Monday, November 10, 2014

Include gender identity, sexual orientation in Constitution

(Published - Today, Nov 1, 2014)

I read with disappointment the report “Apex court rejects constitutional challenges against Section 377A” (Oct 30). It appears that further discourse on Section 377A will now reside in Parliament, to consider the extralegal arguments.

It is sad that the rights of sexual minorities here are unable to be protected in the social, economic and legal domains, to the point constitutional challenges were made, when according to the courts, the decision is best left to Parliament.

A lot has been discussed since 2003, when then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong touched on non-discriminatory employment of homosexuals in the Civil Service.

It is now time for action, for us to codify non-discriminatory practices in our law and have the Constitution explicitly protect all, regardless of sexual identity and orientation.

Retaining Section 377A implies the continued legal discrimination against consenting homosexual males, even in their private lives. This surely cannot be supported, especially when weighed against the liberties of consenting heterosexual acts in private.

I had always believed that the Constitution served to protect minorities and the vulnerable among us, while capturing the aspirations of our society, one that is built on equality, among other pillars.

If we aspire to be non-discriminatory in all segments of life — professional, social, legal, personal — let us put gender identity and sexual orientation in the Constitution. From there, we change the laws slowly to be aligned with the Constitution’s values.

Ho Chi Sam