Archive of the South China Morning Post article, “Poll shows greater acceptance of gays” (22 May 2000)

Poll shows greater acceptance of gays

Barry Porter, SCMP


Despite government efforts to curb homosexuality in Singapore, a majority
of respondents in a survey of 491 adults said they would be able to accept
a gay brother, sister, son or daughter.

Some 46 per cent of those polled on the street and 74 per cent of Internet
respondents said they would accept a gay relative in the family – if not
immediately, then after a while. They far outnumbered those who felt they
would not be able to (only 26 per cent and nine per cent respectively).

Gay activist Alex Au, who helped organise the survey, said: “I am not
surprised. In coming out, I have met nothing but friendliness and

Another widely held view was that employers should not discriminate against
homosexual employees. Some 73 per cent of streetside respondents and 83 per
cent of Internet respondents agreed. It is not illegal to be gay in
Singapore, but it remains illegal to conduct homosexual acts, either in
private or public.

The Government curbs displays of homosexual acts in the media. An episode
of the American television series Ally McBeal was recently banned because
it showed lawyer Ally and co-worker Ling Woo kissing during an experimental

Gay activists conducted the survey as part of a recent push to gain greater
recognition in society. They admit it was not 100 per cent scientific, but
claim its results reflected public opinion.

Activists have applied for a licence to stage Singapore’s first ever
homosexual forum this Sunday. They submitted their application on May 3,
but have yet receive to a response.

The event would discuss the prospects for homosexuals under “Singapore 21”,
a government campaign launched last year aimed at encouraging Singaporeans
to participate more in society. Its slogan is “everyone counts”.



This article was first archived on SiGNeL by Alex Au:

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Archive of the Agence France Presse article, “Ground-breaking survey shows Singaporeans accept homosexuality” (22 May 2000)

Ground-breaking survey shows Singaporeans accept homosexuality

by Lara Parpan

05/22/2000 Agence France-Presse

SINGAPORE, May 22 (AFP) – A majority of Singaporeans can accept a gay
member of the family, agree that oral sex between adults in private should
not be prohibited, and feel that employers should not discriminate against
homosexuals, according to a ground-breaking survey.

These are among the results of what is believed to be the first
community-based opinion poll on homosexuality and gay-related issues in
tightly ruled Singapore, where oral sex is punishable by life imprisonment
and open displays of homosexuality are often frowned upon.

“A large number of Singaporeans would be able to accept a gay brother,
sister, son or daughter,” according to the summary of a survey conducted in
April and May by volunteers from an informal alliance known as “People Like

The gay and lesbian support group has tried in vain to get itself
registered as an official society in Singapore, but maintains a presence in

The survey was carried out in several districts in Singapore and through
the Internet, resulting in 251 responses from street interviews and 240
responses online, all from Singaporean citizens and permanent residents
16-years-old and above.

“It is an important threshold providing a sense of where Singaporeans stand
with respect to such issues,” the survey said.

“The findings here can be seen as ‘leading indicators’ to the way Singapore
social opinion is likely to evolve in the years ahead,” it added.

People Like Us estimated that there are “some 150,000 to 300,000
Singaporeans who feel alienated from the state” on the issue of sexuality.

Forty-six percent of respondents interviewed on the street and 74 percent
of those online “felt that they would be able to accept a gay brother or
sister, if not immediately, then after a while,” the survey said.

The figures “far outnumbered” the 26 percent among those interviewed on the
street, and nine percent online, who said they could not accept gay siblings.

Acceptance rates for gay sons and daughters were also higher than
rejection, with 41 percent of streetside respondents and 66 percent of
those polled over the Internet saying “they would be able to accept the
fact that their child was gay.”

This was higher than the 35 percent and 13 percent respectively who said
they would not be able to do so.

“Singaporeans appear to be pragmatic about the issue. These findings
suggest that they value family ties highly enough to accommodate gay
siblings and children within the fold,” the survey said.

On the issue of gay discrimination in the workplace, 73 percent of the
street interviewees and 83 percent of those online believed employers
should not discriminate against gays.

Singaporeans also challenged an archaic law which outlaws oral sex and
makes it punishable with up to life imprisonment. The majority of those
interviewed on the street — 53 percent, and online 85 percent – – agreed
that oral sex between adults in private should not be restricted.

When asked if oral sex between homosexual adults in private should not be
restricted, 39 percent of street interviewees and 78 percent online agreed,
compared to 29 percent on the street and 16 percent on Internet who disagreed.

The group’s survey comes ahead of a planned public forum on gays and
lesbians in Singapore scheduled for May 28.

Gay rights activist Alex Au, who is among the more outspoken members of
People Like Us, said an application with the police to hold the forum was
still pending. Public gatherings in Singapore require a police permit.

Au said the forum was inspired by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s remarks on
international television in December 1998 when he was asked for his stand
on homosexuality in Singapore.

The elder statesman replied: “It’s not a matter which I can decide or any
government can decide. It’s a question of what society considers acceptable.”

“How do we expect gay Singaporeans to feel passionate about Singapore if
they perceive that they suffer discrimination, legal and social, in this
country?” Au said.

Gays in Singapore keep a low profile compared to their counterparts in the
United States or other parts of Asia.

