SINGAPORE — Although most young adults agreed that the repeal of a law criminalising gay sex represents a step towards a more inclusive society, a majority also felt that it is important to uphold the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.
Indeed, there was a contrast in views between young adults who subscribe to a religion and those who do not.
About four in 10 (42 per cent) of the respondents who said that they subscribed to a religion felt that same-sex marriage is wrong, while only 24 per cent of free thinkers and those without a religion felt the same way.
Correspondingly, a higher proportion of respondents with a religion (65 per cent) felt that it was important to uphold the traditional definition of marriage, compared with respondents who were free thinkers or without a religion (53 per cent).
Professor Paulin Straughan, a sociologist from the Singapore Management University, said that the difference in views between those with a religion and those without was not unexpected, since those with a religion tend to be more conservative and would want to stick with the status quo.
“But, when it comes to the repeal of Section 377A, regardless of religion, most Singaporeans, particularly young adults, will agree that it is a bad law and we should never discriminate in that manner,” Prof Straughan said.
Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser, from the National University of Singapore’s sociology department, said the survey showed that even though a substantial proportion of the youth do not view homosexuality as being immoral, they are not yet comfortable with seeing major changes to societal norms.
“I reckon that it is possible to reconcile repealing 377A and rejecting same-sex marriage, if religionists see gay sex as a matter of private, individual choice or even biology; while same-sex marriage is perceived as effectively transforming a social institution, contrary to what they believe,” he added.
VIEWS FROM LGBTQ COMMUNITY
People from the LGBTQ community interviewed by TODAY said that the survey findings reflected a lack of awareness among the general population.
Mr Joshua Simon, the 32-year-old host of podcast The SG Boys, which discusses LGBTQ issues, said that following the Government’s announcement in August that Section 377A would be repealed, the public conversation “very quickly shifted” from the lack of rights for the LGBTQ community to one about the definition of family and marriage, which are rights that heterosexuals in Singapore already have.
This showed that the perception of what is considered inclusive, as reflected by the survey respondents, is not accurate because the LGBTQ community in Singapore continues to be stigmatised, Mr Simon added.
Ms Cally Cheung, a lesbian who started an online platform for the LGBTQ community to seek support, said that people would have a better understanding of the issues that LGBTQ people face when they know them personally.
The 27-year-old gave the example of how those in her immediate circle of friends and family, as well as colleagues, reacted positively when she legally married her partner in Australia in September.
“While (the marriage) is not legally recognised (in Singapore), their warm wishes were undoubtedly sincere. I feel that it is different when people can see that the real people they know are being affected by unequal laws.” ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JUSTIN ONG
Hybrid webinars will be held on Nov 14 and 15 to discuss the findings of TODAY Youth Survey 2022. More details here.