Oct 24, 2007

Sexual Discriminations in the Law

ST Oct 24, 2007
Men have modesty too, so make laws gender neutral

TAKING a swipe at what he considered anachronistic differentiations between the sexes in the Penal Code, MP Charles Chong (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) said the law seems to consider men 'less modest' than women.

Arguing for gender neutrality in the way statutes are framed, he noted that under criminal law, a woman's modesty can be insulted by words, sounds, gestures or objects, but a man does not seem to have modesty enough to be outraged, he said in a speech peppered with the glib humour that has become his trademark. He acknowledged that there have been improvements - now the law recognises that a minor can be assaulted by a male or female predator, for instance - but still much more could be done, he noted.

For instance, he said that under Section 493, a man can be charged with deceiving a woman into believing she is married to him - so she would cohabit with him and have sex with him.

But it was not 'completely outrageous' that a woman could also similarly cheat a man in similar circumstances.

'The law seems to suggest that only women can be duped while men cannot be duped. This seems to underestimate women while it gives too much credit to men!' he said, to guffaws in the House.

........ In response, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Law Ho Peng Kee noted, with a smile, that archaic terms and gender neutrality were some of Mr Chong's 'favourite themes'.

Associate Professor Ho said that, in the Government's view, not all crimes should or could be gender neutral. There are 'logical and physiological differences' between men and women, he said.

Rape cannot be gender neutral, and the provision to stop rape in marriages in some circumstances also cannot be applied equally to men and women, he said.

Ho Peng Kee is wrong, of course. It is quite possible to draft all sexual offences in a completely gender-neutral way. Australia did this long ago.

How do you do it? Well, basically, instead of saying "Any man who does X is guilty of an offence," you simply say, "Any person who does X is guilty of an offence."

Instead of describing the victim as a "woman" or "man", you simply describe the victim as a "person".

For offences involving victims who are minors, instead of using words like "boy under 16 years of age" or "girl under 16 years of age", you simply use a term like "minor", and define "minor" as "person under 16 years of age". And so on.

This is not merely about political correctness or linguistic games. Such changes lead to very definite changes in the effects of the law. In fact, Singapore's laws against family violence (found in the Women's Charter) are already drafted in a gender-neutral manner - thus protecting not just abused wives, but also abused husbands, for example.

One example of how gender-neutral termininology in sexual offences would work is that the same legal protection will be extended to young boys and young girls alike. Women can also become guilty of sexual assault. You may, at this point in time, be reminded of an incident in Singapore whereby the members of a female teen gang assaulted a female teenager - stripping her naked, forcing objects up her vagina etc. With gender-neutral laws, such acts could then be dealt with as sexual offences.

In general, gender-neutral terminology simply removes a lot of unfairness and discrimination from the law. Men and women, whether they are the criminal or victim, are treated with equality. For example, if we treat soliciting in public places as an offence, then we treat soliciting in public places as an offence, regardless of whether the prostitute is male or female.

We also avoid absurd situations where the laws say it may be okay for you to penetrate an anus, but that it really depends on the gender of the person whose anus is being referred to. Similarly, we avoid absurd situations where the laws say it may be okay for you to suck a penis or kiss a vagina, but that it really depends on whether you yourself have a penis or a vagina.

Oh wait. My absurd examples just described Singapore, as it has just become. No wonder Ho Peng Kee doesn't want gender-neutral legislation:

Anal Sex Now Legal for Heterosexuals But Not Homosexuals in Singapore
Short News - 23 October 2007

Singapore: Parliament has repealed a law criminalising "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" thus making oral and anal sex between heterosexual couples legal. New laws were enacted to deal with sex tourism and child prostitution.

The parliament declined, however, to repeal a section which makes sex between men an offence punishable by up to two years in jail. The decision to keep the seldom enforced law came after spirited debate which included the presentation of a petition.

"They [homosexuals] live their lives, that's their personal space. But the tone of the overall society, I think, it remains conventional, it remains straight and we want it to remain so," said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.


Anonymous said...

how does repealing section 377A of the Penal code necessarily making Singapore gay as our "beloved" PM Lee suggests?..does having a gay son make necessarily make the father gay?..if it did..how did the son come about in the first place?..dad got pregnant?.. i seriously don't see the link.. and by the way Singaporeans are not that straight..i am a Singaporean and i am GAY..

