The Singapore Court of Appeal, the country’s top court, on Monday refused to overturn legislation criminalizing gay sex, ruling that the three men who brought the challenge had no legal status. reason because the government has pledged not to enforce colonial-era laws.
Gay rights advocates have sought to overturn the law, known as Section 377A, arguing that it discriminates against gay men and promotes discrimination. The law, enacted in 1938 during British rule, did not apply to women.
Pink Dot SG, a leading LGBTQ advocacy group that organizes Singapore’s annual pride event, said it was “deeply disappointed” by the decision.
“Acknowledging that Section 377A is unenforceable in the procedural sense alone is cold comfort,” the group said in a statement. “The real impact of Section 377A lies in how it perpetuates discrimination in every aspect of our lives: at home, at school, at work, in our media and even in our media. access to vital services such as health care.”
A similar law was imposed by the British colonial rulers in India – and known as 377 – was struck down of the Supreme Court of India in 2018, inspiring activists challenge the law in Singapore and other former British colonies.
Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, has long said that his small Southeast Asian island nation is conservative and unprepared for the changes repealing the law would bring.
In 2007, Parliament voted to repeal Singapore’s original Section 377, which banned oral and anal sex between consenting adults, but left Section 377A in the books. At the same time, the government said it would not be “actively” enforcing the section, which allows up to two years in prison for a man for “any indecent act” towards a man. other.
In Monday’s 152-page decision, the Supreme Court ruled that it was up to Parliament to decide whether to repeal the law.
The Court said: “It is Congress, not the courts, that is best placed to deliver a pluralistic vision tailored to different interests. “The courts are not the leaders of social change or the architects of social policy.”
Because the law was not enforced, the court concluded, three plaintiffs – Dr. Tan Seng Kee, a retired doctor; Ong Ming Johnson, a gambling and marketing executive, and Choong Chee Hong, the former executive director of an LGBTQ counseling center – cannot be harmed, and therefore have no right to sue.
“They do not face any real and credible threat of prosecution under [Section] 377A at this time and are therefore in no position to pursue their constitutional challenges to that provision,” the court ruled.
Gay rights activists called the ruling “a devastating blow” and said the Supreme Court ignored the harm caused by the law.
Clement Tan, spokesman for Pink Dot SG, said: “Today’s verdict is disappointing for those who were hoping for some real change. “Despite acknowledging that gay men can live freely in Singapore, free from harassment or interference, the courts are still hesitant to sanction them. Now, Congress must deal the final blow to Section 377A. “
A statement signed by 19 activist groups noted that the court had ruled that Section 377A in its entirety would be unenforceable in prosecution matters. However, they said the ruling was flawed because gay men could still face police investigations under the law and would be subject to discrimination.
Mr Ong said he was disappointed by the ruling and that the LGBTQ community would continue to work to change the law. “This antiquated act undermines the principle of equality in our modern and diverse society,” he said.
He also noted that the government’s commitment to non-implementation could change at any time.
“We may be safe from prosecution today,” he said, “but we may not be safe 10 years, or two years from now, or even next month.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/28/world/asia/singapore-gay-sex-law.html Activists say