What is the question?
To repeal or not to repeal. That is not the question. Rather it is the debate over the question of whether gay sex should be decriminalised that seems most intriguing.
First, there was the Repeal 377a website that started to campaign for the repeal against section 377A of the Penal Code. Under that section, it is an offense for a man to have sex with another man. In the website, there were resources posted for people to read. It also posted arguments why the law should be repealed when amendements to the Penal code are finalised when Parliament sits on Monday 22 Oct. There is also an online petition put up on the website calling for the Prime Minister to repeal the law. At time of this posting, there were about 6300 signatures to the petition.
More recently, a video was put up by celebrities, mostly theatre practitioners, on the site. Hosted on YouTube, the rap video was put together to appeal to people to join the campaign and sign the petition.
ust yesterday, a website was launched apparently to counter the Repeal website. It is almost a mirror of the former. It calls for the “silent majority” to speak up and make their voices heard on this issue of the 377a law. To date, at about 530 pm, almost 3400+ signatures have been collected.
Whether or not the law should be repealed is not of interest to me, (although I am 90% sure it will NOT repealed, regardless of whether Keep377a.com was set up or not). Rather it is the very healthy, very sharp debate that has resulted because of the issue being aired in cyberspace. Undoubtedly, letters have been written to Straits Times forum page from both camps. But knowing the conservative nature of ST, most of the anti-gay law letters will be published while pro-repeal folks would have had limited exposure.
But in this age of the New Media, who needs newspapers or editors?
What has since resulted is an exchange of views on several levels. As far as I can tell, these are the arguments that have been most frequently discussed
1) Why have a law when it is not enforced?
2) Homosexuality is unnatural, therefore evil
3) Repealing 377a is about upholding equality and individual freedoms
4) Keeping 377a is about upholding family values
5) Christianity = bigotry
6) Majority versus minority
7) Should a law be a reflection of a society’s values? Who decides what these are?
In the past, would have these issues been aired? I doubt it. It may have been whispered about, talked about at coffeshops or at watercooler breaks but elevated to a national level?
Of course, the debate was fuelled by a vocal and enthusiastic Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong, (whom I suspect PAP regrets appointing now heh) who is going to submit a Parliamentary petition to include repealing section 377a under the Penal Code amendments.
The traditional media went to town with his story, simply because it was the first time anyone had the guts and gumption to do something so audacious; use the Parliamentary system to enact change! Imagine that.
In the process of doing so, the traditional media took on the role of the multiplier and let uninterested parties know of the going-ons of the virutal world.
In fact, I think that is the crucial link in this whole chain of events. Many people continue to write off the traditional media, saying that it is going downhill and will not be able to sustain itself in the Internet age. Yet, its influence, especially in Singapore, is still tremendous.
The reason? Mass media broadcasts. Everyone who buys the newspaper reads the same thing. On the Internet, people narrowcast. People generally go to the sites they want to go to, read the blogs that talk about the issues that interest them. Once in a while, they stumble upon a site which provides an alternative viewpoint. But rarely do they actively seek out a site which says something that is contrary to their views. Unless you are a neutral, like me, who has an interest in the debate itself and not the noise itself.
But noise can only be good. With noise, at least people learn and make their choices. No noise? There is nothing.