Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Singapore court to hear gay man’s appeal to abolish sodomy laws

A doctor who organised the first public rally in support of homosexual communities in Singapore is seeking to abolish Section 377A of the city-state's Penal Code.

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Singapore’s appeals court will today hear arguments by a 63-year-old gay man seeking to abolish a law criminalising the act of sodomy, a year after the High Court dismissed his challenge.

Dr Roy Tan, a medical doctor who, a decade ago, organised the first public rally in support of homosexual communities in Singapore, is represented by the city-state’s prominent human rights lawyer M Ravi.

“I filed the first challenge in 2010 when I first met Dr Roy, who stood by us during the legal challenges over the years that gave the standing for all gay men to challenge this discriminatory and absurd law.

“It has been a long road to justice and equality. I hope this time round, 377A will be struck down,” he said, referring to the Penal Code’s Section 377A which criminalises “gross indecency” between men with a jail term of up to two years.

In 2019, Tan filed a constitutional challenge against the law, saying it was no longer enforced.

But the court last year ruled that not enforcing the law did not affect its constitutionality.

Government lawyers had then argued that any move to repeal the law should be decided by the Parliament and not the courts.

Tan is now seeking for the court to instruct the government to table a bill abolishing Section 377A.

This is not the first time that gay men have challenged laws criminalising homosexual acts. In 2014, the Court of Appeal threw out a similar challenge by a gay couple, in a judgment which remains binding.

The Singapore government has maintained that the law, enacted during the British colonial era, will not be implemented.

In 2019, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said despite the existence of the law, his government welcomes everyone to work in the republic “no matter your sexual orientation”.

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