The group gave their survey a margin of error of four to six percent, and
said their interviewees matched Singapore’s ethnic profile, which is
dominated by the Chinese, followed by the Malays and Indians.

It also noted that many of the volunteers who helped conduct the survey
were “straight”, which was seen as “a harbinger of a more broad-minded society”.



This article was first archived on SiGNeL by Alex Au:

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Archive of Vincent’s Lounge’s 11th Anniversary message (18 May 2000)

Vincent’s Lounge – 11th Anniversary

Almost before we realized it, another year has gone by and on May 18th 2000
it will be 11 years since Vincent’s Lounge first opened for business.

Once again, our heartfelt appreciation for your continuing support and may
we look forward to many more years of happy times and fond memories at

Through the years one of the many questions that is put to us, a zillion
times, is; how’s the “climate” in Singapore these days?

Maybe it is appropriate at this point to offer our observations and opinions
on the situation in Singapore today.

The gay scene here is certainly more open now, and the atmosphere more
relaxed, than a decade ago. That is without a doubt. The word ‘gay’ is also
more audible and visible now, whereas ten years ago, people were afraid even
to breathe it. Vincent’s Lounge, for many years, was the only gay-friendly
establishment, but now, there are about a dozen other venues of varying
levels of commitment.

Although the laws still penalise ‘unnatural acts’ and ‘acts against the
order of nature’ they are hardly ever enforced except in situations where
criminal force is used or which involve an unwilling partner. No-one is
likely to come knocking on your door checking on you J

Recently there was a write up in the local papers on the subject of these
‘archaic laws’ – on whether it’s time to do away with them. There were quite
a few responses to that write up – most rather positive.

A public forum on ‘Gays and Lesbians Within Singapore’ is scheduled on the
28th of this month. However, the application for holding the forum is still
pending. Hopefully, permission will be granted. That, in itself, will be a
milestone for the gay scene here. In relation to this forum, a survey is
being conducted on the attitudes of the Singapore public towards

Things are changing – albeit slowly. In this modern age of MTV and the
Internet, mindsets and attitudes are bound to change as people gain more
exposure to the outside world and its influences. The younger generation of
gays are, as always, more daring, restless and rebellious and this has also
given the general public a greater awareness of the gay population.

And before anyone bemoans the pace of change one should think for a moment
how ready you are for the change.

Indeed, we find that people are more afraid of their straight friends and
family, than the government, finding out about their sexual orientation.
Decriminalisation of homosexuality in this case would not help much.

Change has to come also from within the community, from the individual as
well as society and government. If all the gays in Singapore ‘come out’ to
their families and friends, and they can gain their support and acceptance,
then half the battle is won. It will be easier to talk about changing the
laws then.

Even our Senior Minister has said as much; it is not for the government to
decide on the subject of homosexuality. Rather it’s whether the people are
ready to accept others who lead an alternative lifestyle.

And we believe the government would be more than happy to go along with the
sentiments of the population than to have to rule on the acceptance of
homosexuality which might make them unpopular with many people.

Personally, we think many gays here are quite happy with the situation as it
is. That is – being left to live their lives. Ask me no questions and I will
tell you no lies. Indeed, in Singapore, one is quite free to go about their
life so long as their lifestyle doesn’t impinge on others.

Sometimes you hear people complain about how boring Singapore is. Well, if
you look hard enough, you will find that it is the people themselves who are
boring, who don’t know what they want, or have misconceptions on how life is

Some of you might not agree fully with our views, but they are our own and
we are happy to air them for your consideration.





It was time for the balloons and streamers again in Lucky Plaza
last night as the oldest gay bar in the Lion City celebrated it’s eleventh
anniversary. Eleven years is a long time for any bar to survive, and in fact
Vincent’s now ranks as one of the oldest bars of any persuasion in
As well as floral presentations and other gifts to mark the occasion,
attached to the notice board were copies of many e.mailed messages of
appreciation and support from around the world.
Although Vincent’s Lounge is not everyone’s cup of tea there is no doubt
that for such a small place it does have an extremely global presence.

However, apart from my personal appreciation of a very enjoyable evening –
the drinks were flowing, and priced even lower than when the bar opened in
1989 – I wanted to draw Signellers’ attention to Vincent’s Anniversary
Message, which may give scope for a fair amount of discussion.
Reproduced below in plain text, you can also view it in living colour, – and
see the rest of his site if you wish – by clicking the following link;

Food for thought ??


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Transcript of the BBC’s radio interview with Alex Au on “World Today” (8 May 2000)

SINGAPORE: Gay Rights Activist Seeks Police Permit TO Host Public Forum.

BBC London (English), The World Today,
0830 hours, 8.5.00, Item 13.
Take a stroll down Singapore’s Bugis Street and you might not be convinced
that the gay community is under pressure. Transvestites and transsexuals
have claimed the former red-light district as their own and they’re not shy
about flaunting themselves. But the fact is that homosexual acts are
outlawed in the city-state and if convicted of what’s termed “unnatural
sex”, one can face life imprisonment. Now a gay rights activist, Alex Au,
says he hopes that the Government will issue a permit allowing him to host
a public forum on the 28th on where homosexuals stand in Singapore society.
So, I asked Alex what life is like for gay people there:

Mr Au: “It isn’t as bad as one might imagine. Although the law exists, we
aren’t prosecuted as often as one might think. The authorities don’t use
the law very rigorously unless somebody complains. Then, of course, they
find themselves duty-bound to act on the complaint. But other than that, we
do what we can. There is still gay life here. Nonetheless. the law
reinforces the social climate of homophobia and discrimination and that’s
why we’re not too happy with it.”

