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Singapore Government

Speech by MOS Sun Xueling for Debate on Second Reading of Constitution Amendment and Penal Code (Amendment) Bills

Speech by MOS Sun Xueling for Debate on Second Reading of Constitution Amendment and Penal Code (Amendment) Bills

Mr Speaker Sir, 

1. I have spoken to groups who have the whole spectrum of views on this subject, often strongly held with regard to s 377A, given my roles at the Ministry of Social and Family Development, Ministry of Home Affairs, and previously the Ministry of Education. I would like to share on the engagements and the feedback from all these various groups and individuals. 

2. First, I have met with groups such as Young Out Here, Greenhouse, Oogachaga, Sayoni, T Project, and others who run support groups to help LGBTQ+ persons. These ground-up initiatives provide a safe space for their community to come together and support one another, where they can be seen and heard, where they are not treated as invisible and where they will not be judged.

3. I understand that to the gay community, s 377A while not actively enforced, is seen as society’s judgement of them – a rejection of their right to exist, criminalises their right to love and be loved in return, and makes them feel like a lesser citizen. It also hangs like the Sword of Damocles over them, since the law exists and reminds them they are criminals, even when what they are engaging in is private consensual act between adults.

4. They may also suffer from stigma, discrimination, and be disproportionately impacted by mental health concerns. At T Project’s shelter for their community, I saw how a small shelter for six persons was stacked with suitcases and personal items of about another 10 individuals. The owners of these items have no permanent abode and move from place to place as their life is often complicated by mental stress, poverty, and unemployment. In conversations with Greenhouse which runs a support group for 200+ gay individuals, some shared that they have struggled since young to find acceptance from their family, but love and acceptance were not forthcoming. This has consequences on their physical and mental health, ability to find and hold a job and increases their risk of committing offences and suffering from substance addiction. They shared that substance addiction becomes a coping mechanism for them when they are unable to find acceptance in society. 

5. We understand their concerns and are working with social service agencies to be open and sensitive to the diverse needs of clients and to provide social support, regardless of their backgrounds and sexual orientations.  

6. At the same time, I have also spoken to many individuals who are worried about where our society is headed should s 377A be repealed. In an engagement with over 100 members of the public who had written to their MPs, some youths recounted how they had experienced being ostracised or “cancelled” in schools and universities because they were seen to be “conservative” and not advocating gay rights. Others spoke about how they were singled out at their workplaces because they are religious and by default seen to be homophobic and therefore at odds with the company’s diversity and inclusion policies. I saw a grandmother’s hand trembling, as she spoke about her grave concerns should Singapore go down the slippery slope as some other countries have after decriminalising gay sex. 

7. I would like to clarify that employees are protected against discrimination under the Tripartite Guidelines for Fair Employment practices (TGFEP), and these guidelines require employers to make employment decisions based on merit and factors relevant to the job. The Ministry of Manpower is also looking at enacting workplace fairness legislation.

8. On being “cancelled” for one’s beliefs, the government is looking into policy solutions to preserve space for persons of different views to share what they think, safely. But ultimately, what is important is that we maintain mutual respect when we engage with one another, and not tear each other down. 

9. I also met with leaders of religious groups, some of them four to five times. They have been steadfast partners in our nation-building. They have worked tirelessly to bring Singaporeans from different races and religions together to build common spaces and common values. The religious leaders shared views from their communities on s 377A – views anchored on hopes for Singapore to continue to be strong and stable, and a place for families. Many of their congregants have a great sense of gratitude and pride in how far our nation has come, and wish for nothing more than for our children and future generations to thrive and prosper, and they see the heterosexual family unit as the bedrock of our society. 

10. Mr Speaker Sir, all these individuals, gay or straight, from different walks of life, have stepped forward to share their views because they want to make Singapore a better place – a better place for future generations, to safeguard Singapore society, and safeguard communities. And I want to thank them for being considered in their approach and for sharing the views of their communities in a constructive manner. We have heard their views and will continue to work with them to navigate a way forward.

11. The two bills that stand before us allow us to repeal s377A in a careful and considered way. The issue that stands before us is one of public policy, as to whether gay sex in the context of private sexual behaviour between consenting adults, should remain a crime under Singapore laws. 

