Monday, 15 April 2013

Section 377A and the LGBTs

Update 14 Jul 2014: After 76 Years, Singapore High Court to Reconsider Anti-LGBT Law

Today, Singapore’s Supreme Court heard challenges to the country’s 76-year-old ban on same-sex conduct.

The ban, known as Section 377A, has existed since 1938. The Singaporean government says that the ban has not been actively enforced since the mid-1990s, but 185 people were convicted under the section from 1997 to 2006.

Last year, LGBT activists started an online petition for abolition of the ban at a lower court. The High Court rejected the lawsuit to repeal the ban.


Singapore High Court dismisses challenge to anti-sodomy law

The High Court of Singapore on Wednesday dismissed a constitutional challenge against a law which criminalises consensual sex between men.

A written judgement on Wednesday reiterated a ruling from April, which said that it was up to the countrys parliament to repeal Section 377A of the country’s Penal Code.

Judge Quentin Loh said in his verdict: “Parliament has the mandate under our Constitution and system of law to make decisions on and surrounding controversial issues.”


S’pore gay couple to appeal recent Court decision on Section 377A

The couple whose bid to overturn anti-gay sex law Section 377A was rejected by the Singapore High Court last week have filed an appeal.

“We believe that gay men should not have to go to jail for being who they are, and this is why we are appealing the decision,” said partners Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, who have been together for 15 years.

“Singapore is one of the few Asian countries that criminalizes LGBT people and the existence of S 377A has a dampening effect on society. For example, LGBT businesses and societies face unfair and often insurmountable bureaucratic hurdles in getting registered,” the couple added.

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Kenneth, Gary and 377A

Reading through all the comments on the recent verdict with respect to the repeal of section 377A I was surprised at the number of ugly comments that people had left. I know people are entitled to their opinions, but there were many that were just rude and plain offensive.

It made me take .......a step back because this is not a reflection of the Singapore I know.

Most seemed to be religious in nature, and while everyone is entitled to follow the religion of their choice they have no right to push that belief on anyone else. Any relationship between a person and their God must be a purely personal one. And it's clear from most of the comments that many don't even understand the issue to begin with

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Court ruling deals blow to gay rights in Singapore


Rights activists reacted with indignation on Wednesday after Singapore's High Court rejected a petition to repeal an archaic law criminalising sex between men.

In a ruling issued on 9 April, the court said it was up to Parliament to repeal a controversial provision in the penal code known as Section 377A, whose constitutionality has been questioned by a gay couple.

"The issue in the present case no doubt is challenging and important, but it is not one which, in my view, justifies heavy-handed judicial intervention ahead of democratic change," Judge Quentin Loh said in his verdict.

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Repeal of gay sex law a “looming threat” to the family unit
Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong (left) with Faith Community Baptist Church founding pastor Lawrence Khong on stage during a church service on Jan 13. A press release and 14 photos of the visit were posted on the church's website this week

In a press statement posted on the Faith Community Baptist Church’s website to highlight former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s visit to the church on Jan 13, founding pastor Lawrence Khong told his congregation with Goh in the audience that his church members are committed to “build strong families in Singapore” and by their definition the family unit “comprises a man as Father, a woman as Mother, and Children.”

The Emeritus Senior Minister is a long-time MP for the Marine Parade district where the church’s Touch Centre auditorium is located. The visit is said to be part of the minister’s walkabout to meet with constituents in the area. Goh was also the guest-of-honour at the launch of the Marine Parade Christmas light-up last year which cost the church over S$300,000, as revealed by Khong during a recent church service.

Khong warned that they “see a looming threat to this basic building block by homosexual activists seeking to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code.”

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Section 377A not a question of ‘indecency’ but of humanity
Singapore's High Court upheld the controversial Section 377A law criminalising sex between two men, after a challenge by a gay couple (Getty Images)
Singapore's High Court upheld the controversial Section 377A law criminalising sex between two men, after a challenge by a gay couple (Getty Images)


When the ruling over Section 377A was passed in the High Court Wednesday, some cheered jubilantly online while others voiced disappointment and anger. 

It left me wondering: would reaction be so different if this debate online on the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) takes place offline. What if the blanket of sexual discrimination was removed in the real world to expose individual tales of struggle and hope that lie beneath? 

What if you turn around and suddenly realise your best friend is gay? That one of your parents might be gay? That your sibling is contemplating suicide because society does not accept him or her? That in each anonymous story on Gay SG Confessions, the writer hopes to be equal with others?

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Singapore gay man loses first of its kind workplace discrimination court case

A gay Singaporean man, who brought a civil suit against his former employer for 'forced resignation', has had his appeal dismissed by the Supreme court on Thursday.


Lawrence Bernard Wee Kim San, 40, who said he was harassed into leaving his job as a senior manager at a well-known retail store Robinsons in August 2012, was also ordered to pay S$20,000 (US$16,000) in legal costs.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling by the High Court in December last year.


Singapore court dismisses challenge to anti-gay law


This handout photo made available by 'Pink Dot' on June 18, 2011 shows activists gathered at Hong Lim park in Singapore (Pink Dot/AFP)

Singapore's High Court on Wednesday dismissed a constitutional challenge against an archaic law criminalising sex between men, the second such petition turned down this year.

In a written judgment, the court reiterated an earlier ruling that it was up to Parliament to repeal the provision in the penal code, known as Section 377A.

"Parliament has the mandate under our Constitution and system of law to make decisions on and surrounding controversial issues," Judge Quentin Loh said in his verdict on the challenge, launched by a man who was arrested after being caught with a male partner in a public toilet cubicle in 2010.

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Court dismisses duo's bid for Queen's Counsel to argue against gay-sex law

A gay couple fighting against a Singapore law that criminalises sex between men has lost their bid for a Queen's Counsel to argue their appeal.

In a written judgment on Thursday, Justice V K Rajah dismissed the application by Mr Gary Lim and Mr Kenneth Chee for Lord Peter Goldsmith to present their case before the Court of Appeal.

Mr Lim and Mr Chee are challenging Section 377A of the Penal Code, arguing that it was unconstitutional. Their bid was dismissed by the High Court in April and they filed an appeal.

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related:
Court dismisses bid to admit QC for 377A appeal

Couple loses bid to get top lawyer in Section 377A appeal

I'm not ashamed of being gay, but I'm ashamed to be Singaporean
The Pink Dot mascot between the mascots for fear and ignorance. Singapore's High Court upheld the controversial Section 377A law criminalising sex between two men, as the LGBT movement continues in Singapore (Yahoo! file photo)
Yahoo! Newsroom - The Pink Dot mascot between the mascots for fear and ignorance. Singapore's High Court upheld the controversial Section 377A law criminalising sex between two men, as the LGBT movement continues in Singapore (Yahoo! file photo)

I'm gay. I'm not ashamed of it, not by a long shot.

