‘Shame and homophobia’: Gay rights activists blast Singapore court ruling

singapore pink dot festival anti-gay law
Photo: Pink Dot SG

Singapore’s top appeals court has rejected an attempt by local LGBTIQ+ activists to overturn the country’s ban on gay sex, despite admitting it’s not enforced.

Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code criminalises same-sex relations between men.

Though not enforced, the British Colonial-era law states offenders can be jailed for up to two years for “gross indecency”.

Three gay activists have fought in the courts to have the law scrapped.

They argued the court should strike down Section 377A for violating the Constitution, which guarantee respectively personal liberty, equality before the law and freedom of expression.

However this week, the Court of Appeals dismissed their legal challenge on the basis authorities do not enforce the law.

As a result, the plaintiffs “do not face any real and credible threat of prosecution” under the archaic Section 377A.

“Therefore [they] do not have the standing to pursue their constitutional challenges to that provision,” Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said.

The judges ruled Section 377A would stay on the books. This is because of its “symbolic weight for the conservative mainstream in Singapore,” they ruled.

“It is parliament, and not the courts, that is best placed to devise a pluralistic vision that accommodates divergent interests,” the judges declared.

Top court ruling is ‘profoundly disappointing’

LGBTIQ group Pink Dot SG said the court ruling “side-stepped the issue” of human rights and is a “devastating blow”.

“The acknowledgement that Section 377A is unenforceable only in the prosecutorial sense is cold comfort,” it said.

“Section 377A’s real impact lies in how it perpetuates discrimination across every aspect of life.

“At home, in schools, in the workplace, in our media, and even access to vital services like healthcare.”

Pink Dot SG spokesperson Clement Tan added, “Today’s ruling is frustrating for those who were hoping for some real change.

“Despite acknowledging that gay men should be able to live freely in Singapore, without harassment or interference, the court still hesitated to strike it down.

“It now falls on Parliament to deal the final blow to Section 377A.”

Under Singapore law ‘gay men are unapprehended criminals’

London-based charity Human Dignity Trust gave the Singapore activists legal help during their years-long court battle.

The Trust’s Chief Executive Téa Braun explained the Court of Appeal is the apex court in Singapore. This means this week’s ruling is final and ends the activists’ challenge.

Braun said the court had reinforced a moratorium on the arrest of gay Singaporean men for consensual, same-sex sexual activity.

However she said the “discriminatory, criminalising” Section 377A must be repealed.

“Even though the threat of arrest has been removed and this has been formalised by the Court, in declining to completely strike out the law criminalising same-sex intimacy, gay men in Singapore are still effectively unapprehended criminals and subject to a culture of shame and homophobia,” Braun said.

“Now that the fight is over in the courts, the Singapore government must now [legislate].

“[The government must] match the great strides made recently in modernising sexual offences legislation by reforming the criminal law that discriminates against LGBT people.

“Laws which in 1938 were meant to express society’s views about sex acts between men have no place in a 21st century global financial hub such as Singapore.”

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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