Q: “Now, the idea behind the forum is to examine where gay and lesbian
Singaporeans stand in the Government’s Singapore 21 Programme. Let me ask
you what do you think about the Singapore 21 programme and, indeed, to tell
us what it is?”

Mr Au: “The Singapore 21 Programme came out last year. It’s an attempt to
put down some ideals, some visionary idelas for Singapore society to
progress towards. Among the visions for Singapore would be to keep the
family as the foundation for social stability, to develop some sense of
belonging to Singapore, the Singapore heartbeat, as they call it;
opportunities for all and the fact that every SIngaporean matters, even in
the new economy and globalisation and so forth. Well, these are fine
sentiments and I cannot agree with them more, but how does one translate
these ideas into new reality, especially vis-a-vis gay people in the
society and I think this forum is really needed for us to begin to examine

Q: “These is a real fear of persecution because of that law that you were
describing if one comes out as a gay person. So, will people attend a forum
like this?”

Mr Au: “Oh, I’m confident that there will be lots of people wanting to
attend the forum, both gay and straight. There are people in Singapore who
have been educated abroad, who have lived abroad and who feel, as I do,
that this is an issue that really needs to be addressed if we are to move
Singapore society forward.”

Q: “You were refused once before when you tried to register your group as a
society. Do you think that you will get your permit that’s needed to hold
this forum?”

Mr Au: “I am optimistic that I will get this permit because this is quite a
different situation. This is for a seminar, a little conference and these
are different regulations in this situation. These regulations pertain to
public order and so long as the police are satisfied that this event will
not, in any way, threaten public order, they should grant the permit, and I
don’t think this event will, in any way, disturb public peace.

Q: “What future do you hope, then for gay and lesbian people in Singapore?”

Mr Au: “Accepted by our peers here. Nothing special, just to be treated as
an ordinary Singaporean.”



This transcript was first archived on SiGNeL by Alex Au:

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Archive of The Straits Times article, “Bid to open dialogue on gays in society” (6 May 2000)

Homosexual applies for permit to
hold public forum on how gays fit
into the Singapore 21 vision of an
ideal society


A BUSINESSMAN hopes to hold
Singapore’s first public forum on gays
and lesbians on the last Sunday of this

Mr Alex Au, 47, has applied to the
Public Entertainment Licensing Unit
(Pelu) for a permit to hold the event
titled “Gays and lesbians within
Singapore 21″.

He hopes this forum will help people
discuss where gays and lesbians stand
in relation to Singapore 21, a national
vision of the ideal Singaporean society.

The vision contains five key ideas —
every Singaporean matters, strong
families, opportunities for all, the
Singapore heartbeat and active citizens.

“What does ‘strong families’ mean when
a son or daughter, uncle or aunt, is
gay?” asked Mr Au in a press statement
sent to the media yesterday. “How do
we expect gay Singaporeans to feel
passionately about the country if they
feel discriminated against?”

He noted that the Singapore 21 concept
encouraged people to rethink many
assumptions in society.

“I personally think that this is one area
that would benefit from more dialogue,”
he said in a telephone interview with
The Straits Times.

Under the law, sodomy is considered an
unnatural sex act and those convicted of
unnatural sex can be sentenced to life

Pelu confirmed that the businessman
had applied for a licence on Wednesday
and said an application could take up to
three weeks to process.

Mr Au, who is gay, is optimistic Pelu
will grant him a licence.

“I don’t see any reason why this forum
would jeopardise public order, so there
is no reason for them to turn down the
application,” he said.

Three years ago, he and a few others
tried to register a gay group called
People Like Us, but were turned down
by the Registry of Societies.

He hopes to draw about 120 people to
the forum, scheduled to be held at the
Substation, Armenian Street, on May 28
at 2:30 pm. Admission is free.

Speakers include Association of Women
for Action and Research president Dana
Lam, financial-industry executives
Kenneth Lau and Salmon Lee and law
undergraduate Cho Pei Lin.

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Archive of the article, “The Choices Ministry” by Patrick Lee

The ‘Choices’ Ministry is a christian based ministry set up at a church
where I was a pastor for 12 years, and it was headed by a very charimatic
American ex-gay who was also multi-talented.

Whilst I was known to my church and the diocese as an ex-gay but I was
more remembered for bringing Dance & Drama into the outreach arm of the

But Sy Rogers was the one who helped elevated Church of Our Saviour to a
status in the Christian community that the Power of God can even ‘break’
the bondage of homosexuality.

As names has big significance in an Asian context; it was a stroke of
genius that Sy Rogers had when he came up with the name ‘Choices’ because if you do attend his 14 weeks lecture you are clearly told that
regardless the situation that led you to be gay; you can NOW make a choice
to say ‘No’ to it. Yes, it was Sy Rogers who also came up with the cliche
that ‘Freedom is when you are able to say “No” ‘

Anyway, about the same time that I decided to return back to an active gay
life was also the same time, that Sy felt God told him to move on to
another nearby country to start up another ex-gay ministry.