What I am ashamed of, however, is being part of a country that has the temerity to decry another country's human rights records, while at the same time making homosexuality a criminal offence. I am ashamed to be associated with a Government that boasts of its democratic freedoms while outlawing public assembly. I am ashamed to walk amongst a people who are so widely traveled and yet so parochial, so narrow-minded and so infuriatingly judgmental.

In short, I am ashamed to be a Singaporean.

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With law against him, Singapore pol says he's gay

                     
                     
                     
              In this Saturday, June 29, 2013 photo released by Pink Dot SG rally organizers, Singapore's first openly gay politician, Vincent Wijeysingha, a member of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, speaks to reporters at the annual Pink Dot SG rally in support of gay rights in Singapore's Hong Lim Park. Wijeysingha recently confirmed that he is gay and said he believes Singapore's government will someday be forced to abolish a law that criminalizes consensual sex between men. (AP Photo/Pink Dot SG)
In this Saturday, June 29, 2013 photo released by Pink Dot SG rally organizers, Singapore's first openly gay politician, Vincent Wijeysingha, a member of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, speaks to reporters at the annual Pink Dot SG rally in support of gay rights in Singapore's Hong Lim Park. Wijeysingha recently confirmed that he is gay and said he believes Singapore's government will someday be forced to abolish a law that criminalizes consensual sex between men. (AP Photo/Pink Dot SG)


This conservative city-state convicted men for homosexual behavior as recently as seven years ago, and the British colonial-era law it used is still on the books. Singapore’s government shows no interest in making a change: The prime minister’s advice has been to just let things be.

Opposition official Vincent Wijeysingha isn’t taking that advice. On his Facebook page last week, he became the first Singaporean politician to come out of the closet, and he is advocating for the law to be scrapped.

He told The Associated Press on Monday that although the government resists decriminalizing homosexuality, ‘‘society will eventually overtake it on this question.’’

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related:
Washington Post: 1st gay politician in Singapore says law criminalizing homosexuality
Straits Times: Opposition politician Wijeysingha is first politician to say he's gay
PinkNews: Singapore's first out gay politician urges for repeal of anti-gay laws
Examiner: Out around the world: Singapore's first openly gay politician
AsiaOne: Dr Wijeysingha is first openly gay politician here, sparks debate

Singapore High Court rejects repeal of gay sex ban for men

AFP reports the court, which is part of the Supreme Court, said it was up to parliament to repeal a provision in the penal code known as Section 377A – the legality of which has been questioned by a gay couple.

On Tuesday, Judge Quentin Loh said: “The issue in the present case no doubt is challenging and important, but it is not one which, in my view, justifies heavy-handed judicial intervention ahead of democratic change”.

He added: “To my mind, defining moral issues need time to evolve and are best left to the legislature to resolve.”

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Modern Singapore grapples with archaic sex law

Many of Singapore's gay bars are located in Tanjong Pagar (AFP, Roslan Rahman)

With its gay bars and same-sex couples publicly displaying affection, the Tanjong Pagar district offers a glimpse of a Singapore whose outlook contrasts with its more conservative image.

Located in the city's central business area, it is also home to offices and government buildings. Its bars come to life at night, part of a gay scene that continues to evolve.

But while gay and lesbian couples openly live together and are gaining social acceptance, a law whose origins go back to the 19th century when Singapore was a British colony is still seen as a threat by the community.

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OPINION: Is Singapore's stance on homosexuality changing? - Mariko Oi 

BBC News, 23 Apr 2013: Section 377 of the Penal Code may not mean much to people in the UK today, but the law which criminalises homosexual acts is a British legacy still found in many former colonies in the Far East. However, it is now being challenged in Singapore.

Under the law, a man caught committing an act of "gross indecency" with another man could be jailed for up to two years.

It was introduced by British colonial authorities as part of broader legislation which also banned sexual acts such as anal and oral sex. Similar prohibitions also remain in section 377 of the Penal Codes of Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Full story

Related:

  1. Gay laws challenged in Singapore - BBC News
  2. Singapore is full of contradictions - Gaytimes.co.uk 
  3. Gay Couple of 15 Years Challenges Singapore Law Criminalizing Homosexuality
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Fundraising for S377A Constitutional Challenge


We have crossed our initial target of US$50,000 in 18 hours since our launch thanks to your overwhelming support! This speaks of the depth and breadth of feeling on this issue, which is heartening and most encouraging to the team. And especially to Gary and Kenneth.

But the campaign will NOT end at the US$50,000 mark. The total amount of legal and court fees that need to be raised is actually US$150,000 (over both high court and court of appeal phases).

We still have a long way to go before meeting that target and will gratefully continue to accept contributions from well wishers.

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Do something: A message to our Members of Parliament

While countries around the world debate same-sex marriage, Singapore is one of those nations still stuck in the past, quibbling over pointless, archaic laws.

Back in Singapore we aren’t even talking about letting gay men and women get married, because we’re still too busy arguing about whether men who have sex with other men should potentially be thrown in jail. It’s a debate that we’ve been having for a long time, yet we seem no closer to getting rid of this stupidity even as our government’s excuses – and they are excuses – grow more and more pathetic.

Recently the High Court dismissed a legal challenge to Section 377A, leaving the decision to Parliament. But what was Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s last statement on the issue? “Why is the law on the books? Because it’s always been there and I think we just leave it.”


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Growth of gay groups 'a challenge'

S'pore will have to address their needs and interests, says former chief justice

The global growth of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities has not left Singapore untouched and this is a new challenge the country must face, said former chief justice Chan Sek Keong.

He added that whatever the outcome of the challenge to the anti-gay law by activists in court, the needs and interests of this community must be addressed.

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Faith Community Baptist Church alleges AG gagging order

In a story on 377A, the BBC reported “The Faith Community Baptist Church said it could not comment to the BBC, citing an order by the Attorney-General’s Chambers.”

Order? What order? I checked around and even AGC insiders are surprised that they issued such an order.

The closest one insider could think of  is this media release from AG in January: Sub Judice Reminder on Public Comments for and against the “repeal” of section 377A,Penal Code.

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What is Section 377A

While many would no doubt heave a sign of relief, especially those who belong to certain religious groups or those who are not quite comfortable with the thought of men getting close in public or in private, there would be others who feel that Singapore has lost a chance to move ahead with the times. 

