. I meant to say

        “However, just because Roger is right on this doesn’t mean he ISN’T any less bigoted and ignorant about everything else in his post.

    • 51 Val 3 July 2013 at 17:59

      Immoral? By whose standard’s? Yours?

    • 52 Alan 3 July 2013 at 20:52


      What moral right do you have as a human being to label transvestites as hideous and a freak of nature?

      To me, they are a just another creation of God just like you & me unless you are saying that you are not created naturally ? I do hope one of your future generation will become a ‘freak of nature’ by accident if that will make you understand how to become a normal & decent human being fit to live on this planet !

      • 53 Roger 8 July 2013 at 15:53

        and what moral right do you have to say they are moral? remember i said arguments for gay ‘rights’ were not intellectual? you just did it.

        fyi, and others who like you who use the relativity argument, it has long been proven to be unsustainable because it would render any conversation meaningless. if you do not concede there is a universal truth or morality, then you shouldn’t participate in conversation. because you’ll be arguing rape is ok, after all, who am i to pass judgment?

        clarify your position: is orchard towers okay or not?

      • 54 X 10 July 2013 at 21:39


        No, I don’t believe that morals are universal, or timeless.

        Morals have changed in the past. It was immoral to marry people of different races. It was fine to put people into slavery.

        Nowadays, interracial marriages are fine, and slavery is immoral. Morals have changed.

        I can imagine a day when it might be immoral to marry (to procreate) people of the same race, as the resulting child would have a lower genetic diversity compared to children from interracial parents. Or one day, it would be immoral to have live-in maids paid lower wages than hourly maids working the same hours, as that would be exploitation.

        Perhaps even straight marriages would be immoral in the future. In a world with increasing population, declining amounts of resources, and so many unfortunate people of all ages who could instead join families in developed countries and be given a higher quality of living – it would be immoral, I think, to bring more children into this world, and heterosexual intercourse immoral by extension. (We live in such a world already, to a certain degree. How much?)

        I think that morals change over time.

  17. 55 Thor 3 July 2013 at 18:22

    I agree with the gist of this article. Great leaders are those who inspire us and who are at the forefront of change. They lead by moral suasion. Unfortunately, I have never seen this from our government. Just look at the last two legislation rammed through parliament. I keep asking myself, do we really need such expensive rubber stamps? Where is the individual conscience of our MPs? Worse, ultimately the party is cynical and destructive. Look at the hatchet job which has begun on VW. I hope the youth of Singapore are more enlightened and broad minded and tolerant and will reject such base and divisive politics. Let the man be judged by the content of his character and his deeds. Shame on VB and his ilk with ‘their agenda’.

  18. 56 Me So Ornery 4 July 2013 at 08:46

    In response to Roger:

    let’s be clear. there is nothing moral about being gay. most gay relationships sink. there is however, a moral quality to straight marriages. i find the denial of the gay community of this difference unreasonable.

    -> before you pronounce something moral or immoral, morality is subjective from person to person, culture to cultre, and as others have pointed out, changes with time. Any argument using morality as a justification does not hold any water, you might as well say “The colour red should be banned because it is immoral”. Replace the colour red with anything.

    On specific points, most straight relationships also sink. Look at divorce rates. And those are the ones that made it to marriage. What moral quality does straight marriages have, that gay marriages will not have? Modern marriage is hopefully about love and sacrifice between two people. Why should gender disqualify some marriages as immoral etc?

    and let’s also be honest. gays won’t stop at 377a. next would be same-sex marriages.

    -> You say it like it’s a crime to have equal human rights and the abolishment of discrimination. You know what should be criminal? The fact that people need to fight to have human rights and no discrimination.

    i want to highlight that before a serious conversation about sexuality and transvestites has taken place, and before gays have addressed valid misgivings about gay lifestyles, they just keep pressing on with their ‘rights’. this is the part which is starting to get annoying.

    -> In relatively recent US history, discrimination on the basis of skin colour was widely accepted. For example, African Americans can ride the bus but had to sit at the back. In relatively recent world history, women had no voting rights. Of course unfairly marginalised groups will keep pressing on with their rights. They should have had these rights in the first place. The fact that the rights were taken from them, necessitates the need to fight for it. And they should, until they get these rights.

    • 57 Roger 8 July 2013 at 16:11

      poor argument 1: relativity

      like other posters, you relied on the ‘relativity’ argument. try something else. or you want me to agree with you that because in some cultures, child marriages are okay so it’s morally right? if everything is relative to you, then our conversation ends here.

      poor argument 2: anyhow linking events or topics

      race rights have nothing to do with what gays want. i can equate gay rights to pedos as well, both are illegal. how much sense does that make? and also, the demands of gays have nothing to do with women’s right. it’s a sleight of hand. what has women who are not allowed to vote have to do with two men who want have sex? pls…there is no parallel or link.

      and as i’ve mentioned earlier, if it’s really an equal rights issue, we can ban lesbian sex as well. all sgreans have no right to do anything illegal. is that what you want? no right?

      and i would prefer if we can have a more advanced conversation instead of harping on equal rights. it’s so passe. nowadays we talk about affirmative action, rights of minorities. what we are looking at is unequal rights. so why are you harping on equal rights?

      let me re-state my position:

      1. morality is not subjective, it is contested. if everything is relative to you, then why don’t you let me smack you in the face and say that’s the way my culture likes to greet ppl.