The ministry was then handed to his personal assistant Sam Lee, a cute
asian boy whose greatest asset or ability is his sexy low voice that can make
your knees go weak. Especially at the preliminary one to one interview with
him, sitting immediately across the table from you. He even married an insipid
looking wife, quite a carbon copy of Sy’s wife.

Anyway, since my return to the gay world and keeping connected with people
on Signel, Gam-Pride and visits to Niche and Film Fest; I have already met
about 10 gay men who have left ‘Choices’ and returned back to an active
gay life; and among them two were formerly group discussion leaders in
Choices. It was interesting when I asked each one of them the reason for their
return to a gay life; obviously everyone of them was glad that I had also return
to the gay life too.

Anyway, one of them was very positive about Choices and said that it has
taught him and showed him , how to manage his homoerotic desires. BTW,
‘manage’ means to keep in check; for example we know that lying is wrong
and so try to avoid telling lies. Altho’ this particular guy was able to
manage his gay inclination successfully for more than a year; he told me that it
dawned on him why would he want or need to manage his gay inclinations.
Meaning that Choices has FAILED to help him see that it was wrong and
sinful, otherwise he would have seen the need for it to be ‘managed’ or
‘put under control’.

I suspect the attrition rate has increased so significantly is because no
one can stepped into the shoes of Sy Rogers and compete with him in
glamour and drama whenever he stands up to speak. So prior to his departure, all
14 sessions of his lectures were all video-taped. Subsequently after he
left; the ‘Choices’ was runned as such, all participants arrived by 6.45pm and
watched a video of Sy Rogers for an hour on a terribly small 21″ TV;
followed by half-hour of charismatic worship and prophecies which could
move you to tears. Then all participants are carefully put into various
sharing/discussion headed by a ‘leader’; this discussion is quite like
‘AA’ where u say, “Hi my name is Dinesh, and I have gay tendencies’. The older
ones will talk about either their failures or triumphs during the week.

When I attended two sessions, I was shocked at some of the people who were
appointed as leaders;
especially those ex-lesbians. Their hair still remained short and butch,
they dressed in jeans and t-shirt;
when I expected them to be wearing lipstick and polished-nails complete
with silk blouses that has white lace collar. However, I must say altho’ I have met more than 10 gay guys from Choices; yet I have not met
a lesbian from ‘Choices’ that has gone back to their lesbian ways. Maybe
‘E’ could let us know if any of your lesbians have been to Choices to receive help previously?

Anyway it is barely more than a year and Sam Lee has asked to step down
from heading Choices ministry,on grounds that he wants to do further studies.
A very believable reason, except that Sam has been my colleague for about 3
years and I know that this is only a cover up.

With Sy gone, Sam stepping down and me returning to an active gay life;
can the Church of Our Saviour continue to proclaim that in their church ‘the
power of homosexuality’ is broken? Or perhaps since my alignment with the
gay christian community; I should say ‘Is homosexuality a power which God
wants to see broken in the lives of men?’ After being a gay christian for two
years, I have come to the conclusion that ‘homosexuality’ is within the permissive will of God; it is to be celebrated and not condemned.

Autumn leaves & Winter tears,

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Archive of the Asiaweek article, “Gay Teens In Taiwan. A rosy hued documentary gets a mixed reception in the Lion City (April 2000)

Cinema: Gay Teens In Taiwan

A rosy hued documentary gets a mixed reception
in the Lion City


“Documentary filmmakers are very political,” declares Taiwan director
Mickey Chen. He is also gay and proud. Hence Boys for Beauty, his cinematic
celebration of homosexual youth, which, he says, performed creditably at
box offices in the island last year. And if the documentary is any sort of
indicator, 33-year-old Chen stands at the more accommodating end of the
political spectrum.

Boys focuses primarily on the lives of three teenagers – a drag dancer, a
straight-A scholar from an elite institution and a student from an average
school. Chen had ruthlessly whittled the “leads” from a shortlisted series
of interviews with 12 boys and their families. Those choices, however, came
under some fire at a special screening of his film organized in Singapore
last month in conjunction with his visit. “Why is it that you depict only
effeminate gays?” demands one member of the predominantly male audience.
The boyish Chen quips: “Because I believe in the power of sissyhood.”

A more serious criticism, though, is that his documentary fails to address
the problems that gay teenagers encounter, and Chen replies in kind. “I am
very protective when it comes to gay society. I only showed those accepted
by their families because I wanted to present positive images of
homosexuals,” he explains. It’s not that he doesn’t want to “deal with
darkness,” he says, but that he’s careful in his representation of the
teenagers. Chen fears that any depiction of the uglier side of homosexual
life may be taken out of context and used against the youngsters.

