Presented at the repeal377A press conference on Monday 22 Oct @ The Arts House
What we are presenting today – a parliamentary petition with over 2300 validated signatures collected in 3 days, an online open letter to the Prime Minister with over 8200 signatures collected in just over a week, and a video which has been ranked one of the top 100 most viewed News & Political videos on Youtube, is the result of an informal group of like-minded individuals, most of whom didn’t even know one another when the process was started.
The organic creation and development of the group is led by a common aim to urge for the repeal of section 377A, because of a common belief that it is inherently unjust and actively discriminates against a Singaporean minority because of their sexual orientation.
From the time we started this petition, we knew it would not be a numbers game. We represent a minority – a sexual minority. This is a group that has been oppressed and stigmatized against, in the law and through innumerable discriminatory policies. Despite advances in society, many still bear the brunt of their neighbors, friends, and family’s disapproval and intolerance. It’s no wonder many gays and lesbians are hesitant to put their names down on something which may mark them as criminals! Since they were born – homosexuals in Singapore have had the specter of 377A hanging over their heads, or as some have alluded, had a gun held to their heads – you’re not technically a criminal, but anything you do as one will make you one.
We expected to achieve a couple of thousand online signatories and 500 signatures for the petition – which would already have been a landmark achievement. Since this is a very informal effort, we did not have the benefit of an established “flock” to go to. But the response from the community at large not only surprised us, it completely overwhelmed us. We have collected over 8000 signatures for the open letter, and will be submitting 2319 signatures for the petition.
The show of support, the messages of hope and love would have moved any cynic to tears.
– An 18-year-old student asked for an extension of petition signatories’ deadline so that she could gather more signatures from her school mates. She came in with 70 signatures.
– 2 separate individuals, with no connection to each other and with no promoting, went out to collect 150 signatures EACH for the petition.
– Tan Bee Bee, 63, mother of 2 heterosexual sons, went out of her way to collect signatures from her “conservative peers”. She believed that she needed to do it “for a healthy attitude towards life”. She collected 5 signatures.
– Various individuals who went everywhere with petition forms in their back pockets during the 3 days we had to collect signatures for the parliamentary petition.
– A Singaporean mother of two children drove over from JB having collected another two names to add to hers and her husband’s … giving the reasons that 1. Nobody would ask to lead a gay life by choice. 2. Hypocrisy to leave the law on the statute books as a threat to gay people 3. Straight people should support any action that protects vulnerable people from bullying bigots.
And above all – this is our message. The law is here to protect minorities. In Singapore today, religious and racial minorities enjoy freedom from discrimination and persecution because of the rule of law. We live in harmony because we recognize and respect the diversity within our society. Without this, Singapore would not be what it is.
Minister Mentor, Senior Minister and Prime Minister have all acknowledged that homosexuality is natural. Yet we have a law that criminalizes nature. Gay citizens should not be branded criminals by a vestigial law. They should not be subjected to the hate, vitriol and intolerance that has been directed at them by society.
To repeal 377 for heterosexuals, but not 377A for homosexuals is disingenuous and sets a precedent for discrimination. We are taking one step forwards, but two steps back.
Repealing 377A can be an educational tool, a way for our leadership to indicate to the rest of society that it is not alright to discriminate. Even as we respect each individual’s rights to their opinions and morals, this is a private matter and not how we conduct society. In the larger secular society, we need to be mutually respectful of our differences if we are to live harmoniously. If majority rule were practiced, blacks in the US would still be sitting at the back of public buses, and it racial and religious discrimination would be rampant in Singapore.
Singapore, in its relentless march towards progress for our nation, must not leave behind the hundreds of thousands of homosexual Singaporeans who have contributed to our nation building. We are as much a part of the social fabric here as anyone else.