      2. homosexuality, like premarital sex, does not have a moral quality to it, in the way that a straight marriage does. now pls kindly consider my statement carefully before telling me about aboriginal rights and how all acts are relative. and i repeat, it is unreasonable for gays to deny there is a moral quality to straight marriages. premartial sex has no value and you wouldn’t put a premartial sex relationship on the same pedestal as a straight marriage.

      3. before we can have serious and intelligent conversation (and i just showned how silly the arugments are), ppl who are looking at the issue objectively get labelled as being bigoted.

      and i noticed that not even one who replied to me has address the issues. are you saying that i must find it ok if my child turns out like the kumars are orchard towers? state your position clearly so we know what’s what.

      • 58 Me So Ornery 10 July 2013 at 15:48

        Edwin has addressed some points below which echoes my sentiments so I won’t repeat those points.

        On subjective morality: the examples you have listed include child marriages, rapes and smacking people across the face. What you have called upon as examples are an infringement of human rights. Children are not mentally or emotionally mature to give meaningful consent to a marriage; rape is obviously non-consensual, and violence hurts others. I thought that should be obvious. If you argue that gay marriages are immoral, first of all, is it between two consensual adults. Second, who exactly does it hurt – is your marriage affected by gay marriage? Are you children affected by gay marriages? Are your family and neighbours affected by gay marriages?

        On Kumar and Orchard Towers if you must, although I fail to see what point it makes: If your kid turns out like Kumar, whether you find it ok or not, does not change who he is. It is up to you to accept your own child as who he is. Your acceptance or refusal to, does not make him “right” or “wrong”. Orchard Towers, do you understand demand and supply? None of the girls there are coerced or forced into the work they choose.

        On a side point, I don’t even see what is wrong with Kumar. He knows the challenges of being open with his sexual orientation and chose to forge on, and career-wise, built a successful career for himself. If anything, he is one courageous person.

  19. 59 Edwin 4 July 2013 at 14:35

    It is ironic that Roger should pass judgement on the quality of the arguments here when he provides gems such as these:

    ” For gays, they don’t have a right to do what society deems unacceptable, and spore society deems it unacceptable.”

    “there is however, a moral quality to straight marriages”

    If you want to assert something as fact, at least have the decency to back it up with something.

    And if you believe that simply being in a democracy offers carte blanche to the majority to deprive a minority of basic rights, I think it would do you good to read more before shooting off your mouth.

    Roger, my advice is this: Better to keep silent and be thought a fool, then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

    • 60 Roger 8 July 2013 at 16:18

      1. insults do nothing to strengthen your case.

      2. you have framed the debate as a ‘rights’ issue. why don’t you take some of your own advice and provide evidence what in the world does two men having sex have to do with a woman’s right to vote?

      3. i honestly can’t be bothered to spell out the values of straight marriages, whether from a moral or evolutionary perspective. but if you think there is no moral value to straight marriages, it’s just as moral as gay relationships, hey, simple lah, stop pushing for gay marriages! you are pushing for a marriage right? why don’t you ask yourself why you want marriage if it has no moral value? i would have thought that since this is what you want, i need not explain to you the moral quality of straight marriages. boy, talking about being confused!

      • 61 Edwin 10 July 2013 at 14:24

        To Roger:

        “what in the world does two men having sex have to do with a woman’s right to vote”

        Ans: They are both basic human rights.

        “if you think there is no moral value to straight marriages, it’s just as moral as gay relationships, hey, simple lah, stop pushing for gay marriages! you are pushing for a marriage right? why don’t you ask yourself why you want marriage if it has no moral value?”

        Ans: Marriage is not limited to heterosexual marriage. The right to both form of marriages belongs to basic human rights.

        I hope you are truly not as retarded as you sound.

  20. 62 ronald 10 July 2013 at 21:34


    I regret that some posters have resorted to ad hominems to contend their propositions. Whilst i stand with them on this debate, let me propose an entirely new take.

    The fundamentals of modern democracy hinges upon liberal literature and ontologies proposed by John Mill and subsequently by Matthew Kieran. Essentially, it states that in a liberal democracy the only time when the government is morally right to intervene and constrain someone against his own will is when his actions cause harm to others.

    It is not the function of law and legislations to govern morality. Tyranny of the majority (democracy) is actually worse than tyranny of government because the prevailing opinions within society forms the basis of all rules of conduct within society.

    Kieran goes on to state that not only is it morally wrong to infringe upon the rights of minority groups – e.g. blacks – but it is a moral impetus for us to instead PROTECT them. As someone rightfully quoted, gandhi once said the mettle of a society can be gauged from how it treats its weakest members. It is our moral obligation to protect minority groups’ freedom and right to live a proper life because they will forever face the threat of being wrestled out by the majority, similar to Mill’s concept of tyranny of the majority.

