Sunday, November 12, 2006

Proposed changes to S'pore Penal Code

Singapore commentators and bloggers have had a field day debating on the proposed changes to the Penal Code -- the first major revamp of the entire code since 1984.

As expected, most of them focused on proposed changes to laws governing sex, illegal assembly and blogs. A sample argument is available on popular blog Yawning Bread, run by Au Waipang, who is openly gay.

Some of the proposed changes of the Penal Code are:
8. For “unlawful assembly” (s.141), the provision has also been amended to make it clear that an assembly of 5 or more people whose common object is to commit ~ offence, and not just those relating to public tranquility, would also constitute an “unlawful assembly”. This clarifies the definition of “unlawful assembly” to make it clear that the offence need not be an offence involving public tranquility and is in line with Court pronouncements.

9. Arising from the case of the racist bloggers who were charged under the Sedition Act, we propose amending the Penal Code to provide another option to the Sedition Act, to charge such offenders in future cases. Hence, MHA recommends expanding the scope of s.298 on “Uttering words, etc with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person” to cover the wounding of racial feelings as well. For future such cases, where appropriate, prosecution can have the option to proceed under the Penal Code or the Sedition Act.

10. Currently, s.377 criminalises all forms of carnal intercourse against the order of nature, other than vaginal intercourse, between a man, woman, or an animal, regardless of whether consent was obtained or if the act was performed in a public or private place. We intend to repeal s.377, re-scoping it such that anal and oral sex, if done in private between a consenting adult heterosexual couple aged 16 years old and above, would no longer be criminalised. As part of the rescoping, the archaic term “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” will be remov
ed. The offence of bestiality, currently covered under s.377, will be expanded to cover the scenario where a person was compelled by another person to perform bestiality without his consent.

Laws on male and female homosexuals will remain unchanged, meaning that they will remain a crime (I think they were first introduced when bullock carts and trishaws were still roaming the streets of British colonies in the late 19th century) But there has been no enforcement of the archaic law. Singapore is probably not ready to embrace gays openly.

What's the bottomline of all the proposed changes in Singapore? Be careful when you blog or plan a public meeting, but feel free to do whatever you want in the bedroom as long as you are heterosexuals! :-)

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