04 May 2007

Queen to K6

A law lecturer steps into the fray. mouthing the usual long-discredited arguments against decriminalisation of gay sex, in an article in the Straits Times. Full essay.

25 comments:

boon said...

Hi,

How does one not discriminate against homosexuality, and yet not promote it at the same time?

I think it can't be done, and the government probably thinks so too. There is this fear that decriminalisation would lend homosexuality a sheen of legitimacy, hence her comments on "mainstreaming".

So what will happen is that S377A will stay in place, but no one will ever get prosecuted under it.

It's like the banning of Playboy.com from Singapore. It's of little practical significance, its only function is to send a message that pornography is undesirable.

By the way, you mentioned Mr Wang. When asked how he would feel if his own son turned out to be gay, he refused to answer the question.

I think that's how many people feel. Homosexuality is acceptable, but only in other families.

Lastly, I doubt there's broad scientific consensus on the genetic causes of homosexuality. There's also evidence of genetic causes of criminal behaviour and aggression. How would you interpret studies like that?

Anonymous said...

Bravo, so quick! Yet the question remains, is this hate speech? I believe certain wordings and the whole style would qualify it under the cited legislation, see my earlier entry. Right? Just that noone would dare going against a NUS lecturer and the ST. Yet, why not?

Anonymous said...

Wow, what hate-spewing nonsense coming from the Faculty of Law at NUS...I wonder if all the law lecturers there feel the same.

No wonder why NUS is losing out to schools abroad, what with them hiring quacking hate-filled illogical extremists to lecture law. I'd sure be embarassed to be one of her students.

Anonymous said...

Like abortion in US politics, decriminalizing homosexuality is currently taking on the status of a litmas test in Singapore, between those who are pro-change and those who are pro-status quo. Because the laws crimininalizing homosexuality are not actually enforced, and because gays do not get bashed in public places by troubleseekers like they do in some western societies, the significance of the decriminalization is more political than legal. Especially among western journalists, the issue is taken as an indicator of "is Singapore really opening up?"; now that it has allowed both foreign universities and gambling casinos to be set up, what next?

In other words, not all the people promoting decriminalization of homosexuality are homosexuals. What is their motivation? Assuming they win this particular fight, what would they fight for next?

sgsociety.com

Rani said...

i hope you're sending your comments by email to this NUS professor. What an embarrassment for NUS!

Anonymous said...

It would be better to email the department head, other Faculty of Law professors, and university administrators. Top universities in other "first world" countries have nondiscrimination statements supportive of gays. She would be fired if she were anywhere other than conservative little Singapore. Her comments are extremely unbecoming of a professor.

How could any law lecturer ever argue for an unenforced law to remain on the books? Either enforce it or not, or admit that you're not a country governed by the rule of law. She of all people should understand it.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Boon -

I have never taken the position that civil rights are based purely on whether a characteristic of the person or group is innate/genetic, whatever.

Certainly, if an attribute is innate, then the starting presumption must be that he cannot be discriminated against over an attribute that he has no control whatsoever.

However, note the word "presumption"... or in computer lingo - "default setting".

Other considerations can overcome presumption, just as default settings can be changed for good reason. One major consideration is whether there are injured parties.

Once there are, then some degree of restriction can be applied, but proportionate to the likelihood of injury caused to others.

Alcoholism, for example, is beginning to be seen as a characteristic that some people have a predisposition to, and that predisposition may be biological.

Does that mean we can pack all those who consume alcohol in large quantities to jail? No.

Should we criminalise people who drink so much that they get cirrhosis of the liver - that is, they only harm themselves? We don't do that either, because the harm that we're concerned with is harm caused to others. Harming himself is a private interest, not a public interest.

But the state gets involved when consumption and driving, for example, come together. The state gets involved, for example, when adults try to sell alcohol to youths, who may not fully understand where their safe limits of consumption are.

This is what is meant in constitutional law by "rational and legitimate arguments in the public interest".

