JavaScript is off. Please enable to view full site.

Singapore activists challenge gay sex ban in court after India ruling

Thursday, November 14, 2019, 10:21 GMT+7
Singapore activists challenge gay sex ban in court after India ruling
File picture of participants at Pink Dot, an annual event organised in support of the LGBT community, gathering in formation to call for the repeal of Section 377A of Singapore's Penal Code, in Singapore, June 29, 2019. Photo: Reuters

SINGAPORE -- Singapore’s top court has heard challenges to its colonial-era gay sex law, a thorny issue in the socially-conservative city-state, for the first time since similar legislation was scrapped in India last year.

The initial hearing of the cases was held on Wednesday and will continue over the next few weeks.

Three activists are arguing that Section 377A, a rarely-used law under which a man found to have committed an act of “gross indecency” with another man could be jailed for up to two years, is unconstitutional, according to their lawyers and local media reports. The law does not apply to lesbians.

Previous efforts to repeal the law in 2014 failed, but activists have been emboldened by the landmark ruling in India in September last year, by polls suggesting attitudes toward homosexuals are changing, and a perceived softening in tone from some establishment figures.

“Homosexual males are not lesser Singaporeans. They...deserve the same respect and legal protection under the Constitution. Section 377A...violates those fundamental constitutional protections,” Bryan Choong, one of the three, said in a written submission provided by a lawyer to Reuters.

Wednesday’s hearings were not open to the public. The Attorney-General’s Chambers, acting as defendant, did not respond to a request for comment.

The verdict will take a few months, said Remy Choo of Peter Low & Choo, one of the lawyers representing Choong.

The cases will be watched closely in neighboring Malaysia where gay sex is also a crime and led to the conviction of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar has since been released and is expected to take over from current leader, 94-year-old Mahathir Mohamad.

Growing minority

Gay sex is criminalized in about 70 countries globally, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has previously said that Singapore society “is not that liberal on these matters”.

However, following the Indian decision, a prominent Singaporean diplomat called for challenges to the local legislation while law minister K. Shanmugam said a “growing minority” wanted it repealed and that laws should keep pace with societal change.

Recent surveys show there is growing acceptance of homosexuality. In a poll released in May by Singapore think-tank Institute of Policy Studies, opposition to gay marriage fell to 60%, down from 74% in 2013.

In his submission, Choong also argued that recently declassified documents from the UK National Archives show that the original purpose of the law was to stamp out male prostitution and it should therefore not apply more broadly to all male homosexuals.

Reuters

More

Read more

;

Photos

VIDEOS

Experience summer sand-boarding in Mui Ne

Sand-boarding, a popular activity amongst local children in the coastal tourism town of Mui Ne in south-central Vietnam, is attracting hundreds of tourists to the Red Sand Dunes

Young maple trees given better protection as Hanoi enters rainy season

The trees are currently growing well, with green leaves and healthy branches.

Hunting skinks for food in southern Vietnam

Skink meat is known to be soft, tasty, and highly nutritious.

Vietnamese-made app allows people to grow real veggies via smartphone

Nguyen Thi Duyen, a young engineer in Hanoi, developed the app and its related services to help busy people create their own veggie gardens.

Chinese tourists hit by Vietnamese over dine and dash

Four Chinese were reportedly injured, with one having a broken arm.

Latest news

Out of sight…

I recently wrote an article about the cost of living for an expat retiree in Vietnam and discovered during research that I was spending money on things out of habit, not need