TIME in Melbourne has offered former international student Joyce Naomi new perspectives when it comes to the topic of LGBT rights in a more conservative country like Singapore. She shares her thoughts with readers this SEXtember.
There are a lot of things I’ve been grateful for in my three years spent in Melbourne, one of which includes my exposure to the liberal, more progressive modus operandi. In fact, as much as I love Singapore, the contrast did cause me to question the initial pre-disposed ideals. In recent years, the debate about removing Section 377A in particular has been more livid.
As a quick overview, Section 377A of the Penal Code of Singapore states that:
Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years.
While it is commonly known that this legislation isn’t acted upon in recent times, having it present still remains problematic, because it fundamentally states that two men with sexual consent can still end up in jail for having sexual relations with each other. In fact, during World War 2, an estimate of 5,000 to 15,000 gay men were imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust and homosexuals within the Nazi Party itself were murdered.
When homosexuality is criminalised, any legislative law can be used to justify just about any discrimination and persecution towards anyone who has already taken guts to come out of the closet!
This seems really strange to me, having been away for three years and having conversations with various people about this topic. Not only do I find Section 377A ridiculous, I now take it a bit more personally having known close friends who struggle a great deal with this. In any case, here are some interesting reasons as to why people still think that LGBT rights and gay marriage should not be a thing and while I could just write them off, I think it’s only useful if we address the concerns of conservatives so here we go:
Are nuclear families really traditional?
A common argument against gay marriage revolves around the idea that a nuclear family consisting of male and female parents have always been the way of life and changing that structure would only destroy the social fabric of society. This is historically incorrect. Any historical textbook would tell you that some cultures practice polygamy, others matrifocal (comprising of only mother and child/children – the list goes on.
While a child may certainly require a father and mother to be conceived, the reality is that we have been living in societies that do not always function around nuclear families for decades! Kids may be living with their widowed mother and grandmother, single parents, divorcees, adopted homes and orphanages.
Children need role models, but is it just about having role models of opposite genders? Children need model parents regardless of gender, but more generally, they need more role models in every facet of their lives. The African proverb that says “it takes a village to raise a child” can not be any more true in today’s day and age.
The Separation between Church and State
When it comes to the touchy subject of religion, I find it impeccably hard to convince staunch believers to question their beliefs. But here’s another point to consider: if a government body sided one belief over another – wouldn’t we be reunifying church and state all over again?
I say this in a really broad sense – the lingo not necessarily referring to Christian circles but any religious body. In today’s cosmopolitan society, it is the government’s responsibility to ensure the well-being of everyone under its jurisdiction – not just the majority, but everyone.
Whether you like it or not, I think we can all safely agree that LGBT couples will continue to be “a thing”, regardless of whether the legalisation of marriage or Section 377A exists. By supporting same-sex marriages, we are advocating the right for LGBT couples to have legal rights and duties towards each other – from emergency contacts to the possibility of getting an equal share if a divorce should occur – upheld by the law. Whether a religious body recognises it or not is really beside the point.