The principle is: Everybody should be presumed equal and free. That presumption can be modified/restricted in appropriate proportion to the likely harm by rational and legitimate arguments in the public interest. And the onus is always on those who wish to restrict others to prove the rational, legitimate, public interest for that.

recruit ong said...

The local media has obvious agenda. Reason why this year it sank to a record low of 154th in the RSF press freedom ranking!

Anonymous said...

> the position that civil rights are based purely on whether a characteristic of the person or group is innate/genetic

and they should not be; genetic disposition does not absolve moral responsibility

like, males are biologically programmed to want to spread their genes, but society still has to make a decision, whether "it is natural so we should permit/encourage it" or "it is a constant threat to family stability so we should have measures to prevent/diminish it"

sgsociety.com

Anonymous said...

I am quite interested to know if anyone thinks that it is a legitimate point to apply what is to me, a religious restriction - onto the citizens of a secular state?

She mentions the Bible and the Quran - well, yes, these two faiths have specific laws governing moral issues - and for Muslims, I understand that Muslim law applies to issues of religious or customary matter - and civil law applies for all other matters.

That sounds fair enough for me.

But for Christians of various stripes, for which I am one, just as I would not expect Muslim law to apply to non-Muslims, neither can I expect Christian law to apply to non-Christians.

I think that there is no room for religiously based laws, especially those relating to personal morality, to be applied across the board for all citizens, in a secular state.

Having said this, I do believe that there are some laws that are fundamental across humanity - e.g. Murder, Theft, etc. where there is a perpetrator and a victim, where there would be confluence between religious and secular law.

On the point about 'the majority'... well ... where is the proof that this majority exists? Even if she were to define in in terms of faith based groupings, the last I recall, Singaporeans who profess to Judaism, Christianity and Islam have so far, yet to collective make up a majority in our country...

tsk tsk...

I expect much more from a law professor at NUS.

~[z][x]~ said...

Boon,

How does the removal of S377A "promote" homosexuality? As in, can homosexuality even be promoted? You make it sound like a choice, but is it?

Evidence of genetic causes of criminal behaviour and aggresion is an irrelevant comparison because "criminal behaviour and aggresion" harms an unwilling 3rd party. This is like, not the case for homosexuality.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

sgsociety -

You wrote: "genetic disposition does not absolve moral responsibility"

You're taking the discussion way out of the area warranted here, into a general discussion of legal philosophy. Moreover, is this angle even applicable?

To establish relevance and applicability, you first need to establish that homosexuality is immoral, otherwise where does the question of "moral responsibility" come in?

Anonymous said...

From: Kenric Law
Date: May 5, 2007 2:18 AM
Subject: Re: Decriminalising homosexual acts would be an error
To: lawylcl@nus.edu.sg
Cc: kenriclaw@gmail.com


Dear Ms Lee

Thanks to your "Freedom of speech" with regards to Homosexual acts.

I am amaze at how you go about at length "trying to proof" homosexual lifestyle is a risk to public health.

I am not sure how you come to such conclusion. "Perhaps with your busy schedule" you may have overlook on your research that Heterosexual people also have aids carrier and they do practice oral, anal, intercourse, mulitiple sex partner and prostitution etc.

Please do enlighten me whether did you take into the consideration the difference between heterosexual and homosexual?.

Thank you

Kenric
(Not so educated, not having vast knowledge and definitely not "mature" enough in terms of age as compared to you).

Anonymous said...

From: Kenric Law
Date: May 5, 2007 2:18 AM
Subject: Re: Decriminalising homosexual acts would be an error
To: lawylcl@nus.edu.sg
Cc:

Dear Ms Lee

Thanks to your "Freedom of speech" with regards to Homosexual acts.

I am amaze at how you go about at length "trying to proof" homosexual lifestyle is a risk to public health.

I am not sure how you come to such conclusion. "Perhaps with your busy schedule" you may have overlook on your research that Heterosexual people also have aids carrier and they do practice oral, anal, intercourse, mulitiple sex partner and prostitution etc.

Please do enlighten me whether did you take into the consideration the difference between heterosexual and homosexual?.

