Singapore

Buddhist group’s president in favour of repealing 377A

This article is more than 12 months old

Group behind bid to repeal law also urges supporters to engage their MPs

The Buddhist Fellowship's president said yesterday he supports repealing Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men.

Separately, the group behind the latest attempt to repeal the law held its first town hall, where it urged the public to contact their MPs - the first time the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement has asked supporters to engage politicians on a large scale.

In a statement posted on the Buddhist Fellowship's Facebook page, its president Lim Phang Hong said Buddha's teachings encourage Buddhists to develop understanding and care for all communities, regardless of their race, religion, language or sexual orientation.

He told The Straits Times he was speaking in a personal capacity and wanted to explain Buddha's teachings, as he was concerned that people might have a wrong view of Buddhism on the 377A matter.

At the Singapore Management University, the town hall by Ready4Repeal drew 818 participants. The group shared updates on the petition submitted to the Government and laid out the next steps.

After LGBT people shared how 377A emboldened others to harm them, petition co-author Johannes Hadi urged people to take their stories to MPs.

"Stories are how you can change the conversation because if you don't speak up, the Government and society will take this as proof that there's no hatred and suffering," he said.

Disc jockey Johnson Ong filed a case in the High Court on Sept 10 arguing the law is unconstitutional and a 2014 court decision is wrong.

The Ready4Repeal petition was submitted to the Home Affairs and Law Ministries last Friday. It received 44,650 signatures.

When asked, a spokesman said the ministries have received the petition.

"As the Government has recently made clear, however, there are no plans to repeal Section 377A."

CHURCHES

Some religious organisations here have spoken out against repealing the law, including the National Council of Churches and the head of the Catholic Church in Singapore, who said the law should not be repealed under the present circumstances. The Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association said a repeal of Section 377A could have several "worrying implications".

A petition arguing for the retention of Section 377A on the grounds that a repeal will "normalise" homosexual behaviour and lead to a greater push for other LGBT "rights" has nearly 109,000 signatures.

COMMUNITY ISSUES