All the same, his documentary is unapologetically intrusive. The camera’s
unblinking eye captures the teenagers’ changing moods, their petty
squabbles over love lives and their worries over matters ranging from
weight problems to sexual encounters. But what comes across as a seamless
chronicle was painstakingly spliced together from hundreds of hours of
footage. Toting a fuss-free digital camera, Chen had followed gay teenagers
around Taipei for a year. “At first, I spent hours and hours just chatting
and talking nonsense with them.” The time was well spent, for the trust
that Chen earned is evident in his film. His subjects appear relaxed and
their frank answers to probing questions provide an insight into their
different psyches.

One boy declares: “Being gay is very high class. I have never found
anything wrong with it.” An assertive stance. But confusion and low
self-esteem are more familiar feelings among many gay teenagers. “I dare
not tell anyone. I thought being gay was equal to having AIDS. That I’m not
a good son,” says one. Adds another: “I’m like Mulan [in reverse] – a boy
dressed in girls’ clothes.”

Bin’s father is one of the most memorable interviewees. While he repeatedly
declares that he is proud of his drag-dancer son, “Papa Bin” cannot
comprehend the teenager’s sexual preference. “It doesn’t make sense. But he
is my son, so I must try and understand him,” he says, though he hopes the
boy will “come to his senses” eventually. Indeed, Bin’s father is a
supportive dad and even drives him to his gigs. At the gay bars where the
boy performs, Papa Bin is often complimented by other teenagers craving
acceptance from their families. But the father still feels guilty for “not
knowing how it happened.” He adds: “How could [society, friends and
relatives] blame me for not giving [Bin] a normal orientation? Luckily he
didn’t blame us.”

The most dramatic, and tragic, case that Chen came across did not even make
it into the raw cuts: a father who discovered his son was homosexual when
he found the youngster asleep with a gay magazine in his hand. Shocked and
furious, he tore up the publication, set it alight and then held the flames
to the boy. The family agreed to be interviewed on camera, but Chen says
his conscience would not allow him to spotlight a parent who momentarily
let his anger get the better of him. “The father acted not from his heart
but from the pressures of society,” he says. “I’ve no right to play God
[and judge]. I don’t have the right to burn Chinese society.” Instead, the
director presents portraits of well-adjusted teens who enjoy some degree of
acceptance, even support from loving parents.

In any case, the New York-trained filmmaker reckons attitudes are softening
in Taiwan. Not only was Boys financed by a $12,000 grant from the United
Daily News, one of the island’s leading newspapers, the authorities even
entered his documentary at a foreign film festival. What’s more, Chen adds,
the government recently approved ground-breaking funds to promote the
rights of gays and other minorities.

Chen’s rosy pictures, however, may be what trouble Singapore officials
most. Gay activists, who sought permission for a screening through the arts
organization The Substation, could only show the film to a restricted adult
audience. A 1992 censors’ panel decreed in 1992 that while gays should not
be persecuted, it could not allow works that glorify homosexuality or
agitate for its acceptance. That stance, observes T. Sasitharan,
Substation’s artistic director, stems more from officials’ desire “to
protect the conventional family.” And lest anyone forget, a series of
formal debates and officially supported activities in recent years help
hammer home the message: Singapore must nurture “strong families.”

But activists like Alex Au question the definition of this basic social
unit. It’s time, he argues, to re-examine the assumption that “family
values” can only be built in a heterosexual setting. “Pigheaded” pressure
on gay sons and daughters only creates barriers to communication. Rather
than strengthen the family, Au says, insisting on conformity only tends to
fracture them.

Similarly, Au feels denying Singapore teens the chance to view films such
as Boys is more damaging: “By cutting off information about their own
sexuality, gay teenagers are left with negative self-images and feelings of
isolation.” He concedes that Singapore isn’t a wholy homophobic society,
but says many people still adopt “Jurassic” attitudes. Equality for the gay
community is “still very far away.”

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Archive of The Sunday Times article, “Isn’t it time we abolished our archaic sex laws?” (16 April 2000)

Isn’t it time we abolished our archaic sex laws?



WHAT do artificial insemination, contraception, genetic engineering as well
as anal and oral sex have in common?

They are all “acts against the order of nature” because they cause events
that nature would not, or they stop events which nature would otherwise
cause, if allowed to run its course.

In the case of “unnatural” sex, they deviate from normal behaviour as
specified by biological function. Laws here, as in many other places,
single out “unnatural” sex for harsh punishment.

Chapter 224, Section 377 of the Penal Code states that anyone who has
“carnal intercourse against the order of nature” can be punished with up to
life imprisonment, and a fine.

And a strict reading of this is that any form of sex that is not
procreative is illegal.

I do not know the genesis of the law and suspect Singapore inherited it
from its colonial days.

However, looking at it against the backdrop of recent advances in medical
technology, it is clearly inconsistent to prosecute people for “unnatural”
sex purely on the basis of its being “against the order of nature”.

For, by going “against the order of nature”, doctors now help otherwise
childless couples to produce babies without the couples having to even
engage in sex.

Meanwhile, researchers clone sheep, and governments keep population sizes
in check and venereal-disease epidemics at bay by promoting contraception.

The inconsistency, I believe, is grounds for Section 377 and similar laws
against voluntary “unnatural” sex to be reviewed.

If society has something against such forms of sex, this should be debated
afresh, the reasons for the offence taken identified and the laws framed
suitably. But I believe there are several grounds to consider going a step
further and abolishing such laws against voluntary “unnatural” sex between
consenting adults.

