The Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (“MRHA”) was recently amended to improve its protective ambit. In the Explanatory Statement to the Bill, the Government made clear its intention to protect members of the LGBTQ community:-
The offence in the new section 17E(1) and (2) deals with the offence of knowingly urging, on the ground of religion or religious belief or activity, the use of force or violence, and the target group or target person is distinguished by religion or religious belief or activity, or by ethnicity, descent, nationality, language or political opinion, or any other characteristic whether or not of a similar kind.
The target group need not be confined to persons who practise a certain religion. The target group may be made up of atheists, individuals from a specific racial community, who share a similar sexual orientation, or have a certain nationality or descent like foreign workers or new citizens.
When asked for comments, Eugene Thuraisingam said:
Mr Shanmugam has consistently maintained that the Government has a zero-tolerance policy towards those advocating harm or violence against others, including against LGBT persons.
The legal inclusion of the LGBT community into the protective umbrella of the MRHA is a much-welcome step forward.