Personally, I don't see the repeal of Section 377A as a public endorsement of gay people or the rejection of religious beliefs.  To me, to repeal Section 377A is to celebrate love, and to acknowledge that people, no matter how different they are compared to the majority, has the equal right to love another human being. 

There would be skeptical parents out there who would be thinking at this point, yeah right, what if his own son is gay... see what he would say then!  Actually, I have had this conversation with Mummy Cher before - if Aiden one day tells us that he is gay, the news will not be met with disdain.  As long as he is truly happy, it will suffice.  If there is any hesitation on our part, it will be because we know it will be difficult for him to be truly happy, with society (and legislation) judging his sexual orientation.

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Not prepared to wait

One of the repeated arguments reiterated by supporters of the status quo was the idea that repealing 377A will lead to the destruction of the basic family unit and the moral fabric of society. That is where conservatives and I have something in common: the idea of family is important to me. And I believe that anything powerful enough to destroy families or demean the moral fabric of society needs to be dealt with.

Let me give you a few examples: I have a friend who was beaten up by his father when he came out as gay, and subsequently sent to another country. I have another who was dragged across the floor by her hair and thrown out of the house. Late last year, the media covered a story about a group of public bus-drivers in uniform who hurled derogatory words at a transgendered woman for simply existing in a public space. A few months ago, the papers covered a story about a woman who was gang-raped in an effort to "correct" her sexuality.

This is what breaks up family units and destroys the moral fabric of our society; beliefs – cultural or otherwise -  that demonise, stigmatise, alienate and harm fellow human beings. Not people fighting to repeal an archaic colonial statute that labels people criminals based on who they have consensual sex with. Take it from first-hand experience, if you must: When I was twelve, I was “exorcised” against my will; a seven-hour-long ordeal intended to cast “lesbian demons” out of my body. Four years later, when my mother found out I was dating a girl, she informed me that I was going to hell.

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The Straits Times: Misrepresentations and anti-religious bias 

Today's edition of the Straits Times runs an article from Agence France-Presse, which it titled "France Speaker gets anti-gay threat" (23 April 2013). According to the article, on Monday, the speaker of France's lower house  received an envelope containing ammunition powder and a threatening letter exhorting him to delay an imminent vote on a gay marriage bill. Other senators have also received threats. Senator Esther Benbassa said her car was trashed and that she had received threatening phone calls, emails and letters. Erwann Binet was heckled by "far-right militants". 

While the Straits Times cannot be fully blamed for the content of the article, it being attributed to Agence France-Presse, the way in which the issue is reported suffers from some severe defects. 

"Anti-gay threat"? A misrepresentation - At the outset, the characterisation by the Straits Times of the matter as an "anti-gay threat" is an outright misrepresentation. In the same article, drawn from Agence France-Presse, appearing on the Hong Kong newspaper The Standard, the title reads more accurately, "French house speaker threatened over gay marriage bill". The Taipei Times titles the same article "Lawmaker sent letter with gunpowder ahead of vote".

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S377A court ruling - bringing in the irrelevant stuff 

The ST article has two main points. They are:
 1. Sg has to face up to the global challenge posed by LGBT society.
2. The impact on shariah laws in Sg if S377A is ruled to be unconstitutional.

There really is no need to bring in loopy, convoluted, irrelevant points into the picture. 

We have to give credit that IonSG has not taken a partisan stance. He is neither pro nor anti gay or Islam, or for that matter pro or anti any religion or secularism. That said, it would have been a much better written article had he just stuck to the two main points above.

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Impact of repeal of section 377A on Islamic beliefs and values?

Today's edition of the Straits Times runs an article, "Growth of gay groups 'a challenge'" (13 April 2013). The report references a lecture delivered by the former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong to the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, titled "Multiculturalism in Singapore - the way to a harmonious society". According to the report, Chan CJ noted that the LGBT community was a new group that was developing, in contrast to the traditional fault lines of race and religion, that had to be carefully managed.

Of the consequences of the constitutional challenge against section 377A of the Penal Code (Cap. 224, 2008 Rev. Ed. Sing.), Chan CJ noted the possible impact on "Islamic beliefs and values". To quote the article:
One consequence of would be its impact on Muslim law, he said.

"Sodomy is a grave offence against Muslim law. If S377A is held unconstitutional on the ground that it discriminates against homosexual males, how would it impact on Islamic beliefs and values?"

Mr Chan said that whatever the court's verdict, Singapore will have to address the needs and interests of the LGBT group, which crosses racial and religious lines, with members coming from different cultural traditions.

"Managing these tensions calls for care and sensitivity, tolerance, patience and compromise," said Mr Chan.
"Political and community leaders would need to pay attention to these issues constantly"

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Skeletons in the Closet: A Legal Response to Section 377A

In his 92-page judgment, Justice Quentin Loh said that in Singapore’s legal system, whether a social norm that has “yet to gain currency” should be discarded or retained is decided by Parliament. Parliament voted in 2007 to retain Section 377A.

Predictable move. While relentless ping pong between bodies reluctant to make decisions is not exclusive to Singapore, the fact that the constitutionality of a statutory provision which discriminates against homosexuals is defended by evoking “social norm(s)” shows the lack of a separation of powers between Parliament and the judiciary.

Whether s.377A is constitutional is strictly a matter of law; the courts should not base judgements on the preponderance of social attitudes. Furthermore, Parliament retains complete power over the decision to amend or repeal s.377A, even if the court has ruled against its constitutionality. One of the biggest responsibilities of the judiciary is to prevent the arbitrary exercise of parliamentary sovereignty,which has long been deemed a doctrine that does not hold much water (Jackson v AG, etc), by upholding the rule of law. Does this mean that murder will be constitutional if it becomes a norm that has gained currency? Is the majoritarian viewpoint the sole benchmark for law enforcement? Whatever happened to protection of minority interests? Let’s drink to elective dictatorship!

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Section 377A and equality for all

As a couple of ten years and married for five, we learn with disappointment the High Court's decision to uphold Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises consensual sex between two adult men.

This has implications on many of our gay friends. We notice some fellow Singaporeans have used the rhetoric of family, values and morality, further galvanised by claims of faith and religiosity, to continue the call for social and institutional discrimination against gay people. We cannot stand for this form of exclusion and discrimination.