If a society’s laws reflect accepted practices and norms, such sex laws
appear to be archaic.

I know of no local survey on the topic, but there is enough serious and
popular literature to suggest that a significant number of adults here do
engage in sexual behaviour that would constitute offences under the law.

Magazines and newspaper reports available here, for instance, occasionally
contain material that suggests that “unnatural” sex is not terribly uncommon.

My search on the Internet led me to a website which noted that one major
study had found that, in the United States, 60 per cent of college-educated
couples engaged in oral sex.

And 20 per cent of high school and 11 per cent of grade-school educated
couples engaged in it too — all this in 1948!

With the world becoming freer sexually, it is not unreasonable to
extrapolate and expect that in present-day Singapore, the number of people
who accept and engage in such voluntary “unnatural” sex is not small.

So, what is the purpose of having laws against it? Also, how offensive or
harmful to society is “unnatural” sex?

As far as I know, the police here do not go out of their way to enforce
laws against it and act only if they chance upon an offence or if someone

But why have laws which are not enforced with diligence, especially if many
people are likely to be offenders?

To enforce diligently would mean that the police will have to go on
frequent and regular operations against offenders.

But this has not been the police way as far as “unnatural” sex offences are

Take the recent case of project manager Lim Chee Yong, 34, who was
prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to three months’ jail for having anal
sex with a woman.

He and the woman had been having sex regularly, but then the woman
complained to the police that he had twice engaged in anal sex with her,
without her consent.

If consent was her concern, it was certainly not that of the prosecutors,
who charged him under Section 377, in which consent is irrelevant.

The reason for police passiveness I suspect is an underlying view, which I
believe is shared by many, that “unnatural sex” between consenting adults
in private is not harmful or a threat to society.

So why have laws against behaviour that is not considered harmful to society?

To me, the state does have some interest in what goes on behind closed
doors, and drug consumption is a clear case.

But should it have an interest — expressed in law — on issues such as the
sexual preferences of consenting adults? I think not, especially if society
at large is not concerned.

Should we leave the laws alone just because they do not come into play very
often, because the police do not go out of their way to enforce them?

No, and the reason for this was, to me, illustrated quite clearly in
project manager Lim’s case: When they do come into play, they waste public

Singapore had a Judicial Commissioner, Mr Amarjeet Singh — certainly not a
low-paid civil servant — spend 10 days hearing arguments. And there was
Deputy Public Prosecutor Mathavan Devadas putting across the prosecution’s

Consider also the police work put into the case before it went to court.

Add the time and costs for Dr Benedict Peng from the Tan Tock Seng Hospital
and gynaecologist Motoko Yeo, who appeared as witnesses, to help the court
in the matter.

Although I cannot put a cash value to all this, it is clear that a tidy
amount of public money was spent on the case.

To me, the judge, the prosecutor, the police and the doctors could all have
been doing more important and worthwhile work than establishing whether
someone had had “unnatural” sex.

E-mail: geoffp@…


Letters to The Straits Times in reaction to the article:

ST, 22 April 2000:

Header: ‘Boos’ or ‘hoorays’ do not decide what is right in sex

IN his My View column (The Sunday Times, April 16), Geoffrey Pereira
suggests that certain “archaic sex laws” should be abolished.

He refers to a case where a man was tried and convicted for having
unnatural sex with a woman. Going through some Internet statistics, the
writer discovers that unnatural sexual practices are a common feature in

From there, he goes on to suggest that the judge, the prosecutor, the
police and the doctors involved with the case could all have been doing
“more important and worthwhile work” and concludes that it is better to do
away with such laws.

Firstly, one wonders if there might not be a logical gap in arguing from a
fact to a norm, that is, in saying that just because many do something, it
could be right or permissible.

Secondly, just because the case took civil servants away from other “more
important” work does not quite warrant the dismissal of these laws — one
might just as well say that it rather warrants the doing away of these acts.

Laws are set in place, if not for deterrent purposes, then, surely, for
retribution. These laws are not the cause of the waste of resources.

Such acts are.

If doing away with these acts entails the spending of resources, the
dismissal of justice is not an option. In a better age, where justice is
valued over utilitarian expediency, use of the relevant resources would not
be construed as a waste.

It is not my intention to quibble over such things, but to oppose the
perhaps popular belief that the notion of nature or order is something
which should have no place in the law.

To revert to a divorce between law and nature seems to me a regression into
the primitive. The way to progress is to persist in the opposite direction.

While I agree that times have changed, it must be admitted that some things
have not quite changed. Even in genetic manipulations, scientists rejoice
not over the fact that they have created a rat with a human ear, but over
the possibility that this successful manipulation may have future uses.

Behind the possible permutations of future applications lurk the aim to
bring about perfection in the world and to its inhabitants — not according
to the arbitrary fancy of an absolute democratic vote but through some norm
which directs our existence according to a carefully examined criteria of
happiness and improvement.

What is in accord or against the order of nature is not something that is
determined by a majority of “boos” or “hoorays”.

In humans, matters of emotion and sexuality are so complex that it would be
foolish to submit oneself to the ruling of “what is common”.

What is in accord or against nature require careful study because the
happiness and well-being of individuals is at stake.

