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Singapore's Culture War Over Section 377A: Through the Lens of Public Choice and Multi-Lingual Research
Law & Social Inquiry (2013)
  • Jianlin Chen, University of Chicago

The 2007 debate over the retention of Singapore’s male sodomy law provision set off a vigorous and passionate public debate reminiscent of the U.S.’s culture war. However, the Singapore government’s final decision reflects an interesting compromise. The law was retained, but its moral content severely curtailed with the promise of non-proactive enforcement against private consensual adult activity, the proclamation of accommodating the gay community and the concession of the inborn nature of homosexuality. This article critically examines this episode of culture war in Singapore and explores the political dynamics driving the compromise. Enriching public choice theory on interest group capture, this article argues that the ruling party’s political dominance coupled with limited but real political competition is surprisingly effective in aligning the government’s position with the majority’s preference despite concerted pressures from well-mobilized minority interest groups. In addition, current legal scholarship on this debate has focused on the “vigorous debate” in the English language forums. This article’s examination of the contemporaneous discourse in the Chinese and Malay newspapers enables a more accurate and comprehensive appreciation of this culture war episode.

  • Public Choice,
  • Culture War,
  • Sodomy Law
Publication Date
Winter 2013
Citation Information
Jianlin Chen. "Singapore's Culture War Over Section 377A: Through the Lens of Public Choice and Multi-Lingual Research" Law & Social Inquiry Vol. 38 Iss. 1 (2013)
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