Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Homosexuality Issue in Singapore: A Deeper Legal Problem

Singaporeans are well aware that our Minister Mentor Lee had questioned the homosexuality ban under S377A of the penal code. Is it true that some people are genetically destined to become homosexuals? According to Reuters, MM Lee said, "If in fact it is true, and I have asked doctors this, that you are genetically born a homosexual - because that’s the nature of the genetic random transmission of genes - you can't help it. So why should we criminalize it?"

Therefore, according to the Minister Mentor’s analysis, if there is a genetic predisposition for sexual preferences i.e. homosexuality, the question which remains for us is this: "Why should we criminalize sodomy and homosexual activities?"

In line with this rationale for the decriminalization of homosexual acts based upon a tenuous genetic basis, should we then likewise decriminalize the following?

1. Violent acts, grievous hurts, manslaughters, and murders secondary to allegedly "genetically predisposed" violent or aggressive behavior. (1)

2. Pedophilia and related sex offences. Likewise, if pedophilia is a psychiatric illness due to predisposed genetic factors, should it then be decriminalized? (2)

Bringing such reasoning to its logical conclusions, should we therefore decriminalize all legal offences with any probable underlying genetic pathogenesis i.e. manslaughter, murder, causing hurt, pedophilic sexual activities and materials, as well as statutory rape?

There is another issue that might be pertinent in our current discussion. Should alcoholism and alcohol dependence be used as a mitigating factor in drink-driving offences? (3) In other words, if Tommy drinks and drive, and kills Harry on the road, should psychiatrists and clinical geneticists be called in to serve as expert witnesses i.e. to assess Tommy’s genetic make-up and mental condition? This is definitely not done in Singapore. If a genetic predisposition indeed serves as a viable factor in determining the legality of consensual homosexual acts, why should not this reasoning extend into the area of drink-driving legislation?

My points are simple. Firstly, the legislation of law cannot escape a moral argument, and therefore, the argument of a first cause. Assistant Law Professor Yvonne Lee, in an article defending S377A of the penal code, wrote, "Homosexuality is offensive to the majority of citizens. Allowing an aggressive homosexual rights agenda to dictate law reform ignores the nature of Singapore's multi-religious, multiracial community. Such an agenda would be divisive. Therefore, the attention given to fundamental moral values of the majority of citizens by retaining S377A [of the Penal Code] in its entirety strikes the right balance." (4)

If the law of the country must consider the moral and ethical values of its citizens (in this case Singaporeans), what then determines such moral values? Is it not the religious affiliation of its adherents i.e. God? To relegate the intrinsic morality of the conscience of man to chance - such as random mutations and natural selection - is similar to saying that, "Rape and murder is wrong simply because we had evolved that way." It is turning the value of morality against itself by stating that there is really no right or wrong. Right and wrong are determined by chance itself. And chance had determined that right is probably right, and wrong is probably wrong. But there is really no right or wrong, except that our genes and genetic history had somehow arrived at a conclusion - that criminal acts such as rape and murder are deleterious to our survival. However, these moral concepts may continue to evolve and change. If conditions are such that rape and murder are beneficial to the survival of Homo sapiens, such acts may then become morally right.

Therefore, unless a country’s legislation is grounded upon immutable values of right and wrong, the law may indeed change in the future in view of the evolving moral climate and values. Such a time may come whereby the criminal acts of rape, murder, and terrorism may be decriminalized simply because the majority deems such acts as being morally right. If moral values are evolving, should the law of a country also evolve to accommodate the moral climate of the times?

Secondly, attributing the etiology of sinful acts to the arena of medical genetics is like leaving the legislation of law to the whims of cultural preferences and the majority vote. Genetics alone cannot justify a criminal activity. In fact, science can never be valid for the justification of what God had called a sin and abomination. If medical genetics can indeed be used to justify various criminal acts, and if this rationale is extrapolated to a variety of criminal offences, is the court of law in Singapore ready to accept its logical conclusions? Should psychiatrists, clinical behaviorists, medical geneticists, and psychologists be trained to identify those with genetically predisposed criminal urges (e.g. aggression, sexual violence, pedophilia etc)? Should we start determining the karyotypes of all our criminal offenders in order to search out predisposing genes? Should the court of law therefore accept these "genetic predispositions" as viable mitigating factors in criminal trials?