Now, the law has as its intrinsic goal the protection of individuals from
any violation of their dignity. I take this to be accepted without much

When considering the abolishment or promulgation of laws, the legal
institutions must work closely with parties which have an educated interest
in the areas of true human good and happiness.

I admit that this is not an easy issue that may be settled within a letter.

But if I have brought up the serious and perhaps worrying implications of
the premises at work in the writer’s conclusions, so as to stir up some
critical reflection, that would be enough.



ST, 25 April 2000:

Header: Why stick to an archaic law of our ex-masters?

I REFER to Mr Jude Chua Soo Meng’s letter, ” ‘Boos’ or ‘hoorays’ do not
decide what is right in sex” (ST, April 22).

He argues that whether a particular sexual act is “against the course of
nature” or unlawful cannot be decided merely by checking whether it has
become accepted as a fact of life. Also, that it is logically unsound to
say that just because many people do something, it could be right or

I do not think he was asserting that anal or oral sex should be either
illegal or labelled “against the order of nature”.

The mere fact that people accept a practice does not quite determine
whether it is lawful or natural. However, it is certainly one of the
factors to be taken into account when determining whether the practice
should be considered lawful.

Legal norms are nothing more than assertions of right, coupled with the
power to enforce them. The general criminal law of Singapore is provided
for in the Penal Code, imposed by the British in 1871.

The “unnatural sex” provision states: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal
intercourse against the order of nature, with any man, woman or animals,
shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a
term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

The Penal Code was a codification of British criminal law as it existed in
the 19th century, reflecting the British society’s reaction to what it
deemed, at that time, to be “against the course of nature”, as coloured by
the religious beliefs of the then ruling class.

It is an insult to label as criminals many of our compatriots because they
do not subscribe to some archaic view on certain sexual preferences that
their colonial masters used to subscribe to.

How can the views of some believers of one particular Western religion be
imposed on all members of an Eastern society who might not necessarily
subscribe to that religion?

It might be said that the “unnatural sex” law can be justified on the
grounds that it is looked upon with disgust by a substantial section of the

However, feelings of disgust are not sufficient justification for
criminalising an act.

More people might feel disgusted at having to sit beside an uncouth and
shabbily dressed person at dinner than the number of people who now
consider it disgusting to engage in, say, oral sex in private. What if the
uncouth diner decides to pick his teeth, gargle with tea and pick his nose
as well?

I certainly do not think it would be right to send either person to jail.

Can the criminalisation of oral and anal sex be justified merely because it
is “against the course of nature”? Surely this cannot be right.

Logically, if nature’s creations desire to and are capable of doing certain
physical acts, then those acts must be within their natural capacity.

How can that which is ordained by nature be “against the course of nature”?

Taking the matter further, if human beings find oral or anal sex enjoyable,
and the practices have become widespread, it is difficult to see them as
any more unnatural than sex with the aid of Viagra, contraceptives or the
strawberry-flavoured or luminous condoms now commonly sold in Singapore.

Even assuming that the bedroom habits of many decent Singaporeans are
“unnatural” does not justify its criminalisation. It merely begs the
question whether all things “unnatural” should be criminalised.

Shall we outlaw the use of the MRT, the aeroplane and computers as well?
How much more “unnatural” is oral sex compared to the spectre of wingless
humans flying in the bellies of multi-tonned metallic machines?

The involvement of sex in one and not the other is not a sufficient
distinction for justifying selective criminalisation.

The only reason oral and anal sex are regarded as “unnatural” is that they
were declared as wrongful acts by our colonial masters.

Unless the law is updated, we have to live with the disgrace that this
nation is a pitiable colony of criminals.

Just think of the thousands of our nationals and their nocturnal habits.

Think of the fact that they could be jailed for up to 10 years or even for
life. Then think of what non-existent harm they have done to anyone else.

What other conclusion can logic compel one to reach?



ST, 25 April 2000:

Header: Leave the nuptial bed alone

ON READING the letter, ” ‘Boos’ or ‘hoorays’ do not decide what is right in
sex” (ST, April 22), I was prompted to turn to my calendar to check whether
it was truly the year 2000, and not 1900.

It is shocking to me that anyone could support the contention that the
courts should have the right to determine what two consenting,
legally-married adults do in the privacy of their bedroom.

There is no doubt that most religions and cultures have their own taboos
and specific requirements relating to sexual conduct.

However, these apply only to adherents of the particular religion or culture.

Enforcement of such should therefore be left to social pressure, and the
moral suasion of the appropriate religious authorities, and not learned
judges in courts of law.

The assumption, that any sexual act other than intercourse using the
missionary position is deviant and worthy of severe punishment, is nonsense.

The argument that such laws serve to protect women from the perverted lusts
of men is not supportable in the light of modern medical and sexual knowledge.

In most cases, it is the woman who benefits from extended and varied
foreplay. It is the men who have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, out
of the dark ages when it was “common knowledge” that women were incapable
of sexual pleasure.

The existing laws against assault, rape and family violence are perfectly
adequate to protect either spouse against being forced to perform sexual
acts that are abhorrent to him or her.

The very existence of a law entails its enforcement.