12. Having heard the views from various parties, the two bills have been drafted with great care, and aim to address their concerns:

a. That the majority of Singaporeans still want the heterosexual family structure as the norm

b. Most accept that private consensual sex between men should not be criminalised.

c. For those who are against the repeal, the main concern is about what the repeal would mean for social norms, and not that they want to criminalise sex between men.

13. Though the bills are voted on separately, they should be seen holistically because this is not a zero-sum game, where one side wins and the other side loses. And in the spirit of how the two bills are drafted, we hope that Singaporeans with all their varied views on the issue, can be united in our desire to find common ground so that we can move forward together. Let us be united in wanting Singapore to be a home for all, a tolerant and inclusive society, where all Singaporeans feel a sense of dignity and have collective confidence in our future.

14. Mr Speaker Sir, in Chinese please.

一、废除377A,让知行合一

15. 李总理在2007年的国会辩论上,提到 “政府决定将保留377A,但不会积极执行这条法律。” 当初的决定是基于当时社会的反馈,并且是一种暂时、折中的方案。但是,不废除377A法案,立法与执法不能完全一致。

16. 废除377A,可以达到知行合一,让立法和执法更加协调一致,清晰透明。

17. 与此相关的,就如377A有可能在法庭上被认定为不符合宪法,新加坡的婚姻定义也可能会面临类似的挑战,而导致与婚姻相关的法律和政策受到威胁。这就是为什么我们现在提议,在废除377A的同时修改宪法,澄清政府有权制定法律来定义和保护婚姻制度,并使得基于一男一女的婚姻制度以及与其相关的法律和政策不能在宪法上被挑战。

二、包容是解决分歧的解药

18. 在过去几个月来,就377A的课题,政府和社会各界人士进行了多次交流。从各界的反馈来看,大部分人是支持废除377A法案的。

19. 当然,在交流当中,也有一些两极化的观点。比如有人认为同性恋是不道德的行为,也有一些人希望同性恋群体获得更多的权利。

20. 社会存在不同对立的观点,不一定是坏事。新加坡是一个多元种族、多元宗教、多元文化的社会,但大家又能够和谐共存,正是我们新加坡人引以为荣的地方。

21. 我们每个人的家庭背景不同,文化不同,受到的教育也不尽相同。对某一个问题的看法,有可能产生不同的观点。

22. 有人担心同性恋人士会造成社会问题。但是我们也看到,他们当中有的人正是需要社会的理解和救助。我曾经去拜访过一家给同性恋人士提供援助的互助会,当中有些人从小就不被家庭接受、之后在生活中遇到各种问题,比如受霸凌问题、心理健康问题、经济问题,有些人在面临生活危机的时候感觉 “上天无路,入地无门” 。这些人也是新加坡的同胞。我们不必按照别人的生活方式来生活,但也不必强求别人按照我们的生活方式来生活。己所不欲勿施于人。

23. 包容是解决分歧的解药。对于同性恋这个敏感的课题,希望观点对立的群体能够有包容的理念,互相理解、放下分歧、寻求共识。

三、对于婚姻制度,维护而不是颠覆

24. 在与华社的交流过程中,我了解到很多人非常重视以家庭为中心的传统价值观,不希望因为废除377A,而改变新加坡人的家庭观念。

25. 我认同这个观点。家庭是社会的基石。家庭稳定了,社会也才能稳定。

a、鼓励婚姻、重视家庭,是政府一贯的看法和做法。

26. 人民行动党政府执政后最早颁布的法律之一是1961年的"妇女宪章"。这是一项保护妇女权利的里程碑式的立法,只允许男女之间的一夫一妻婚姻制合法化。

27. 之后,政府一直通过各项政策,支持新加坡的家庭。例如,已婚的家庭在获得公共住房以及相关补贴上,一直享有优先权。婴儿花红的发放,也是在鼓励婚姻和生育。社会及家庭发展部也通过公共教育项目,积极倡导、教育、强调家庭的重要性。我们了解不同家庭所面对的问题,例如单身家庭,离异家庭,社会及家庭发展部也会尽最大的努力去帮助他们。

b、维护婚姻制度

28. 对于婚姻制度,我们要维护而不是颠覆。这才有利于政策的延续和社会的稳定。

29. 否则,目前与婚姻有关的政策和法律,包括婴儿花红、政府组屋等政策,都有可能在未来面对法庭的挑战,这会让问题变得非常复杂。

四、废除377A和维护婚姻制度,兼顾自由与稳定

30. 有人可能会问,现在民众可能更加关注物价上升、住房等民生问题。我们为什么在此时讨论377A的议题?