Gay Singaporeans have already long been mentioned and portrayed in the mainstream in conjunction with contentious morality, disease and promiscuity. Discourses on their acceptance have also been couched, conditionally, in economic rhetoric, such as “pink dollar”. Furthermore, they remain subjected to slippery slope arguments that conflate homosexuality with paedophilia and bestiality.

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Gay SG Confessions

When I realised I was gay, I came out to my brother. Older than me by 2 years, I had always looked up to him since young. He was popular in school, good in sports and lots of girls went after him.

He sat down on the bed in my room when I told him, “Kor… I think I’m gay.” He kept silent for a moment as I held my breath & stared at the floor. Would he be mad at me? Would he call me a disgusting freak and tell our parents? Would I lose my best friend since young? The silence was growing and I started panicking. I told him about how I always felt uncomfortable when I went out with girls on dates, how I found myself looking at guys more and how I even had a crush on another campmate. 

“You scared I get all the girls issit that’s why you like guys?” I looked up in shock and saw that he was grinning at me, his usual infectious smile that would always light up any room. I punched him lightly on the arm and told him to be serious lah! He just shrugged and said, “Gay lor so what? You’re still my brother. My class also got a few gay guys and they seem alright.”

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Frontal

The homosexuality debate is a victim of how easy it is to characterise – pretty much ever camp can be described in terms of whether it regards homosexuality as naturally occurring as well as whether homosexual couples deserve rights equal to those of heterosexual couples. So it polarises entirely as a matter of values, and those are almost impossible to reconcile (scientifically accepted in the field of psychology – source: this psych major).

But dragging politics and legislation into the issue makes it rather different, especially in a democracy. Problematically, the majority imposes on the minority. That is to say, given that those who oppose homosexual rights quite solidly outnumber those who support them, democracy bows to the majority. The Court is correct when to imply that its hands are bound anyway, and Parliament is correct to accept the will of the (overwhelming majority).

If anyone wishes to contest my assertion regarding the majority opinion, I frankly state that I’m basing this off a rough memory of a poll sometime last year or the year before, that found the liberal perspective is quite crushed under the sheer weight of numbers not just regarding homosexuality but on the capital punishment too. I also gleefully admit I’m too much of a lazy bastard to go dig up that poll. One day I want my own PA/secretary/housekeeper to handle such things. I’d want one now, but I can’t afford to pay a salary.

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A lesson in democracy from New Zealand


For my Singaporean readers, I will leave you with a very Singaporean analogy. I have fond memories of visiting the hawker centre with my friends when I was growing up in Singapore. Ah yes, the great Singaporean culinary institution. One could get a wide array of local dishes at the hawker centre and invariably, we would often all end up eating different dishes - it was the kind of venue which was great for gatherings because you don't have to all agree to eat the same dish or even the same kind of cuisine and still hang out with your friends.

Now my Malay friends were all Muslims and thus do not consume pork nor alcohol - yet they had no qualms about coming to the hawker centre with the rest of us as long as there was a halal option available to them at the hawker centre. They understood that we had no issue with the consumption of pork and alcohol and would not object to us choosing a dish which did include pork like yong tau hoo, char kway teow or wantan mee.

By the same token, we would be respectful of the fact that they would only consume halal foods - hence there was this mutual understanding and tolerance that existed amongst us. My Muslims friends never demanded that we didn't eat pork or stop drinking alcohol in their presence - no, they respected our right to make that choice for ourselves.

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Is there any reason for the government to continue to uphold 377A and criminalise homosexual acts? 

As with adultery and premarital sex, it is simply not practically possible for the government to in fact enforce 377A, nor would there be much social gains to be had in this enforcement. If there is any justification for 377A, it has to be external to the text of the law itself.

Because of the centralisation of much civic institutions and social functions into the government hands, 377A sets standards and norms for governing how these other institutions should function, one of the most important ones being that of education. 377A would mean that public schools cannot promote homosexuality nor frame their sex education towards those ends for they cannot promote what is technically illegal.

Should the Singapore government begin to decentralise the management of civic institutions and take a lesser role in defining social norms, then 377A would become redundant which abolition would be justified. But until then, as long as the state continues to police many civic institutions, and as long as it upholds the norm of the institution of marriage, 377A exists precisely to discourage the use of sexuality outside of the marital ends of uniting the relationship building significance of sexual acts with that of procreation and care for the offspring of such relationship.

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Secularism and abolishing Section 377A


What is becoming a regular issue of contention in Singapore is Section 377A which criminalises homosexual acts.

There are four broad camps regarding this matter. First, there is the gay community itself, or generally the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered) community, which wishes to see the repeal of 377A; second, we have those who want to keep the Act in force belonging to religious communities (the Christian group seeming the most vocal); third, would be the general public which has different views ranging from broad-based support for removing the Act to many who want to see it in place as they are not sure what removing it would mean. Finally, there is the government which is trying to show that while it enforces 377A, it also seems open to removing it when the time is right.

The key issues over the contentions tend to revolve around religious groups that state: While they do not want to seem to be persecuting any individual or community for having different lifestyles, they are worried about the implications of repealing 377A: Through extrapolation of where this might lead relating to the structure of the family, the nature of marriage, bringing up children etc. For instance, does this open the door to gay marriage and adoption of children, and so forth. Many of these views would be shared by the general public who are unsure what the elimination of 377A implies.

S377A - to prevent what harm?


Curiously, the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill of 2007, proclaimed as the result of only the second comprehensive review of Singapore’s 136 year old criminal code, is likely to be remembered more for what it did not do than for what it did.

To be sure, there is much reform in the Bill, and much that is uncontroversially needed. Many of the changes are technical in nature and would require some acquaintance with the intricacies of criminal law to appreciate.

Not so the issue of whether consensual gay sexual activity between adults ought to continue to be criminalized. When the proposed amendments were unveiled in November last year, few other matters in the document so dominated public discourse. Yet after many months, much feedback and careful deliberation, nothing has changed.

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My Right to Love

Last week, I had chanced upon a photograph of a Singapore junior college’s General Paper (GP) notes, which discusses issues of discrimination. In this particular section, the issue of homosexuality was discussed. I would not publish the photograph here as the author of the photograph had decided to remove the photograph, and I would like to respect the author’s right to do so.

However, I would like to point out two sentences which I was uncomfortable with:
  • “To protect the rights of children, it may be necessary to restrict the rights of homosexuals.”
  • “A government might also justify discriminatory policies on ground(s) of social order and stability.”
Please note that as you do not have access to the notes, there can be a possibility of taking these statements out of context. Though I would say that, for whatever purposes the notes were created for, even as they could even be meant as a starting point for discussion, I do not believe that it is appropriate to frame the discussion from such a deterministic angle, first because of the lack of intellectual quality, especially since the context should be for a broad-based GP critical discussion, but more importantly, on the effects that it would on students who were exposed to such discriminatory language used in the notes, which ironically, aims to discuss the issue of discrimination.

