Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Indian Penal Code's Section 377 and Singapore

(unpublished - July 6, 2009)

I refer to the recent news of the Delhi High Court July 2 ruling of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as unconstitutional.

This Section of their IPC criminalises consensual adult sexual acts, including homosexual acts.

The Naz Foundation (India) Trust movement and Delhi High Court decision are significant on two levels.

Firstly, it shows India is making progress in recognising sexual minorities as equal citizens deserving the right of consensual sex. This is symbolic as it paves the way for male-to-male sex education, one important aspect of the sexually transmitted infections public education campaign. It also removes the legal and institutional discrimination, which will have an effect on social discrimination and stigma of male homosexuality, among other queer sexualities.

Secondly, the Indian court decision has proven yet another step forward and away from its British colonial past. Sexual morality was and is not an issue of discussion, but rather the recognition of rights and the moral value of consent.

Here in Singapore, we have inherited the Penal Code from our former colonial masters. In 2007 we witnessed the Singaporean invocation of Section 377A to justify our ‘Asian values’ and ‘family values’, discourses of which have been conceived much later than the passing of 377A itself.

I observed how Singaporeans have been polarised over the 377A issue. However, I feel it is morally unjustified that people who identify as heterosexual, make moral decisions on behalf of those who do not identify as heterosexual.

Guarded but misguided by the rhetoric of ‘safety of children’, ‘family values’, ‘slippery slope’ arguments and the legal enshrinement of discrimination that is 377A, most of us heterosexual people are blinkered by prejudices, dogma and lack of information. Consequentially, we morally overpower sexual minority Singaporeans even though we do not understand or want to understand their position.

The purpose of the Penal Code is to protect people from harm and becoming victims. Marital rape is harm. However, I do not see two consenting adults, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, being harmed or becoming victims.

In fact, it is society that is creating victims out of our queer Singaporeans. A zero-sum game of morality is always played in this diverse country as people who identify as ‘family-oriented’ or ‘conservative’ have time and again chosen to police others. It is particularly these kinds of attitudes and actions that make some Singaporeans less equal.

Ho Chi Sam

1 comment:

neha said...

i m fully agree with this article 377. as it is recozniging this. because it not the behaviour which is new it is the recognization of this homosexuality which is new.
homosexuality is even represented in temple like khajurao etc....