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Singapore Court Rejects Attempt to Overturn Ban on Gay Sex

By Michael W. Chapman | April 1, 2020 | 2:41pm EDT
A supporter wrapped in a rainbow flag attends the annual "Pink Dot" event in a public show of support for the LGBT community at Hong Lim Park in Singapore. (Getty Images)
A supporter wrapped in a rainbow flag attends the annual "Pink Dot" event in a public show of support for the LGBT community at Hong Lim Park in Singapore. (Getty Images)

Singapore's High Court rejected an attempt by three pro-LGBT activists to overturn the city-state's law against homosexual relations, thereby reaffirming its prohibition of gay sex as constitutional, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on March 30. 

The law, penal code section 377A, was established in 1938. If male homosexuals are caught engaging in sexual relations, they could face up to two years in prison.  However, the law is  rarely enforced. But it is proper to have the law because it is "important in reflecting public sentiment and beliefs," said the presiding judge. 

Singapore skyline.  (Getty Images)
Singapore skyline. (Getty Images)

The three activists who filed appeals with the High Court are Bryan Choong,  disc jockey Johnson Ong Ming, and retired doctor Roy Tan. They argued that the law is unconstitutional because homosexuality allegedly is immutable.

Justice See said it is not clear that homosexuality is biologically determined, noting that many scientists contend it is caused by environmental factors. He further said, “The court is not the appropriate forum to seek a resolution of a scientific issue that remains controversial."

Attorney M. Ravi, who represents Tan, said the court's ruling was “utterly shocking and astounding to the conscience," reported the SCMP. “Members of the gay community who don’t have a control over their sexuality … are going to be criminalized.”

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

"All previous challenges against Section 377A have failed, including one by gay couple Lim Meng Suan and Kenneth Chee in 2012, which was dismissed on the grounds that the law was meant to preserve public morality and signify society’s disapproval of male homosexuality," said the newspaper. 

“Statutory provisions serve an important role in reflecting public sentiment and beliefs," said one of the judges.  "Section 377A, in particular, serves the purpose of safeguarding public morality by showing societal moral disapproval of male homosexual acts.”

A spokesman for Pink Dot, the dominant LGBTI organization in Singapore, told the SCMP,  “The court’s ruling effectively upholds, entrenches and continues the discrimination of a minority group. This undermines Singapore’s values of community, respect for the individual, and the very fabric of our multicultural and diverse nation."

“Through its trickle-down effects, Section 377A has been used to justify the discriminatory treatment of LGBTQ+ Singaporeans in areas such as housing and immigration," said the spokesman. 

h/t South China Morning Post

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