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Penal Code 377A

To repeal or retain Section 377A is a decision yet to be made by the Supreme Court of Singapore.

Recently Singapore Minister for Law & Foreign Affairs, Mr K Shanmugam has shared openly on his facebook page that he has met one LGBT group (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender) , and had a closed-door discussion with them.

Senior Pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) Lawrence Khong Kin Hoong then wrote a letter to him, expressing his concern that the minister has had met this LGBT group, and would like to arrange a meeting with him to express his religious group’ standing on homosexuality or LGBT rights in Singapore.

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Singapore court okays challenge to anti-gay law


Singapore's highest court has cleared the way for a constitutional challenge against a law criminalising sex between men, local media reported Wednesday.

The Court of Appeal on Tuesday struck down a High Court decision disallowing the challenge, launched by a man who was arrested after being caught with a male partner in a public toilet cubicle in 2010.

The new ruling is expected to trigger a fresh debate over a provision in the penal code known as Section 377A, which traces its origins to British colonial rule and carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail for homosexual acts.

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Why Section 377A is redundant

Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises gross indecency between 2 males, regardless of age, has long been used to prosecute a variety of cases, some of which are quite outside the common perception of "homosexuality". For example, it has been used in cases that laymen would think of as molest and paedophilia, albeit that they involved same-sex.

If we repealed this law, would that mean that these crimes would go unpunished? 

The list of s.377A cases researched by Mohan Gopalan will prove useful to this discussion, providing real examples of how the law has been used in the last 15 years or so. I will show that in all these cases, either they should not have been prosecuted, or if they ought to be prosecuted, other laws could have been used. In other words, we never needed s.377A.

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Singapore High Court upholds anti-gay sex law

In dismissing one of two legal challenges in which plaintiffs sought to have the country's anti-gay sex law declared unconstitutional, the judge concludes that while anal and oral sex in private between a consenting man and woman is considered "acceptable," the same conduct was "repugnant and offensive" when carried out between two men, "therefore no reason to strike down... s 377A... as arbitrary or discriminatory."

The High Court in Singapore today dismissed a legal challenge filed by a gay couple Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee. The two men, who have been partners for 15 years, had sought to challenge the constitutionality of section 377A of the Penal Code that criminalises sex between men and provides a jail term of up to two years.

The couple's lawyers had argued that the law violates Article 12 of the constitution which promises equal protection under the law, and that the continued existence of the law “legitimises and perpetuates stigma and discrimination against lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people in society.”

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Section 377A Strikedown Case Fails in High Court


Gaynz.com, 10 Apr 2013
Singapore’s High Court has dismissed a case by gay partners Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee designed to scrap a law which bans gay male sex.


At present, Section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code, introduced when the island nation was under British rule, makes it a crime for men to engage in ‘gross indecency’ with each other, punishing them with up to two years jail.

However, the law is rarely enforced, so de facto decriminalisation already exists. Singaporean LGBT rights advocates have already said they will appeal the case to the Court of Appeal. Link
Related:

  1. Ruling deals blow to Singapore gay rights - news24.com
  2. Singapore High Court rejects repeal of gay sex ban for men - PinkNews.co.uk 
  3. Court ruling deals blow to gay rights in Singapore - Malaysia Star 
  4. Singapore's High Court Won't Review Ban on Gay Sex - Gayapolis News

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Kicking the 377A ball to Parliament

The 377A ball has been kicked to Parliament and it now depends on whether Parliament will play. Except that who is going to blow the starting whistle? With memories of the bruising Population White Paper debate still fresh, it is doubtful that the executive branch will launch a re-think of the law criminalising homosexual acts. It remains to be seen therefore if a courageous backbencher will take up the cudgels on behalf of what is an increasingly vocal and, probably, increasingly bigger segment of the community.

The best report of the judgment on retaining 377A is probably by TODAY. It addressed some points which ST didn’t. But if you want the full works, go to Yahoo which so thoughtfully attached the 97-pager judgment. Good luck to those who want to plough through and work out what “reasonable differentia” and “rational relation” mean.

At the risk of over-summarising, here’s a layman’s translation of the judgment.

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Singapore, the proud land of anti-gay law

Singapore is not a first world country.

Yesterday, a constitutional challenge to anti-gay law was dismissed by the High Court. This is not just about gay rights, it’s a reflection on how flippantly our Parliament and courts take our human rights and democracy. It’s a revelation on how little independence the Parliament and courts have from each other and how little accountability they deem themselves to have to us.

Let me start by explaining the legal shit behind this. Section 377A is a law that makes it illegal to carry out “any acts of gross indecency” between men.  Not just in public, but in the privacy of their homes as well. This year, two challenges to that law were posed. There is a huge difference between criminal law and constitutional law. Criminal law doesn’t dispute that a law is in place to make something illegal. The defendants argue that they did not break the law. Constitutional law challenges the law, arguing that the law in the first place is unfair and should not be there.

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[Sexuality] Homosexuality and Morality 

The legalisation of same-sex marriage in the UK and the recent furore over comments made about Section 377A, a law which criminalises sexual relations between men, points to an underlying disconnect between the approaches that parties in the debate take towards the legitimacy of using legislation to regulate personal conduct on the grounds of its immorality.

One of the fundamental tenets of political liberalism is that the moral conduct of the individual should not be policed by the state, on the basis that to do so would be to pass a normative judgment and hence privilege a certain conception of the “good” over others. The motivation behind this tenet is the accommodation of diversity in differing conceptions of what constitutes “good”, and how the individual may choose to pursue their ideals, thus upholding the inviolability of the principle of personal autonomy. A desirable effect of upholding this tenet is the prevention of state-sponsored coercion of minority views

It therefore comes as no surprise that pro-LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) rights supporters have traditionally appealed to abstract, “morally-neutral” values of autonomy, equality, tolerance, and privacy to justify the accordance of civil rights to LGBT individuals, particularly in societies in which the majority hold opinions which are not conciliatory towards the LGBT community. 

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S377A - bigger issue of religion awaits 

This article takes a look at the long term impact on the challenge of S377A's constitutionality in the courts. It takes a look at how society and the govt will have to view the gay issue over the next few years and beyond.

But lying await behind the scene in this constitutional challenge, is a concern of bigger and more intense proportion - the rights of Muslims to practise components of the shariah.