31. 这里我需要澄清的是,政府非常关切民生问题,目前正在尽最大努力来应对。例如,290万名国人将在下个月领到定心与援助配套,减轻国人的生活费负担。政府在上个月刚刚还宣布了额外15亿元的援助配套,应对全球通货膨胀给新加坡带来的压力。

32. 在政府解决这些重要的民生问题的当儿,也要解决其他的问题。废除377A,维护婚姻制度,同样关系到新加坡同胞的生活, 他们同样需要我们的关注。

33. 我们不仅要解决宏观问题,也要解决微观问题。让每个新加坡人都能活得有尊严、活得有希望。

34. 刚才提到的全球通货膨胀,一个重要原因就是,目前的国际局势很不稳定。中美关系持续紧张,俄乌战争也已经持续半年多,造成石油等原材料价格大幅上涨。在国际环境不稳定的时候,我们新加坡内部一定要保持稳定。

35. 今天,我们同时提出两项动议,希望大家能够看到政府的苦心。两项动议就像天平的两端,缺一不可,正是为了维护社会的平衡与稳定。

36. 一方面,废除377A,更好地保护个人的自由和权利,减少社会对同性恋者的压力。另一方面,维护婚姻制度能让相关的法律和政策保持稳定,减少各族群的担忧。

37. 因此,希望大家以包容和平衡的态度看待这两项动议,团结一心,共同携手前进。

五、华社和家长的反馈

38. 另外,我也要感谢,华族群体在面对许多社会问题的时候,经常会持有包容的态度,强调社会各方互敬互让,求同存异,和谐共处。

39. 有些家长可能会对废除377A有些顾虑,例如不知这是否会影响到社会风气。

40. 关于社会风气,在公众场合,无论是男女之间、还是同性之间,过分亲密的行为都不适当。社会风气也不是仅仅依靠法律来约定的,社会风气需要社会、家庭、教育等各个方面的合力。需要我们每个人都出一份力。 

41. 我也知道家长打从心底非常疼爱自己的孩子,希望他们能在一个健康、和谐的环境中长大,找到理想的伴侣、将来老有所依、享受天伦之乐。

42. 我想说,包容并不是倡导。我们包容同性恋的行为,提议废除377A,不对男同性恋的行为定罪,但这并不是在倡导某种生活方式、或是倡导某种社会风气。

六、总结

43. 今天提出的两个方案,这一路走来并不容易。

44. 新加坡是一个多元宗教、多元种族、多元文化的社会。每个种族和宗教团体都有自己的做法、习俗、规范、信仰和信念。

45. 要把一个如此多样化的社会凝聚在一起并不容易。因此,政府一直强调我们应该不分种族、言语和宗教,维护共同空间、培育好公民和维护平等原则的重要性。只有这样,我们才能团结一致,为国家的进步而努力。

46. 废除377A法案是一个艰难的决定。即使我们做了最大的努力,寻找一个能让整个社会更加平衡、更加和谐的方案,但无论如何,也一定会有一些人不满意。但是我们必须做出一个正确的决定、一个对新加坡人负责任的决定。

47. 我们提议废除377A,达到知行合一。同时,对于婚姻制度,维护而不是颠覆。两项动议兼顾自由与稳定,好比天平的两端,缺一不可,最大程度地争取整个社会的平衡与和谐。我希望大家能看到政府在整个课题上费的心思和努力。我也呼吁大家继续互相尊重,放下分歧,寻找共识,包容彼此。我们将继续与国人携手前进,努力保持团结,继续维护新加坡社会的和谐与繁荣。

48. 谢谢! 

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