Eveline said...

Are there currently provisions in the Penal Code that deal with forcible sexual relations between men, or forced sex between a man and a male minor? I'm thinking of cases where 377A has been used, and am wondering if there could be other provisions that could have been used as well.

I should think that the current provisions for rape and for sexual relations for minor should suffice, unless the definition of the offence does not cover same-sex situations.

alan wong said...

In secular Singapore, our laws should be free from all sorts of discrimination, whether it is discrimination based on race, gender, religions, sexual orientation, etc.

I just can't fathom or rationalise how a person can be a Minister if that person is blinded by his own prejudiced beliefs.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"Are there currently provisions in the Penal Code that deal with forcible sexual relations between men, or forced sex between a man and a male minor?"

Until yesterday's Parliamentary session, no.

There had been no provision in the Pena Code to deal specifically with forcible sexual relations between men, because section 377 (not to be confused with section 377A) already provided for a punishment as severe as LIFE imprisonment for sexual relations between men (whether forcible or not).

"I should think that the current provisions for rape and for sexual relations for minor should suffice, unless the definition of the offence does not cover same-sex situations."

Until yesterday's Parliamentary session, it did not.

Pkchukiss said...

Ho Peng Kee has not made sense with explaining how the PAP could be allowed to organise a cycling trip, while a similar trip organised by the WP will attract people "who would want to debate with them" on the trip itself. I don't expect him to make any sense now.

Alan Wong said...

As the PRIME MINISTER of the country, how can he admit that one of our laws (377A) is ambiguous. Isn't he making himself the laughing stock of Singapore by shooting himself in his foot?

If it is ambiguous, does it not follow that logically it would be proper and correct to remove the ambiguity instead of retaining the status quo.

This only goes to show that he doesn't even have the guts and conviction to carry out what would be politically correct thing to do.

That's our Mee Siam Mai Hum.

Anonymous said...

PM needs the satay seller to decide for him how many sticks of satay he needs.

Denzuko1 said...

The culture of Singapore on sex is simple, woman's arse good, man's arse bad.That is why man lands on deep shit most of the time.

Anonymous said...

Actually, section 377A applies to gays and not lesbians. It's really double standards as we banned males for gay sex, but we allowed lesbians to do (leave it to your imagination). Perhaps, the government worries about too much threesomes and swingers being caught for lesbian sex.

Anonymous said...

I know we will quickly evolve and accept 337A soon - when the IOC says that Youth olympic is not coming to Singapore because the country’s laws are regressive towards the world homosexual atheletes and officials (reminds me of Greg Louganis), when other MICE organisers say they prefer Dubai / Taiwan / Hongkong etc because they have a better contitutional law which respects the right of gays, lesbians, gamblers. Then overnight PAP will embrace 377A. That is how our rules are constituted, based on the caSINo experience. F**k the majority - it was not about them in the first place…..remember the salary debate? only 80 people agreed to it and voted it in - all PAP employees.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Wang.
I wonder if you are able to do a bit of legal sleuthing.
Specifically, why was 377A added to the Penal Code? This is obviously over and above the fact that we inherited it from the British.
Wikipedia explains that it was added in 1938 under 'unnatural offences'. What were the legal arguments calling for it to be added? Were there any arguments against?

I find it strange that, if we assume such days of yore to be more conservative than it is today, why the legal brains at the time felt it was necessary to add a supplement to 377. This may shed light on why gays today feel so aggrieved while lesbians, necrophiliacs and such are not.

Gerry said...

Are we made to be vegetarians or carnivores..??.. Anybody..??.. When I take a look at my teeth I find that I have incisors, for cutting, and I have molars, for grinding.. Just looking at the evidence and applying a "straight-line logic" as opposed to convoluted psychological what-ifs.. I believe that humans are made/evolved to be omnivores..

So looking at our physical body, I think ANAL sex(guy on guy OR guy on girl or any other combination) just doesn't work.. I hope no one will say that If you haven't tried it don't diss it.. coz, I also haven't tried asphyxiating myself..

as for discriminating against any individual or group, I feel that is wrong and that it should not be condoned.. especially by our lawmakers and government.. even more so when they are NOT ignorant of what the RIGHT thing to do is.. All citizens should be accorded equal rights.. Legal stuff should be gender neutral..

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