09 September 2008

Between cowardice and the rule of law

Attorney-General Walter Woon once again reiterates that no one is above the law. What will he do with section 377A, our anti-gay law, that the government has said will not be "proactively enforced"? And what lessons does the Dred Scott case of1857 hold for us? Full essay.

9 comments:

Gentle Spirit said...

"And only one or two nutcases argued for expanding Section 377A to cover lesbian sex."

Perhaps a great understatement. The National Council of Churches (NCCS) should not be considered "only one or two nutcases" as they do represent Christians in Singapore irrespective whether this view is held by the majority of Christians.

yuen said...

>National Council of Churches (NCCS) should not be considered "only one or two nutcases"

it is very unproductive to speak of hardline churchmen in such dismissive terms; it is another thing to dismiss an absurd idea

in contrast to the simple concept of "sodomy", there is inherent difficulty to produce a legal definition of "lesbian sex" - any enforceable law would need to specify a list of lesbian activities that are being banned; gazetting such a law would probably end up causing previously ignorant young girls to become aware of lesbian acts and might even encourage them to try these out...

Chee Wai Lee said...

A quick comment about Walter Woon's pedantic observance of the law.

As Singapore grows older, the collection of archaic laws will grow. That is because most law makers will end up with many more concerns than reviewing old laws. This is very evident in the US where many (unenforced) archaic laws exist - from laws governing horse-drawn carriages to laws forbidding the throwing of snowballs (strangely enough, that got recently enforced when a State governor turned himself in after discovering what he did was technically a criminal act - and proceeded to get the law repealed).

I am of the view that laws have to be taken with a pinch of salt. If they are outdated and do not appear to make sense anymore, society and the lawmaking community should get together to waive or limit punishment and then repeal the law.

Imagine an archaic law demanding the death penalty for something stupid (under the modern context). I think it would be a travesty of justice to mete out the punishment now to "respect the law" while agreeing it was stupid and needed to be repealed.

Imho, with his stand, Walter Woon might end up being the kind of Attorney General who would do exactly that kind of thing (if he decides he should lobby parliament to repeal the law in the first place). That worries me.

Anonymous said...

On the issue of the rich Tang wanting a new kidney...c'mon? did anyone think he was really going to jail? Tang, if he had any brains, he would have gone to India, for a kidney transplant...and not wast his time in Singapore...duh?
on the matter of gays in Singapore, isn't about time that the Government review their stupid legal definition of homosexualty? I guess not, more wiggle room for the legal department to 'wiggle with'. I say let the gays get married,or have a civil union and give them the sense of entitlement that plain regular folk have. I say give them to right to adopt.
As far as Walter Woon being Singapore's next A-G? well nothing has changed except the face and the age...I guess Singapore needs a new attack dog to handle the issue of ownership over the cluster of islands that Singapore and Malaysia are quibbling about.
I don't care much for old Walter...he has no respect fo human rights, gay rights...nada. If at all..he just knows how to read and write and tow the party lines. Yee Hah!

Anonymous said...

I am also a reader of Porf Yuen's blog. I have always admired him for his exceptional knowledge on a wide variety of subjects, from Hollywood movies to Chinese literature. Of coruse he has often touched on some social and political issues unique to Singapore too.

However, I would beg to differ on what was commented by him on the gay issue. To begin with, and to be fair to Yawning Bread, Yawning Bread did not identify the "only one or two nutcases argued for expanding Section 377A to cover lesbian sex" was the National Council of Churches. It was the reader "gentle spirit" who implied that the National Council of Churches was one of them in favour of expanding Section 377A. In addition, "gentle spirit" did not speak of the hardline churchmen in any dismissive term.

I also think that it is totally illogical to say that, because a certain criminal act or offence is "inherently difficult to produce a legal definition", then we would not have the legislation to make the criminal act an offence. Even worse, to suggest that by defining what "lesbian sex" is all about in legislation, it would make some innocent young girls more aware of lesbian acts, and might even encourage them to try out such things. (But dont get me wrong, I am definitely not advocating for the expansion of Section 377A to cover lesbian sex at all). I just want to highlight the issue as a matter of logic.

I seriously dont think that a heterosuxual person, boy or girl, would just engage in certain "gay acts" simply because they have been defined or described in our legislation. However, the general homophobic population will always fear that their heterosexual husbands, or thier innocent children will be "converted" because of the bad influence or the repeal of Section 377A.

Finally, I would also like to clarify that anal sex is not practised by all gay men. My estimate is that about 30-40% of the sexually active gay men, throughout the world, do not engaged in anal sex.

A Senior Citizen (older than Prof Yuen)

Anonymous said...

Ho Kwon Ping is Chairman of the Board of SMU. Howard Hunter is SMU President.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Thanks to Anonymous 10 September 19:06 for pointing out my error. It's been corrected.

yuen said...

>Even worse, to suggest that by defining what "lesbian sex" is all about in legislation, it would make some innocent young girls more aware of lesbian acts, and might even encourage them to try out such things.

I made the comment in a somewhat light vein; however, since senior citizen picked this point up, I would talk a little more about it

many young girls these days are sexually experimental; I have heard of NUS graduates who became SIA stewardesses with the prospect of meeting caucasian boyfriends in mind; students who were "kept" by sugar daddies; and of course trying out lesbianism; I also heard of secondary school girls "pairing up"; yet they usually end up marrying safe male and singaporean husbands, after they have passed through their thrill seeking phase

the experimentation is less common among young men - they are more career minded, and fear negative consequences arising from experimentation

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

While I usually prefer my readers to discuss the subject without my stepping in, I feel the urge to add to the above:

1. The reason why women may be more likely to "experiment" - taking what Yuen said at face value; I'm not sure that that is true - may be that female sexuality is much more fluid than male sexuality. Most males are pretty clear from puberty whether they like girls or boys. This is not so clear for females, and in fact a large number of them remain potentially bisexual throughout their adult lives.

2. Why the fear about experimentation? If teenagers experiment with Korean pop, Moroccan food or roller blades, we don't think twice about it. We only worry about experimentation if something is seen as "bad". So the issue is not experimentation per se, but adult attitudes to homosexual sex. It is these attitudes that need to be questioned, and not let the red herring of experimentation cloud the debate.

(I'm not saying that either of Yuen or senior citizen spoke against experimentation; just bringing clarity to the issue)