ST April 23, 2007There's a reason why I don't like politicians and this is it. They're sneaky. They're always using all sorts of little tricks and verbal sleights of hand to communicate their messages. They can't fool Mr Wang, of course, but Mr Wang knows that the masses often get fooled.
Homosexuality: Govt not moral police but it's mindful of people's concerns
By Zakir Hussain
THE Government is not the moral police on the issue of homosexuality here - but it cannot at the same time ignore the concerns of conservative citizens.
Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew addressed the issue in his reply to a question from Young PAP activist Loretta Chen, who had asked where censorship was headed in the next two decades.
Having related the issue of how the topless revue Crazy Horse was allowed to operate here, he turned to the question of homosexuality.
It was an issue that 'raises tempers all over the world, and even in America'.
Take for example this seemingly innocuous statement - homosexuality is an issue "that raises tempers all over the world, and even in America". The message which Lee Kuan Yew wants to subtly slip into your subconscious mind is this:
"The Singapore government is already very kind and reasonable in the way it treats homosexuals. After all, even in the United States, the land of the free, homosexuality is a highly controversial subject."And right around here, the average Singaporean will get fooled, because he doesn't stop to think just a little deeper. If he did, he would realise that the United States example does not in any way show that the Singapore government has been kind or reasonable.
Homosexuality is indeed a controversial issue in the United States. However, the US controversy is about whether gays can get married and whether gays can adopt children. It's not about whether gays can fall in love, or have consensual sex, without being arrested and thrown into jail like thieves or robbers.
So you see, Singapore is still grappling with gay rights issues at a rather basic and primitive level. Much more primitive than the United States, anyway.
Admittedly we are now moving in a more enlightened direction. Albeit rather slowly.
'If in fact it is true, and I have asked doctors this, that you are genetically born a homosexual - because that's the nature of the genetic random transmission of genes - you can't help it. So why should we criminalise it?'This is not the real news behind the proposed legislative amendments. That is to say, the real news is not that section 377A of the Penal Code (dealing with the offence of "gross indecency" between men) is still retained.
But Mr Lee also noted that there was a strong inhibition towards it in all societies - be they Christian, Islamic, Hindu or Chinese.
Singapore, too, was confronted 'with a persisting aberration'.
'But is it an aberration?' he asked. 'It's a genetic variation.'
'So what do we do? I think we pragmatically adjust, carry our people...don't upset them and suddenly upset their sense of propriety and right and wrong.
'But at the same time let's not go around like this moral police...barging into people's rooms. That's not our business.
'So you have to take a practical, pragmatic approach to what I see is an inevitable force of time and circumstance.'
When the Home Affairs Ministry announced proposed changes to the Penal Code on a range of offences last year, it said it would retain the ban on acts of 'gross indecency' between men. The penalty remains a maximum of two years in jail.
Last year's real news was that section 377 (unnatural intercourse) would finally be repealed. This is important, because section 377 says that gays who have sex with each other can be imprisoned for life.
In other words, if two adult men willingly had intercourse with each other, the law considered this to be as serious as attempted murder.
That is how primitive Singapore is.