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Parliamentary petition to repeal 377A: not just any other petition

Posted by theonlinecitizen on October 12, 2007

By Choo Zheng Xi

In the most formal challenge to Singapore’s gay sex laws yet, Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Siew Kum Hong will be sponsoring a petition in Parliament calling for the repeal of section 377A of the Penal Code. The petition was initiated by lawyer George Hwang and gay media company owner Dr Stuart Koe.

377A is the section of the Penal Code which prohibits “gross indecency” between men.

The petition calls for the repeal of 377A on the basis that it contravenes section 12 (1) of the Constitution.

Section 12 (1) states: “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”.

The petition requests that Parliament ‘extend equal protection to all Singaporeans in respect of their private consensual sexual conduct, regardless of their sexual orientation’.

Parliamentary petition to focus debate

The petition is not legally binding on Parliament, but will serve to bring the attention of Parliament to the question of 377A’s constitutionality.

To date, the debate over 377A has taken place in the context of a wider overhaul of Singapore’s Penal Code. A recent press release in conjunction with the Penal Code amendment Bill contains a brief two sentence explanation of why 377A was retained.

When asked by TOC what he hoped to achieve through this petition, Dr Koe said he wanted ‘to show the government and other Singaporeans that many Singaporean citizens, whether straight or gay, believe that 377A is discriminatory and should not stand’.

Dr Koe hopes that the petition’s message is clear enough for Parliament to specifically debate the constitutionality of 377A, and for Parliament to eventually vote on it.

Parliamentary petition history

The petition Mr Siew will be bringing before Parliament is only the second in Singapore’s history.

The last time a public petition was presented to Parliament was in 1985, sponsored by the then MP for Anson J B Jeyaretnam. (See here, pdf file)

In contrast to the current petition, the 1985 petition was brought before Parliament on a question of Parliamentary privilege. One Mr Sivadas Sankaran was sued for defamation on a memorandum he submitted to a Parliamentary committee set up to look into amending the Companies Act. Mr Sivadas’ petition requested that Parliamentary privilege be extended to his submission to the Parliamentary committee.

The request to have his petition considered was denied by Parliament.

Strict rules lend legitimacy to petition process

Unlike a multitude of online petitions that have sprung up over issues as varied as Ministerial payrises and unhappiness over Central Provident Fund (CPF) changes, the Parliamentary petition has to be cleared by the Clerk of Parliament before it is sent to an eight man Parliamentary Petitions Committee. The committee will then gather feedback before presenting its findings to Parliament for consideration.

For the petition to be considered by the Petitions Committee, strict rules apply.

Parliament’s Standing Orders mandate that signatures have to be handwritten, and valid addresses of signatories affixed. Members of the public who want to sign the petition have to print it out and deliver it to collection points set up across Singapore. (See here: Parliament Standing Orders, section 18 and section 100 (6).)

To Dr Koe, the strict rules of petition verification and signing lend legitimacy to the petition:

“People cannot hide behind the anonymity of the internet. By signing the petition, each person is “showing up” and being counted”.

The petition’s strict formal requirements on disclosure and verification are also significant given the negative societal perceptions of homosexuality. Dr Koe believes that because of these perceptions, ‘those who are showing their support are truly doing so out of their convictions’.

Parliamentary petition complements grassroots momentum

The Parliamentary petition comes at a time when pro repeal activists are launching one of the most visible campaigns to repeal 377A to date.

So far, 13 retail outlets and eateries across Singapore have volunteered to be public drop off and collection points for the petition. Petition organizers are also encouraging people to print the petition and gather signatures from friends and family.

The petition comes hot on the heels of the setting up of a one-stop online resource for the repeal of 377A: It contains the legal background to the issue, as well as an open letter to the Prime Minister, which has to date gathered 3300 names.

Just last night, a video by prominent local actors calling for 377A’s repeal was uploaded to Youtube.

The message the video hopes to send?