Putting it simply, gays in their attempt to assert their authority and rights, may well be awakening its sleeping nemesis, which is religion.

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High Court’s Decision on 377A

Tonight’s judgment upholding 377A has not just made me angry; it has literally and justifiably, distressed me. I am distressed about what this judgment says about our courts, about what it implies for my friends who are gay and male, about what it says about this country and about how it affects my relationship to my country-of-birth.

Every law would by definition affect someone's relationship with the country by virtue of the fact that every law is universally applicable to all who are subject to the law, if a law did not affect anyone it would be a rather pointless law which no one should bother to legislate. The fact that the law affects the author is purely a subjective fact which does not say anything about the objective form or justification for the legal judgement.

The lead-up to this court case was nothing new: religious leaders encroaching upon secular society, political leaders hurting their behinds on fences, slippery-slope arguments pivoting the fate of an entire nation’s moral fabric upon whether or not the sex lives of homosexual men continue to remain criminalized – a claim so baseless that it would be laughable if the inanity of its constant regurgitation was not so mind-numbing. Oh, and let’s not forget the 377A-suporters who petitioned the government to invest taxpayer money into“conducting a comprehensive study into the ill-effects of promoting homosexuality in culture”. Er. Right. Because honest socio-cultural inquiry involves conducting a “comprehensive study”  based on conclusions one has already come to. 

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A response to S377A judgement 

After reading the full judgment of the s377A constitutional challenge…I can only say 3 things.

I am disappointed the plaintiffs didn’t argue for the illegitimate purpose of s377A and the judge had to argue it for them (good job Justice Quentin Loh!). Ever since I studied Constitutional Law, I always thought the legitimacy of the statute was the only way to go when attacking s377A, given the formalistic and restrictive nature of the “rational relation” test for Art12 equality. The two-step test is way too easily fulfilled.

I am pretty sure Justice Quentin Loh contradicted himself at para 127 when he talked about his second reason why s377A is not illegitimate. He had earlier said the purpose of s377A was strictly to criminalize male homosexual activities at para 67, and that issues such as procreation and family unit are merely reasons to support retention and not purpose (see para 84). If so, he could not have used procreation and lineage as a grounds for justifying the legitimacy of the statute, since those concerns were only reasons to support retention.

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Singapore judge rules gay sex ban must stay

The case against Section 377A in Singapore’s High Court fails as Justice Quentin Loh says the anti-gay sex law is a ‘social norm’

Singapore’s High Court has dismissed a case by gay partners Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee designed to scrap the law which bans gay male sex. LGBT people in Singapore have already said they will appeal the case to the Court of Appeal.

Section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code, introduced when the island nation was under British rule, makes it a crime for men to engage in ‘gross indecency’ with each other, punishing them with up to two years jail. However, the law is rarely used.

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Singapore: LGBT hell

Justice Quentin Loh yields to Singapore’s prudish public mores when he rules that a law introduced by the British in 1938 which criminalises homosexual activity between men still stands.

The colonial statute reads: “Any male person, who in public or private, commits or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years.”

Singapore appears to be a society garbaged with religious and socially conservative hate-mongers and bigots who masturbate to outdated patterns of thinking. Many erroneously think marriage is defined only as one man plus one woman equal children when no forms of state-sanctioned contract existed in the early foundations of human history. Cave man might have fucked cave woman  but monogamy? Marital fidelity? Come on. Values like marital fidelity did not exist then. Right up to the 19th century, marriage acts were acts of economic and social convenience. Woman love man? No. Man love woman? Never.

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What Outrage?

As everyone in Singapore expected, the Singapore's High Court rejected a petition to repeal Section 377A, a law in Singapore that makes it sex between men a crime. Recently, two male partners launched a petition that challenge the law. As widely expected, the High Court rejected the petition.

Reports on the internet state that there was outrage at the ruling. What outrage? Seriously, outside some activists, who is outraged at the ruling? Hell, I think most Singaporeans are happy with the ruling. In fact, I would argue that this petition should never have reached the High Court in the first place.

Most Singaporeans still view homosexuality as a big no-no and the ruling on the petition came as no surprise to anyone who pay any attention to Singapore. Not only is the law popular in Singapore; legally speaking, the petition had no chance. Section 377A is a law dates back all the way to British colonial rule and the courts were never going to change an old law that is highly popular in Singapore. It's just not going to happen. 

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If There Was Ever Evidence

That the Courts in Singapore do not question the views of the Govt (or more correctly, the Parliament, though in the last 50 years, they are more or less the same because the PAP dominates both institutions), then the S377A ruling is it.

According to the High Court, whether a social norm that has “yet to gain currency” should be discarded or retained is decided by Parliament — which in 2007 had voted to retain S377A.

“To my mind, defining moral issues need time to evolve and are best left to the legislature to resolve,” said Justice Loh, noting that Singapore society is “in the midst of change”.

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It’s not space; it’s a corner

Everyone and anyone would face discrimination or harassment and it is impossible for the world to be free from judgment calls. We’re all entitled to our views and opinions but we won’t have to imposed them. The LGBT community have always try to lead a quiet life, but yet, society allows no rest. Any religion can share their views and this is their right. But when they start interfering with civil law, it is inevitable then for them LGBT activist or civil society to stand up and ask for their rights.

While i’m no protestor on this matter, i’m not taking a stand either ways. But as an individual living as a transman, i feel the appeal above will silent us taking away our rights to speak. To rise above our personal needs will take us to where we used to be - suppressed and unheard. A life full of doubt, uncertainty, and not knowing. Who foresee what happens tomorrow. As we progress, society stop us and force things to be shaped back to what they deem perfect in their own minds.

The answers they think they have may annihilate once they open up their minds.

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A sore-loser's argument against S377A court ruling 

This post takes a look at an article that criticizes the recent ruling by the Court to retain S377A. The main gist of the argument presented by the Court is that society thinks that homo ideals do not befit Singapore's society.

Although the result is expected, anti-S377A lobbyists will still be disappointed. So they will come up with their own arguments, why the ruling is either wrong and/or inconsistent. Not unexpected too, is the tone of these anti-S377A campaigners will be that of a sore loser

Criticizing the sore loser's criticism

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Singapore couple goes to court to abolish anti-gay sex law

Singapore's High Court held its first hearing of Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee's case that seeks to repeal the country's anti-sodomy law

A gay couple in Singapore seeking to abolish a long-standing law banning gay sex had their case heard in court today. The court case was heard just days after a former department store manager sued his boss for alleged discrimination against gays.

