Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Against Corridored Thinking (Shamed But Not Ashamed, Pt.4)

Andrew Khoo's presentation was nicely timed, given its nature. After two on-the-ground, position-specific takes on religion, morality and sexuality (by Hamzah and Bong, both of whom were reasonably clear what they believed should or shouldn't be accepted as normal), it would seem appropriate to 'step back' and relook at the debate.

Khoo, deputy chairperson of a number of committees in the Bar Council, began by posing the 'big' questions (after amusingly issuing a 'health warning' that his views for the day do not represent the Bar Council's):
  • who decides what morality, let alone public morality, is?
  • if morality is begotten of religion, then whose religion sets the standard?
  • how would we define 'gender equality'? (here some of us were introduced to the acronym, "LGBTIQ")
  • what's the importance of sexual morality vis-a-vis other facets of morality? why is sex such a 'big deal' (and has it always been the case)?
  • how do we navigate between private notions of morality and public law?
  • should privacy legislation be practised, and what exceptions would there be?

I know my LLB-loving wife would've enjoyed the legal terms thrown out. I particularly took interest in the new knowledge that Malaysia had criminalised homosexuality under Section 377 of the Penal Code which, paradoxically, could outlaw male-male relationships but not lesbians (why not? check out the link). In the matter of sexual acts, we cannot ignore the question of what constitutes 'natural' and 'unnatural' activity (yet another bullet-point for the list above then).

Given the amount of reflection needed, to jump straight into condemnation, according to Khoo, would reflect 'corridored thinking' - and I agree. I also resonate with Khoo's method of focusing on asking the right questions instead of rushing to give knock-down answers cum arguments (which I suspect is what many have done, given their partisan loyalties - I've written my own confession in the previous post).

Khoo did, however, address the issue of the public's right to interfere into the privacy of others. This would be allowed in the case of hypocrisy i.e. when a politician's private life (e.g. he's gay) contradicts his public position (e.g. he pushes for anti-gay policies). In this case, according to this argument, the public should have the 'right to know'.

What's disturbing about this, though, is that it may make 'hidden cameras' more prevalent as how could the public be sure that a politician is not living/acting hypocritically unless his private life is an open book?

Khoo also (semi-provocatively) suggested that there could be another way to look at the Elizabeth Wong episode: Could it be a case of the media being concerned about public morality, thereby 'sacrificing' an innocent victim so the community could be warned? Who's to say, right? Who indeed.

Some concluding remarks up next...as for Irene Fernandez's session, I left after about seven minutes so I really can't say much here. I look forward to hear what others report.


Y2K said...

Wow! I never knew there's a web page devoted to Sodomy Laws! Glad that we do attract attention for all sorts of reasons... I wonder what the debate (if any)in parliament would have been like when adding S377a in, hehe..

Anonymous said...

haha, i don't think parliament is the best place for an objective debate (at least not from what i've been catching on the telly) ;>)