“It’s not just a gay thing. It’s about equality”.


Read also’s report “Singapore’s repeal 377A campaign gains momentum with new parliamentary petition”.

Below is the video calling for the repeal of Section 377A:


26 Responses to “Parliamentary petition to repeal 377A: not just any other petition”

  1. […] of conscience – Urbanrant: We should support the petition! – The Online Citizen: Parliamentary petition to repeal 377A: not just any other petition – Siew Kum Hong: NMP to present petition to repeal anti-gay law to […]

  2. macabresg said

    “It’s not just a gay thing. It’s about equality”.

    I agree on this and I respect Mr Siew for what he is doing and has done(such as the parliamentary speech on CPF Reforms). He should really consider joining a party to speak more for the people. A true leader indeed.

  3. Their effort can only fail.

    This is not like the casino issue where money talk is the main issue.

    Are we going the way of the American liberalism ? A sad case if we do !

  4. saintmoron said

    It is much ado about nothing.

  5. Let those who would diss, say as they please.

    It’s their freedom to do so.

    What makes a man, is what he chooses to do for those who cannot speak for themselves.

  6. Sitis said

    If sodomy is considered a crime targeted to the gays, then it is an unfair law.

    Why are husbands/boyfriends performing sodomy to wives/girlfriends not considered as a crime?

    Why discriminate between performance of the same act upon the same sex, but not performance of the same act upon opposite sex?

  7. sarek_home said

    Annual gay pride parade slated for Oct. 13

    08/23/2007 (CNA)
    Taipei, Aug. 23 (CNA) Taiwan’s fifth gay pride parade — Taiwan Pride 2007 — to be organized by the gay and transgender communities, is slated to take place Oct. 13 in Taipei City with the aim of urging politicians to make laws regarding equal rights for homosexuals, such as legalization of same-sex marriages, an organizer of the event said Thursday.

    同志萬人遊行 爭取婚姻保障

     台灣政壇不應只有藍綠,而要呈現彩虹般的多元色彩!同志遊行主張「彩虹有夠力、Rainbow Power」,呼籲明年投入選舉的政治人物共同推動「同志(居)伴侶法」,讓國內一百多萬名同志受到婚姻的保障。,4521,110501+112007101400039,00.html?source=rss

  8. […] retaining S377A – Perils of a Reluctant Chauvinist: Repeal Penal Code s377A – The Online Citizen: Parliamentary petition to repeal 377A: not just any other petition – Diary of a Singaporean Mind: Why we must keep Section […]

  9. apoet said

    I disagree against the repeal.

    This is anarchy. Both spiritual and moral anarchy, we cannot right a wrong simply because more and more people are doing it.

    I feel Section 337a should stay.

  10. Right and wrong are normative constructs. We all have a right to them.

    The right ends when State power is used to enforce your sense of normative morality.

  11. apoet said

    This “normative” morality construct is based on simple logic and the conscious of wellbeing. Therein such constructs need not be debated upon nor exist there any form of confusion and disagreement.

    And yet Ironically Sate power in this case needs to ensure that “your” individual sense of normative morality or morality ineffective does not conflict with what is right and which is the right that will benefit the well-being of the general public .

    State power needs to not enforce “your” individual sense of normative morality disassociation

    yet with that said, I am NOT against homosexuality. Just that I hold the interest of our young dearly.

  12. loupgarou said

    I feel your stupid religion is a stupid artifact of myth. just because you are indoctrinated into it doesn’t mean secular society should be enforce it.

    I don’t even think your god exists and you are all delusional. its power and money that speaks, look at the megachurches, if jesus christ was around, he would call a meteor to hit your megachurches.

  13. apoet said

    morality needs no religion.

  14. epiphany said

    Indeed, morality needs no religion and knows no logical sense. It is true that perhaps the parliamentary petition is doomed to fail, but it has raised awareness sufficiently to urge people to post on websites and forums. A small step at a time.

