Open letter to Minister K Shanmugam

On 21 January, 2013, the Humanist Society (Singapore) submitted an open letter to Law Minister K Shanmugam calling for greater acceptance of LGBT persons and the review and repeal of 377A.

Mr K Shanmugam
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Minister for Law
21 Jan 2013

Dear Minister K Shanmugam,

The Humanist Society (Singapore) was heartened to hear about your meeting with members of Sayoni, (a Singapore-based community of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women) on 27th November 2012. We support your decision to connect with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) citizens as a constituent part of our society who contribute to our economy, protect our citizens and serve our country.

The Humanist Society (Singapore)(HSS) is a registered society in Singapore for humanists, freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and other like-minded people. Humanism is a non-theistic ethical life stance affirming the human right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on a spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. As part of our objectives, we seek to uphold the importance of maintaining secular space in the interest of social harmony, and we encourage respect for all men and women to be free from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, class, disability, gender, sexual orientation, age, or nationality.

Over the last decade, an increasing body of scientific evidence has demonstrated that sexual orientation is part of the human biological make-up that an individual has no conscious choice over. The legalization of homosexuality and same sex/gender unions in many countries has also demonstrated that homosexual relationships are as healthy and normal as any heterosexual relationship. Consequently, many countries, including ASEAN countries and international bodies like the United Nations, are calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality and the removal of policies discriminatory to LGBT persons. The HSS supports the review and repeal of Section 377a of the Penal Code, as a move that would put Singapore in line with international progress and standards.

We recognize that there are fellow citizens who continue to object to homosexuality based solely on their personal religious beliefs. While we recognize their right to do so, Section 377a criminalizes a significant proportion of gay men whose own religious beliefs do not conflict with homosexuality, or who are non-religious. We would like to highlight that Section 377a also applies to LGBT Humanists and free-thinkers, whose community and beliefs are supportive of their relationships. We applaud our Government’s efforts in maintaining Singapore as a secular state that respects people of all religions. Therefore, we call on the Government to repeal Section 377a. Legislation based on religious beliefs that are not shared by many Singaporeans should not have any place in our secular state. DPM Teo Chee Hean addressed Parliament recently in Oct 2012 that the government accepts the need to keep religion and politics separate in Singapore and the HSS agrees with that principle.

We also wish to highlight that LGBT persons, including children, are often subject to arbitrary discrimination, bullying and harassment, because of personal prejudices and ignorance. We appeal to the Government for greater space to raise awareness of and respect for LGBT persons through public education. The impact of LGBT discrimination is also greatly felt by the friends and family of LGBT persons, who share in their struggle for acceptance. As long as Section 377a exists, those of us who love and support our LGBT family and friends could even be found guilty of abetting their criminal activities.

We have been encouraged by the Government’s strong stance against racial and religious intolerance, whether at an institutional level, or as a result of personal prejudice. We hope that such a stance against intolerance can also be extended to the LGBT community. LGBT persons are only seeking to live their lives without the fear of persecution just as non-LGBT persons do.

In the recent National Day 2012 Message, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted the need for Singaporeans to work together to build an inclusive society with a heart. In line with PM Lee’s message, we hope that this is the first step to achieving our goal of inclusiveness and non-discrimination.


Mark Kwan


Humanist Society (Singapore)