Sex Laws
2 min

Singapore: Gay couple challenges law criminalizing gay sex

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — Following an August decision by the Singapore Court of Appeal that a challenge to the country's colonial-era law prohibiting gay sex can proceed, a gay couple has also filed suit to have Section 377A struck down, according to Fridae, a queer Asian news portal. 

While Singaporean authorities have not actively sought to enforce the
provision against men who have sex with other men in private, the gay community and rights activists have pushed to have the law
eliminated.

Gary Lim says the assertion that it's not proactively enforced does not go far enough. "It leaves the possibility of 'passive enforcement’ should someone decide to make a complaint against us one day." His partner of 15 years, Kenneth Chee, adds that while he doesn't live in fear he will be arrested because of his relationship with Gary, he knows that 377A labels him a criminal.

In August, the Court of Appeal struck down a high court decision
that rejected a challenge to 377A brought by Tan Eng Hong, who was arrested
after he was caught engaging in oral sex with another man in a shopping
centre toilet in 2010. The charge against Tan, 49, was reduced to one of committing an obscene
act in public, and he and the other man were fined $2,400 each.

Fridae notes that the Court of Appeal commented on the "very real and intimate" injuries that were caused by 377A and how it potentially "makes criminals out of victims."

"The judges also raised the fact that the government’s ‘guarantee’ that s377A will not be proactively enforced is problematic and also highlighted that police continues to issue ‘stern warnings’ to gay men in Singapore under the section," the report adds. 

In an interview with Gay Star News, law professor Lynette Chua says that while Section 377A doesn't criminalize sexual identity, it criminalizes "the conduct of a particular group of people [and] creates stigma for that segment of the population."

Chua says that, in a study she ran, activists told her the law's existence doesn't bother them and doesn't have a real impact on their lives. "Then again, the law being in place means that there's something wrong about their behavior. So I still think the law sends a symbolic message. I don't think it's good enough saying they're not going to enforce it."

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