  15. Asia Michael said

    Why waste the strength on this issue, when there is far worst problem ahead. Us e your talents for the poor, the widows, the misled (since the gay people are), the bondage(with their lust), those in darkness with the world, etc.
    Those diseases(sex) begins with promiscuity, multiple sex partners(unfortunately fall in the media scene),the broadminded(actually they do not know their boundary – they even get the animals to perform sex with them). YOU THE MEDIA PEOPLE HAVE BEEN USED – NOT BY ARGUMENTS BUT BY CRAFTINESS OF SOME ONE older THAN US – HE IS Mr. s.a.tan, Mr. d.e.mon, Mr. d.e.vil and Mr. wormwood.

  16. ashton ooi said

    Does everyone think that there’s a pill given to babies on the day that they are born that makes them hetro or homosexual?
    That upon entering this world a choice was given to these innocent and beautiful beings to choose their fate of having a penal code on their head? If yes then lets have a penal code in place for these diabolical beings who have serve up such injustice to these precious little tots.

    We are moving forward as a country, reaching 1st world status, but how can we say that when we are so resistant to changes? all that is asked here is a show of equality to all singaporeans and not just hetrosexuals. Everyone plays a part in building this great nation of ours. No one is asking for special treatment, no one ia asking for special favours, all that is aked here is NOT to be special, to NOT have a penal code in place to say ‘hey! you may be a singaporean but you’re not entitled to the same justice system on certain matters like your personal sex life if you dont comform to the moral standards of this country.. which is to be herosexual”.

    ahhh…if only there were really diabolical beings popping pills down babies throat.. wouldn’t that be easier to settle?

  17. khai said

    i disagree with the repeal.

    Im merely just a humble servant of god.
    i do not wish to put religions into this matter.

    to me,

    there is a reason why god created adam and EVE
    not adam and steve.

  18. gonococcus said

    i think everyone’s digressing from the actual meaning of 377A – we’re no longer discussing whether gays should be jailed for having sex with each other, but rather we’re talking wooly speculation that the world will topple over and HIV will ruin our country should it be repealed

    i think we should forget it all and just clear our minds and think:

    should homosexuals be jailed for making love to each other?

    that is the true essence of the 377A fiasco

    i wrote more about it in my blog

  19. […] two excellent sites that have done a decent job of aggregating the reads: The Singapore Daily and The Online Citizen and in no time even you will be pink – Should 377A be repealed? Or, should it stand? Whatever the […]

  20. macabresg said

    I notice this is one of the rare moments where Singaporeans speak actively on a social issue both online and offline. I read opinions on blogs and forums, and also hear some of my friends discussing about the issue. Usually they won’t even bother about such things. Maybe this is a small step taken to spark off more interest in current affairs among Singaporeans?

  21. loke said

    I stand strongly against the repesl, as it is an unnatural act, for the sake of my children and my country

  22. Ned Stark said

    And for the sake of ur children lets hope they are straight.

  23. Easthawk said

    So I thank all who do not think I am sick and unnatural, and recognise my yearly contribution to the tax system, my many donations to charity organisations, my hours spent on volunteer works, my contribution to my company by bringing in sales, me taking care of my mother whenever she is sick, me giving up my seats to that pregnant woman last week when the rest of the straight men and women pretended to sleep on the MRT….

    Of course I would also like to apologize to those who felt that my existence as a gay man makes them uncomfortable, that I should be classified in the same group as theives, robbers, rapists, conmen, muderers since we ALL commit a crime in this country.

    But then again…for my “crime” for liking men, I may be thrown into the jail with..MORE MEN (?)…hmm….Oh! Ok. I get it now…..:P

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  26. […] discussion by the Public Petitions committee back in 1985. The petitioner, a Mr Sivadas Sankaran, appealed to have the legal proceedings instituted against him for defamation be declared a breach of the […]

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