LGBTQ Community is Protected under Amendments to MRHA

16 October 2019

Protection under Amended Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act

1. Amendments to the MRHA

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.

[Emphasis added]

2. Explanatory Statement included

When asked as to why the Explanatory Statement was included, our Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam explained to TodayOnline, “I told them that the Government’s clear position, was that everyone should feel safe in Singapore. We will not tolerate any threats made to physical safety. No one should threaten someone because they were LGBTQ; and likewise, no one should threaten someone else, because of religious affiliation. This has always been our position.” Mr Shanmugam said that he had a dialogue with a group of LGBTQ individuals.

3. Eugene comments on TodayOnline

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.