Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act and Section 377A of the Penal Code
If you live in Singapore you are familiar with two laws that are now getting a lot of attention; the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act of 2014 and Section 377A of the Penal Code.
The Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) was enacted in 2014 in reaction to decades of air pollution caused by land users in Indonesia. The THPA was meant to provide the government with a mechanism to prosecute companies that use the slash and burn land clearing method. This method causes severe, sometimes hazardous pollution of the air in Singapore, Malaysia and beyond. The related health hazards and economic impact are substantial.
The prosecution of gay men has been an option for the Singaporean authorities for a long time. Section 337A of the penal code makes sex between two men a criminal act. Despite a review of the Penal Code as recently as 2007, this law remains enforceable.
The origins of Section 377A go back to a time when officials considered sex between men to be against the order of nature.
In fact, the 377A “Outrages on decency” section of the Penal Code can be traced back to King Henry VIII’s 1534 so-called anti-buggery law which, according to Wikipedia, borrowed heavily from the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament. Essentially King Henry’s law banned any form of sex lacking the intention of procreation.
Yes, this law is yet another cultural treasure inherited from the British. However, to their credit, the British repealed their anti-gay law in 1967.
The record of enforcement of both laws is telling.
When the THPA was adopted in August 2014, Vivian Balakrishnan, who was Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources at the time, said that, “This will create criminal and civil liabilities for errant companies that cause haze by burning forests and peatlands. We have to make companies accountable for the harm they inflict on our health and environment.”
Since August 2014 there is no record of any indictments or successful prosecutions under the THPA. One rare reference to an attempt at enforcement involved an Indonesian businessman who recently ignored a request to be interviewed by Singapore’s National Environment Agency officers.
Whilst policing haze culprits has so far not lead to any prosecutions, there have been convictions of offenders under Section 377A.
The Economist reported in 2014 that “Between 2007 and 2013, nine people were convicted under 377(a), according to a spokesman for Singapore’s State Courts.” That is one and a half convictions per year within those 5 years.
Yet in Parliament on 23 October 2007, prior to these 9 convictions, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that, “We do not harass gays. The Government does not act as moral policemen. And we do not proactively enforce section 377A on them.”
Which crime is ‘against the order of nature’?
In 1534 homosexuality was considered to be an ‘act against the order of nature.’
Yet today we know that such sexual orientation has existed amongst humans for as long as we have recorded history.
On a wider scale, looking at nature, we know that many animals on this planet exhibit homosexual behaviour.
In light of such facts, in what possible way can homosexuality still be considered to be an act against the order of nature?
On the other hand, inhaling polluted air, even simply smoke from a campfire, is without question against the order of nature. Entirely at odds with our survival instincts.
Which guests at a barbecue willingly stand in the plume of smoke, when simply stepping upwind of the flames will provide fresh, healthy air?
To knowingly create a situation in which millions of people are forced to inhale smoke haze, laced with particulate matter, or PM10, with its known health hazards, that must unquestionably represent a gross act against the order of nature.
Yet those acting in a natural way remain stigmatised and prosecuted, whilst those unnaturally poisoning millions of their fellow countrymen and the populations of neighbouring countries face no consequences.
Sadly, looking at human nature, maybe that is its inherent nature of our species.
List of notable gay, lesbian or bisexual people
Humans, a ‘special’ member of the animal community, have also been practicing homosexuality, secretly or overtly, since the beginning of written history.
Health Hazards from Smoke Haze
Tori Rodriguez, MA, LPC, writing for Endocrinology Advisor, reports that “Particulate matter [smoke haze] pollution has been identified as a top risk factor for global disease burden, and previous studies have linked it with negative cardiovascular (CV), respiratory, and metabolic effects. Other findings suggest a causal association between particulate matter and oxidative stress, which could help explain the association with [Cardiovascular disease] risk.
Tori has left no doubt that the particles inhaled from smoke haze are unhealthy, and therefore breathing them would appear to be against the order of nature in view of the survival instinct shared by all creatures.
The Graphic: Even though it is not required, I’d like to thank Jnzl’s Public Domain Photos for the Flickr Public Domain image Samsui women and coolies at Pink Dot 2014 Singapore , one of two images used in creating the banner graphic. The smoke image is from the Flickr Commons. Graphic created by Thomas Timlen using Gimp.