The two cases highlight how members of Singapore's LGBT community have become increasingly vocal, demanding changes in the city-state's attitudes toward homosexuality by speaking out against discrimination and raising legal cases to challenge the law.

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Second of two 377A challenges may have to wait a long time for a decision


Wednesday, 6 March 2013, was the day Tan Eng Hong’s challenge to the constitutionality of Section 377A was heard in closed court. Section 377A of the Penal Code is the law that criminalises “gross indecency”  between two men.

This follows quite soon after the court date for another challenge to the same law, mounted by Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee and reported in First of two 377A challenges heard in closed court.

In the Tan Eng Hong case, there are pages and pages of arguments, but my sense, on reading them, is that the issue is being distilled to a few crucial points. And these crucial points are not specific to the “gay issue”, but will prove important to any future constitutional challenge that is based on Article 12 (the equality provision) of our constitution

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AGC urges public against commenting on Section 377A

Singapore actor Lim Yu Beng has joined the growing chorus of netizens condemning recent pleas by two church pastors against the repeal of Section 377A in Singapore.

"To put it simply, Pastor Khong wants it illegal to be homosexual in Singapore. My point is this. Nobody is making it compulsory for him to be gay. Why should he make it compulsory for others to be straight?," he said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

The respected veteran stage and film actor said he was not questioning the Pastor's beliefs but rather "his right to impose those interpretations on others through legislation". Lim's comments come amid a growing and bitter debate in the past week over Senior Pastor Lawrence Khong's plea to the government not to overturn Section 377A, which criminalises sex between consenting gay men.

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More Than 15,000 Singaporeans at Pink Dot 2012!

Tonight, over 15,000 Singaporeans turned Hong Lim Park into a sea of shimmering pink lights, for the first-ever night Pink Dot. For the fourth time since 2009, thousands of straight and LGBT Singaporeans came together to celebrate inclusiveness, diversity and the freedom to love, with the formation of a giant Pink Dot in Speakers’ Corner. This was a 50% increase over last year’s number, continuing a four year trend of growth

An annual event that aims to raise awareness and foster deeper understanding of the basic human need to love and be loved, regardless of one’s sexual orientation, Pink Dot has become one of the most visible and well known events for inclusiveness and diversity in Singapore. It has inspired similar events around the world and has helped bring together Singaporeans in a way that promotes love without antagonism.

Pink Dot spokesperson Paerin Choa said: “Each year, thousands of Singaporeans come together to affirm their support for inclusivity and diversity, and it is a humbling experience to see the number of participants increasing and that so many are supportive friends and families of LGBT individuals.”

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About that pink =


First, in case you didn’t already know: that pink = is a symbol for equal marriage rights – regardless of the gender of the parties involved.

So why did it go viral on the internet recently?  The pink and red logo was first put up by the Human Rights Campaign as a gesture of solidarity and support on 25 March: when the US Supreme Court was deliberating the legal right  of same-sex couples to marry (the outcome of which is expected only in June).  Almost overnight, a wave of apparent support swept through Facebook to the point where even some supporters started to question whether the movement reflected actual active support for gay marriage rights, mere ‘slacktivism’ (a lazy way of jumping on the bandwagon without actually doing much), or even a fashion statement.

Singapore too saw its fair share of pink equal signs on our FB pages, although our lawmakers and judiciary are – to put it mildly – nowhere close to the US in terms of being ready to debate gay marriage rights. But the matter of the position of gays in society is just as contentious here, as indicated by recent public controversy over whether we should repeal or retain Section 377A criminalising male gay sex. So many of those ardently in favour of ending legal discrimination against gays in Singapore have put up the pink sign as a show of solidarity. 

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Should Singapore repeal Section 377A?

In line with International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) – which is celebrated every 17 May, a group of activists are again sounding a call for the Singapore government to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code.

Section 377A states that any two consenting men who commit "gross indecency" shall be punished with imprisonment for up to two years. Maruah, a local human rights non-governmental organisation (NGO), called on the government to immediately repeal the section as it is the “critical first step” towards eliminating discrimination against homosexuals. 

A heated debate on the issue began in 2007, when then Member of Parliament Siew Kum Hong filed a petition to repeal Section 377A, which he cited as discriminatory and a violation of constitutional safeguards on equal rights.

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High Court reserves judgment on second 377A case
A second constitutional challenge to Singapore's anti-gay-sex law, Section 377A, was heard in the Supreme Court on Wednesday. (Yahoo! file photo)

A judge in Singapore’s High Court on Wednesday reserved judgment on a second case brought before the court questioning the constitutionality of a controversial law criminalising gay sex.

The application, filed by 49-year-old Tan Eng Hong through his lawyer M Ravi, challenged the validity of Section 377A of the Penal Code, which provides that consensual intimacy between men is against the law.

Tan was initially charged under the section in question when he was arrested in 2010 for engaging in fellatio with another man in a toilet cubicle in a mall. After Ravi questioned its constitutionality, prosecutors amended their charges to that of committing an obscene act in public, for which Tan and his partner were fined $3,000 each.

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High Court waves away 377A controversy

In a judgement dated 15 March 2011, High Court judge Lai Siu Chiu dismissed the first appeal relating to the constitutional challenge against Section 377A of the Penal Code. This is the law that makes “gross indecency” between two men an offence punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment. The challenge was filed by Tan Eng Hong, who was last year charged under this law after he was caught in a shopping centre toilet with another man.

Represented by M Ravi, Tan’s challenge is still at the procedural stage. Ravi intends to appeal against Justice Lai’s dismissal, so this is nowhere near the end of the story.

Readers will probably need to have the background refreshed.

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Lawyers clash in court challenge of Singapore's anti-gay sex law

Human rights lawyer says Singapore's Section 377A which criminalizes gay sex is 'inherently absurd, arbitrary, vague and discriminatory'

A case challenging constitutionality of anti-gay sex law was heard in the High Court in Singapore yesterday morning.

Human rights lawyer M Ravi went head-to-head with Aedit Abdullah, a lawyer from Singapore's Attorney-General's Chambers, the government's legal advisors. The case, Tan Eng Hong v. Attorney-General, began in 2010 when Tan was charged for having sex with a man in a public toilet under Section 377A, the law which criminalizes sex between men.

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NEWS’ VIEW: Pre-empting the Singapore dilemma

Singapore presents specific challenges to an institution that supposedly prides itself on free expression, civil liberties and non-discrimination. When Yale-NUS opens its doors, real conflicts will no longer be dismissible as mere hypotheticals.

