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Law Society Singapore President Adrian Tan Addresses 377A Repeal

Source: The Asia Law Network Blog

Adrian Tan, president of The Law Society of Singapore, shared his opinion on the repeal of 377A that PM Lee announced during the National Day Rally.

Source: Adrian Tan, LinkedIn

He said that Section 377A of the Penal Code states that men who have sex with men will be imprisoned. In the past, the Government has said that this law won’t be proactively enforced.

However, in law-abiding Singapore, an unenforced law raises questions.

“If a law isn’t going to be enforced, then what type of law is it? Do we have two types of laws here, one type we obey, and the other type we ignore? Wouldn’t that lead to confusion and disrespect for the law?”

Another with 377A is that it applies to only men and not women. Women are free to have sex with other women.

“Does that make the law unfair? Does it breach our Constitution, which states that all persons are equal before the law?”

One of the reasons the government cited for the repeal was that there was a risk of 377a being struck down as unconstitutional by the courts. This fear is not unfounded, as that’s what happened in India’s own section 377.

In a monumental move, India’s Supreme Court struck down section 377 of the IPC in 2018, saying that it violated constitutional right to equality and dignity.

The repeal is a major win for the pro-repeal group but on the other side of the fence lies the conservative group. These people want to preserve the sanctity of marriage as being between a man and a woman, exclusively.

Even though 377a has nothing to do with the issue of marriage, they are concerned that its repeal would signal a movement down a path that eventually results in gay marriage

“But 377A has nothing to do with marriage. Marriage is defined under different laws, such as the Women’s Charter, as heterosexual marriage.”

As it is now, marriage in Singapore is already defined as between a man and a woman. However, to reassure the conservatives, the government announced that they would amend the constitution to protect heterosexual marriage.

“The Constitution is bulletproof. It can’t be challenged in court.”

In addition, some religious communities are worried that they would lose their right to preach their beliefs if the law gets repealed. But Adrian pointed out that the concepts of sin and crime are not the same.

“That’s not true. They’re free to continue to say that homosexuality is a sin, even if it isn’t a crime. There’s a big difference between sin and crime. Sin is a religious concept, not a legal one. Singapore is secular. We have no national religion: we believe only in the law.”

Adrian concluded his post by asking a very good question:

Who won?

The pro-repeal group got rid of an unenforceable law, the pro-family group were given reassurance that traditional marriage remains sacred and religious groups are free to preach and teach according to their beliefs.

“Everyone secured something important. No one lost anything. As a non-gay, non-religious Singaporean, this is what I think we must do now: Nothing.

Let’s reflect how we, as a nation, navigated this journey in a civilised way, while respecting personal beliefs.”

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