Thank you

Kenric
(Not so educated, not having vast knowledge and definitely not "mature" enough in terms of age as compared to you).

Anonymous said...

>To establish relevance and applicability, you first need to establish that homosexuality is immoral

I did not say that; I merely said biological tendency is of limited relevance to social standards

why dont you publish what I actually said and let others debate it if they are interested? maybe you, like PAP, find control of information useful?

sgsociety.com

Anonymous said...

This "public health" aspect is entire bogus, as the statistics clearly show (http://www.moh.gov.sg/mohcorp/statistics.aspx?id=246#table1)

1) 60% of HIV infected people are HETEROsexual;

2) The around 80 homosexuals that are infected, well assuming that there are about 10% = 450,000, I would just say that HIV is not very "prevalent" among gays, not promoting anything but the fact is that it is VERY RARE.

In the US for instance, 400,000 people per year die of self-inflicted health problems (obesity, diabetes), 300,000 by smoking etc etc and 15,000 by AIDS, a very small percentage under "self-inflicted" deaths (<1%). It is VERY CLEAR that this is a VERY MINOR problem.

The religious aspect (of I havent read your new article yet..), what strikes me is hpw different the different religious flavors are in terms of sexual moral.

Depending whether you are Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim or Catholic, being gay or being polygamic is ok or not...

The last point I want to make is my agreemenbt with your side note, the mutiracial-mutliblabla bogus arguemnt. I posted this somewhere earlier, this argument is often used by the MDA to justify censorship.

Clearly, when one plots multiethnicity of countries against press freedom, it appeared very clearly that there is no clear correlation, yet on the xtreme sides, THE MORE MUTLI-everything, the MORE FREE was the press (ie Canada, US , etc - et the other end mono-racials like North Korea, China, African countries, no freedom)!

Old bogus argument, long debunked.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

sgsociety -

> why dont you publish what I
> actually said and let others
> debate it if they are
> interested?

But I have. See 5 May, 00:24

Anonymous said...

my apologies

sgsociety.com

Anonymous said...

Any argument to decriminalise homosexual sex must consider the harmful social consequences. For example, would affirming homosexual sexual practices serve the common good?

Professor Lee should have checked with her esteemed colleagues in the Department of Anthropology before spouting such nonsense.

It is well known that homosexual behavior has a role in social cohesion. See the following:

R.C. Kirkpatrick, "The evolution of human homosexual behavior," Current Anthropology, 41 (2000), no. 3, pp. 385–413. (link)

Oh wait. NUS doesn't have a Department of Anthropology and neither do the other world class universities in Singapore. Bummer.

Anonymous said...

Here is Yvonne Lee...

Brief Biodata, NUS website:
Yvonne obtained her first law degree from our Law Faculty. She practised corporate law and was Temasek Holding's legal counsel for several years, before joining us. Her current research interests include corporate governance and disclosure practice, and public/private law divide.

Anonymous said...

Quoting Boon: "By the way, you mentioned Mr Wang. When asked how he would feel if his own son turned out to be gay, he refused to answer the question.

I think that's how many people feel. Homosexuality is acceptable, but only in other families."

My comment comes a bit late, but I thought that the above is worth commenting and no one else has done so.

I wonder why people might feel that homosexuality is acceptable only in other families. I have some guesses:

1. Parents really want to have grandchildren.

2. Parents are worried about the social discrimination that their homosexual son/daughter will face, and rather not have the issue to begin with.

3. Parents do not think that homosexual relationships can be loving and enduring.

4. The potential shame from other people (friends/relatives) from having a homosexual son/daughter.

1 seems like a real problem to me, while 2-4 seems related to the perceptions we have of homosexuality.

I am all for abolishing S377A. But, will that help in moving forward for 2-4, which IMHO are more important than say fighting to remove a law that is not going to be prosecuted?

Any thoughts?

Roger said...

Anon 06 May, 2007 01:21:

Parents want grandchildren?

Solution: Adoption.

Parents think that homosexual relationships cannot be loving and nurturing?

Solution: Gay marriage.

Parents worrying over societal acceptance?