If the law of Singapore must respect the moral values of its citizens, I believe the legislature should begin exploring more objective ways of determining what constitutes morally acceptable behavior. If Neo-Darwinism is accepted as unadulterated truth, then should criminal law change in accordance with the moral evolution of the country? God forbid, but if such criminal genetic aberrations become dominant within the population, should the law be changed to accommodate the majority opinion i.e. what the majority thinks is right or wrong?

Therefore, law professors such as Yvonne Lee ought to begin pondering upon the following question: Should the legislature pander to the "fundamental moral values of the majority of citizens?" Or should there be a more objective method of evaluating the morality of such widely accepted moral values of the majority?

For the Christian reader, I submit to you that the Bible will be, and must be, the objective truth whereby all laws of the country are to be evaluated. If the stand is taken such that the morality of the majority must be served in the legislation of law, it is not far remote that there might come a time whereby the history of ancient Israel might repeat itself, "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6; cf. 21:25)." The law of the land would be determined by the capriciousness and mutability of genetic, cultural and moral evolution, and not by the righteousness of God’s Holy Word and His law. Surely, we would rather submit ourselves to a theocracy, than to an ochlocratic society.


1. See Caspi A, McClay J, Moffitt T, Mill J, Martin J, Craig I, Taylor A, Poulton R (2002), "Role of genotype in the cycle of violence in maltreated children," Science 297 (5582): 851-4; Brunner HG, Nelen M, Breakefield XO, Ropers HH, van Oost BA (1993), "Abnormal behavior associated with a point mutation in the structural gene for monoamine oxidase A," Science 262 (5133): 578-80.

2. See Langevin, Ron, "A comparison of neuroendocrine and genetic factors in homosexuality and in pedophilia," Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment Volume 6, Number 1 / March (1993), pp 67-76; Fagan PJ, Wise TN, Schmidt Jr CW, Berlin FS, "Pedophilia," JAMA 2002, 288(19):2458-65; Renshaw DC, "Medical research in pedophilia," JAMA 2002, 289(10):1243; Dressing H, Obergriesser T, Tost H, Kaumeier S, Ruf M, Braus DF, "Homosexual pedophilia and functional networks - an fMRI case report and literature review," Fortschr Neurol Psychiatr 2001, 69(11):539-44; Mendez MF, Chow T, Ringman J, Twitchell G, Hinkin CH, "Pedophilia and temporal lobe disturbances," J Neuropsych Clin Neurosci 2000,12(1):71-6.

3. See Nurnberger, Jr., John I., and Bierut, Laura Jean, "Seeking the Connections: Alcoholism and our Genes," Scientific American, Apr 2007, Vol. 296, Issue 4; William Sherman, "Test targets addiction gene," New York Daily News, 11 February 2006; Ulf Berggren, Claudia Fahlke, Erik Aronsson, Aikaterini Karanti, Matts Eriksson, Kaj Blennow, Dag Thelle, Henrik Zetterberg and Jan Balldin, "The TaqIA DRD2 A1 Allele Is Associated with Alcohol-Dependence although its Effect Size Is Small," Alcohol and Alcoholism 2006 41(5):479-485.

4. Yvonne C. L. Lee, "Decriminalising homosexual acts would be an error," The Straits Times May 4, 2007. Emphasis mine. Does the political philosophy of Singapore advocate majoritarianism?


Jenson said...

It is no wonder my pastor said to me - when I was contemplating returning to Singapore - "Singapore is just 2 steps behind UK in terms of immorality..."

Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

If so much so is said then why is that nothing change or mention to change the situation in the first place.

Chee Soo Kiat said...

Vincent, your argument seems to boil down to a contention that to decriminalise homosexuality is to ignore the morality of the majority in Singapore. In what way would this be true? Surely any Singaporeans opposed to homosexuality would still be perfectly at liberty to continue refraining from gay sex and indeed would be perfectly free to continue disapproving of gay sex. I don't see how the law change would make any difference to their moral behaviour or beliefs. Why on earth should it trouble them that other people are given the right to engage in consenting private acts? You behave according to your private morality, and I'll behave according to mine. I really do struggle to understand why you religious types are so anxious to get your noses into other people's bedrooms. Perhaps you're worried that we're having more fun than you? But come now, Vincent, if your neighbour's getting a bit of ass, I thought your bible told you not too covet it?

Anonymous said...

glad to see that you included your stand on God's word