Do we truly want our neighbourhood police patrols to be entrusted with the
duty of ensuring that only approved sexual practices are employed in every

Perhaps as an addendum to the marriage certificate, there should be
attached a chart — showing which portions of the human anatomy may be
kissed, or touched, and the exact positioning of the couple performing the
sexual act.

Many laws are retained in the books because there is little urgency to
reform them. Most of these fade into obscurity. Their mere existence does
not indicate that they are relevant.

There are many areas of life in Singapore where the Government and the
courts may participate. The nuptial bed is not one of them.


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Archive of Asiaweek article on Alex Au, Haresh Sharma and Alvin Tan (17 March 2000)

gay-rights activist
Freelance writer Alex Au, not pictured, runs Yawning Bread, a website
that deals with homosexuality and issues of particular concern to the
gay community – as well as delivering an occasional sharp commentary
on everything from the latest films to Singapore Telecom’s failed bid
for Cable & Wireless HKT. “For readers who are not homosexual, I hope
[the website] can serve as a window into the thoughts of gay people,
particularly gay Singaporeans,” Au writes. “For readers who are
homosexual, I hope [it] can be a catalyst to self-reflection,
self-discovery, and a better understanding of where we stand in
society, and why we stand where we stand. I hope it is of some help
to you in breaking out of any sense of isolation you may have.”Launched in 1996, Yawning Bread (the name just appealed to Au) now
has an average of 2,900 hits a month. Early on, Au decided to house
the site on a server outside Singapore because he feared it might be
censored. He doesn’t think he would have any problems now, but it’s
just too much trouble to transfer all those kilobytes. Not that Au is
about to celebrate any new openness. He and fellow gay activists keep
a low profile – though nobody would describe them as being out of
sight.In November 1996, they applied to the government to have a group
called “People Like Us” registered as a society so it could hold
group discussions on gay and lesbian issues and circulate a
newsletter, among other things. In April 1997, the application was
rejected. Au and his colleagues appealed twice to the Home Affairs
Ministry. Both failed. Finally, they wrote to Prime Minister Goh Chok
Tong. The petition was denied. Au believes treatment of gays is the
test case of the authenticity of the government’s drive for a more
open society. He is not hopeful.The government says its decision to refuse People Like Us a license
merely reflects current mores, but Au and his associates complain
that they have no means to plead their case to the public if they are
not allowed to do so openly. The good news is that at least the bad
old days of regular police dragnets to entrap homosexuals seem to be
over. Meanwhile, Au keeps adding new slices of life to his Yawning
Bread loaf. Recent offerings include an essay on the future of ASEAN,
a humorous account of how he helped his nearly 80-year-old father get
wired and a reflection on cruising public toilets.
HARESH SHARMA, 35, playwright
ALVIN TAN, 37, artistic director

For Haresh Sharma and Alvin Tan, blurred boundaries are a good thing.
Tan, right, below, is artistic director of the theater group The
Necessary Stage (TNS), while Sharma is its resident playwright. The
way they see it, written rules governing the local drama scene don’t
actually match practice. For example, touching on such sensitive
areas as race, religion and sex, particularly homosexuality, is
officially discouraged, but many plays deal forthrightly with these
supposedly taboo topics. “It’s good in a way that the OB
(out-of-bounds) markers are blurred,” Sharma says. “Sometimes you
just don’t know where the lines are. If we were to push too much and
they made the rules very clear, then maybe no plays would get
performed, which would be even worse.”As it stands, TNS no longer has to submit scripts to the Public
Entertainment Licensing Unit, but must still pass them to the
National Arts Council. The group also voluntarily slaps a rating on
its own performances, particularly if a work contains sensitive
material. If the National Arts Council reckons something is too
on-the-edge, it may have it reviewed by a committee. “Where it goes
from there, we’re not quite sure,” says Tan. “Most of the time,
though, everything is all right.”Last December, a day before a presentation of sex . violence . blood
. gore ., a play by twenty-somethings Alfian Sa’at and Chong Tze
Chien, the censors asked for three scenes dealing with race to be
cut. Tan considered canceling the show, but decided to go ahead. The
contentious scenes were not performed, but Tan had the text
photocopied and distributed to the audience. When the scenes were
reached, the house lights were turned up and the situation was
explained to the public. Actors carried on “in fast-forward” with no
words. “The censorship was against the scenes being performed, but
not against the text,” explains Tan. “It was a loophole, but we moved
right to the brink. By being pragmatic, we preserved as much of our
integrity as we could.” By censoring, Tan reckons, the government
contradicts its own aim of fostering a more open society.Sharma says he doesn’t feel constrained as to what he can or cannot
write. He is now working on a play about two drag queens that he
wants to be performed by real transsexuals. Tan points out, however,
that scriptless performance art and so-called audience-participation
forum theater remain “proscribed” – not strictly banned, but unlikely
to be licensed. Because organizers would have to place a $59,000
deposit with the authorities, nobody tries. But that’s not stopping
resourceful playwrights. Some plays that are approved and staged
include improvisation and audience participation – with no complaint……………………..

(These articles were formerly found at the following URLs:
but have since been removed.
A less well formatted version is found here:
This archiving of this article was first done by Petrus Tan on SiGNeL:
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