    All modern democracies are founded on the liberal philosophies proposed by these 2 great thinkers. Take a look at the constitutional freedom of speech in Singapore. While citizens are guaranteed a right to free speech and expression, it is subjected to restrictions derived from Mill’s ‘no harm principle’, such as public order, national security etc.

    Morality does NOT equate to legality. Outlawing gay sex is akin to legislating morality which clearly violates the principles proposed by Mill. It also fosters discrimination and infringes on a minority group’s (homosexuals) freedom to live their lives functionally, which is what Kieran feared.

    I can go on about the practical repercussions of banning gay sex/marriage that is heart-wrenching and tragic in reality, but lets just discourse about the philosophy, metaphysical bit first.

    fyi: a copy of Mill’s essay is passed to the president of the British Liberal Democrats as a symbol of office to this day

  21. 63 Chris 11 July 2013 at 10:54


    finally, some proper discourse. I’ve been reading all the posts thus far, and a sad majority of the posters always seems to have to include some insult to the original poster if their viewpoints happened to conflict with theirs. Surely our society is big enough to accept and argue against different viewpoints without having to resort to name-calling.

    As for your points, it bears food for thought. A couple of things though regarding morality as it has been argued here so far.

    There seems to be 2 prevailing thought trains regarding morality, 1) It’s core and principles remains constant throughout time, though implementation of it might change as society changes. 2) It evolves and changes along with society, and in a sense is thus relative to the times and countries in which it is found.

    If you subscribe to the first thought of morality, it seems to suggest a basis, a certain measure outside of what people might think or want to follow. For Christians it would be the bible, for buddhists it would be the teachings of buddha, for muslims it would be the quran etc. I believe your point on Mill and Kieran seems to follow this first thought.

    The second thought of morality is more fluid, and changes not only from time to time, but also from country to country. By its very nature, it depends on the prevalent thought of the majority (for example, if everyone in a certain tribe believed canabalism was okay, to them, from a moral perspective, there would be nothing wrong) As such, in a way, there really is no real morality, but a set of accepted behaviours.

    Therefore, if we follow the first train of thought, the argument should be on what basis of morality are we following? This will make a huge difference on what is acceptable and what is not.

    If we follow the second train of thought, then essentially arguments on morality is moot, and it’s more about who can convince more people that their viewpoint is correct, and the one with the higher % will constitute the new “moral” of the generation.

  22. 64 ronald 11 July 2013 at 17:48


    Interesting vistas on morality. you’re right, the philosophical schools of thoughts ventured by great thinkers can be said to stem from the opinion that morality is largely derived from religion. This makes sense if you consider the context, as Europe was ruled by a combination of theocracy and monarchy for centuries, thus the Church was (can still be?) considered the first estate of the realm.

    However, if you delve further, it can be discerned that these thinkers (including Mill & Kieran) advocate for a line to be drawn between that which is moral, and the legal. Morals belong to the private sphere, whereas legal governs the public sphere.. While something one may do in private may be considered distasteful to another (gay sex), that nonetheless doesn’t give the other party the moral ground to curtain and restrain him UNLESS harm is caused. harm of course can be intepreted in an interminable number of ways, but lets comprehend it based on its fundamental implication.

    its via adherence to such progressive thoughts that a country/society can progress to be considered a more liberal, modern society, in a democracy. Take a look a countries still ruled by theocracy – iran, vatican city, Then, countries operating by definition of democracy but heavily influenced by religious law: saudi arabia, indonesia, ireland. then finally, true democracies – US, most of Scandinavia. Notice the progression of modernity? Countries that largely implement morality into the law are backward countries (backward in thought, not economy), look at how homosexuality still outlawed, condoms/abortions banned. whereas in true modern democracies, there are minimal freedom restrictions based on morality.

    Ethics and NOT morals form the basis of law in a modern liberal democracy. How do ethics differ from morals? Ethics = overarching concepts of humanity based on universal principles of equality, freedom, rights, whereas morals = more culture/region-centric beliefs or thinking based largely from religion or other influences such as culture. Therefore, ppl typically condemn homosexuality to be an immoral behavior and not unethical behavior. Which is perfectly fine, in a liberal democracy individuals have a right to their own opinion. what is NOT RIGHT, however, is compelling others to follow your opinion just because you belong to the majority and can implement a law as such.

    Interestingly, Singapore as a SECULAR, multi-racial/religious country ought to be more similar to the scandinavian countries than to Malaysia (that is heavily influenced by islamic law, and still outlaws gay sex). We have no national religion, no super influential religious groups etc. I really do not understand the dearth of liberty and progress, and can only blame it on the emasculated fortitude and political will of our leaders (i dearly hope to be proven wrong in this).

    This brings into mind a quote that seems so apt here. “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” Where are the educated, intelligent and ethically people whom should be voicing up for the minority in Parliament?

  23. 65 Humph 31 July 2013 at 00:25

    Ah, our dear disproportionately christian cabinet, making wise decisions for a largely non-christian nation :)) Who amongst them have the honour of being the more fundamentalist ones? Lui Tuck Yew and Vivian Balakrishnan foshure. Who else? Teo Chee Hean? Grace Fu?

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