K Shanmugam on S377A repeal: A matter of listening to what S’poreans, as a whole, want


“We are not in the business of compromises,” said Minister for Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam during a panel discussion on Sep. 26.

Shanmugam was responding to an assertion that the repeal of Section 377A may be a “political compromise” during a panel discussion on Tan Seng Kee vs AG and Section 377A of the Penal Code.

Reiterating that the Singapore government is “deeply committed” to the definition of marriage in the Women’s Charter, the minister said:

“This government has been so careful in the way we are proceeding with the amendment because we respect both the democratic process, and we respect the courts.”

It is not a political compromise, he said, adding that the government is not encroaching on the jurisdiction of the courts because the repeal of Section 377A and the definition of marriage is a matter for Parliament, not the judiciary. 

“The courts should not be deciding what is and what is not a marriage. If S377A is a matter for Parliament, marriage is even more a matter for Parliament.”

“What is right and what is wrong, I can’t speak for the generation 10 years, 15 years, 20 years from now. This government is committed to this definition of marriage. We have given, in very clear terms, where we stand. The next Prime Minister has indicated where he stands, and his Cabinet stands. That’s what we can say. And it will be debated in Parliament.”

Since the definition of marriage is a political issue, Shanmugam said that if most Singaporeans want to change its definition in future, they should get elected and change the law from there.

“That is how a democracy ought to work.”

In that vein, the minister said that this is an issue of the Party listening to what Singaporeans, as a whole, want. 

“We listen to everybody, but in the end, we have to say this is what we believe in. Not what we believe in for ourselves, but what we believe in for the benefit of the country.”

Cover photo credit: K Shanmugam Facebook