Solution: Decriminalization is the first step.

I believe post decriminalization, we will see rapid societal acceptance, especially amongst the young, professionals and the upper middle class.

Perceptions must and will change. This change in perception should not be guided by "societal approval" (it is not the individual's place to validate another individual in this respect) but rather the change in perception must begin with the fundamentals of organized society as we know it.

Tolerance, diversity, understanding and intellectuality.

Intellectuality is something Singaporean society - as educated we are supposed to be - sorely lacks. What we have instead is an extremely apathetic population, by most measures.

Robert L said...

YB wrote: "I was even more shocked to see from the Straits Times' end-note that the writer teaches law at the National University of Singapore. This must be a national disgrace of some sort."

I absolutely agree. I will try to limit my response to just this single point.

Her article is so disgraceful that her handlers don't realise how much derision it would face from an international audience. If her article were read by people overseas, it would seriously undermine the NUS Law Faculty's chances of getting any foreign students from many countries. Who in their right mind would want to send their child to study Law in an university with such abysmal faculty teaching staff?

I won't be surprised if the St Times might quickly wise up to this boo-boo and remove the incriminating article from their website. Bloggers like YB should maintain a clean copy of the article in its entirety (subject to compliance with copyrights restrictions, of course). Although YB seems to have already captured the full texts of the article, it may not be entirely convincing to anyone who haven't read the St Times, that nothing had been taken out of context.

Furthermore, in order to preserve the true perspective, I hope bloggers would include her full credentials whenever her words are mentioned. I'll add an example immediately below.
----------------------------------------
The best part of Prof Yvonne Lee of Singapore's NUS Law Faculty's article is her conclusion:

"The fact is, under the proposed Penal Code reform, homosexuals wishing to lead private lives may do so, provided they do not foist their homosexual acts on the public."

Those are her words. As a Law Professor in Singapore's NUS premier university, one supposes that she must know her statement requires that Section 337A to be repealed? Surely a Law Professor would not imagine that we can have a law against homosexual acts in the law books provided that the police do not enforce it??? That would be absurd to the layman and the height of absurdity to a Law Professor! How much of this intellectual void extends to the rest of the NUS Law Faculty teaching staff?
----------------------------------------

Note that the two suggestions I've made, preservation of her article and listing her full credentials, are both directly addressed to the point that her article is a national disgrace, bringing disrepute to herself and to the Law Faculty of the Singapore NUS premier university.

Her article is a two-edged sword that seems to cut the gay community, but will turn out to cut her own career and the fortunes of NUS far, far deeper.

Robert L said...

Nobody seems to notice this gaffe:

Prof Yvonne Lee of Singapore's NUS Law Faculty wrote:
" Each differentiating legal measure serves a social objective. For example, a married individual with four children enjoys higher tax relief than one without children. The public good is to encourage married couples to have more babies."

"For example"??? Goodness gracious! What kind of example is that? Doesn't Prof Yvonne Lee of Singapore's NUS understand the vast difference between criminal law as against civil legislation? Her example is like drawing upon legislations such as eligibility for HDB housing, paying road tax for different categories of cars, duties for various liqours.

If the good Professor of Law can cite a single case of criminal act which is targetted against a specific group of citizens, while perfectly legal for the rest of the citizens, I'll be most happy to learn from her. Robbery, theft, murder etc - which privileged group of citizens are allowed to commit these acts?

To compare the criminalisation of a certain activity with tax relief for children is so ridiculous that I'm out of words. It's absurd to the layman, it's the height of absurdity to university students, it's absolute insanity to Law students. To a Law Professor - why, it must be criminally insane!

YCK said...

Bravo! A well-paced and argued retort to the professor.

But mind you she is only into company law and constitutional law. Maybe crimninal law is just well not her strong point.

Must commend her for her guts to air her views with the name of NUS attached. Wonder waht the President thinks?

I was reading up on Jeremy Bentham philosopher and jurist. He apparently argued for animal rights and gay rights! That was in the 18th century!

Guess our good lecturer was borned three hundred years too late. Poor thing.