Defending an unjustifiable anti-homosexuality law under the grounds that it is rarely enforced will not be enough when a Yale-NUS student is persecuted under 377A. When students push the boundaries of political expression, Yale-NUS will have to decide how it will respond to action that is incompatible with Singaporean law.

When these confrontations arise, we expect President Salovey, as well as Yale-NUS president Pericles Lewis,  to defend Yale’s values immediately and uncompromisingly — especially those that extend beyond academic freedom. These will be moments for principled leadership. Yale needs a president willing to criticize a partner, willing to respect cultural differences while remaining faithful to the University’s ideals.

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'Political courage needed on issue of gay rights'


A national dialogue about the future of the country must necessarily focus on the fundamentals which undergird how that society functions. This, perhaps more than anything else, should be the starting point of our own National Conversation (NC).

Much have been said and much criticism and ridicule have been thrown at the NC initiative itself. I hope, in this article, to not do that because the NC, for all its shortcomings (and there will be such failings in something as big as this one) is nonetheless still worth undertaking. Why? Because it is about how our children will live in the future, and it is also about what our own lives will be in 20 years. A conversation such as this is not about speaking to the current powers-that-be but also to future alternative ones.

The one thing which is an absolute necessary ingredient in this NC is political courage from our leaders — for there will be many issues and opinions raised, all contending for attention. Some of these issues will be supported by the majority, others may not even be on the radar screen of most. And this is where political courage is needed — to do what is right, and not what is popular and convenient by majority consensus. It is not what governments are elected for.

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Beyond 377A


Sexual orientation and gender identity remain one of the most taboo subjects in Singapore. Recent developments both at home and in the region, however, are slowly but surely making gay rights an increasingly visible issue, and a crucial litmus test for a society’s respect for human rights.

In August this year, a Buddhist same-sex wedding ceremony was performed in Taiwan for the first time, garnering much international attention. A bill to legalize same-sex marriage is currently pending in the Taiwanese government.

Vietnam is also considering legalizing gay marriage, and hosted its first gay pride parade this year, as did Myanmar and Laos. In August, gays, lesbians, transgender people and their supporters in Nepal marched to demand recognition as a third gender in citizen certificates, to allow same-sex marriage and to criminalize discrimination based on sexual preference.

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Singapore PM criticised for defending anti-gay sex law


Members of the LGBT community in Singapore today expressed their disappointment and outrage over the prime minister's reasoning as to why section 377A of the Penal Code which criminalises gay sex should remain.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was quoted by Today newspaper as saying: “Why is that law on the books? Because it’s always been there and I think we just leave it.”

In 2007, he said that the government’s decision to not enforce the law is a "practical arrangement that has evolved out of our historical circumstances" that "reflects the social norms and attitudes." He added: "It's better to accept the legal untidiness and the ambiguity. It works; don't disturb it."

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Singapore’s Prime Minister says to ‘just leave’ anti-gay law
Lee Hsien Loong
Section 377A in Singapore’s Penal Code criminalises sex between two men, even if it is consensual.

Although the government has promised that it will not be “proactively enforced”, it still means that technically all gay men in Singapore are in danger of becoming criminals, and being prosecuted as such. It means that children in Singapore are taught that homosexuality – especially if you’re both men – is a potential crime, which becomes a source of pain and confusion for gay youth. It means that gay men could be hesitant about getting tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) or for AIDS, which means that efforts to contain and treat such infections will be made more difficult, and any scientific or medical research into this area will be restricted.

But hey, why the fuss? Let’s just “agree to disagree”, says Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

PM Lee defended the legislation at the Singapore Perspectives conference hosted by the Institute of Policy Studies, saying, “Why is that law on the books? Because it’s always been there and I think we just leave it.”Because it’s always been there. Not only has the Prime Minister failed to support the rights of a large number of his citizens, it seems like he can’t even be bothered to give a proper excuse.

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Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong Says Law Criminalizing Homosexuality Should Stay Because 'It's Always Been There'

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday that Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes homosexuality, should just be left alone because society will never agree on it, Today Online reports:

Speaking at the Singapore Perspectives conference organised by the Institute of Policy Studies, Mr Lee was asked by a participant how the fact that the Republic is a secular country reconciles with “an old and archaic law that nearly discriminates against a whole (group) of people”.

Lee added that it's not worth publically discussing polarizing issues like gay rights: “These are not issues that we can settle one way or the other, and it’s really best for us just to leave them be, and just agree to disagree. I think that’s the way Singapore will be for a long time.”

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PM Lee: Why Singapore must 'leave Section 377A alone' 

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday weighed in on the two-day Parliamentary debate over Section 377A, which criminalises sex between men.

Stating his own position and the Govermment's position, Mr Lee explained why the status quo must remain, despite the 'legal untidiness and ambiguity'.

Quoting Stuart Koe from Fridae.com, an initiator of the Repeal 377A petition who called on the Government to either 'put the gun down' or 'pull the trigger', Mr Lee pointed out it will be 'unwise' to do so. 'If we force the issue and settle the matter definitively one way or the other, we will never reach an agreement... Instead of forging a consensus, we will divide and polarise our society', he explained. His bottomline: 'Let us keep this balance and leave S377A alone.' 

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An open letter to Minister K Shanmugam to repeal 377A

The Humanist Society (Singapore) was heartened to hear about your meeting with members of Sayoni, (a Singapore-based community of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women) on 27th November 2012. We support your decision to connect with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) citizens as a constituent part of our society who contribute to our economy, protect our citizens and serve our country.

The Humanist Society (Singapore)(HSS) is a registered society in Singapore for humanists, freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and other like-minded people. Humanism is a non-theistic ethical life stance affirming the human right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on a spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. As part of our objectives, we seek to uphold the importance of maintaining secular space in the interest of social harmony, and we encourage respect for all men and women to be free from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, class, disability, gender, sexual orientation, age, or nationality.

Over the last decade, an increasing body of scientific evidence has demonstrated that sexual orientation is part of the human biological make-up that an individual has no conscious choice over. The legalization of homosexuality and same sex/gender unions in many countries has also demonstrated that homosexual relationships are as healthy and normal as any heterosexual relationship. Consequently, many countries, including ASEAN countries and international bodies like the United Nations, are calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality and the removal of policies discriminatory to LGBT persons. The HSS supports the review and repeal of Section 377a of the Penal Code, as a move that would put Singapore in line with international progress and standards.

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Law Minister meets S’pore pastors over 377A issue
<p>Members of the LoveSingapore christian church network met Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam last Friday to discuss the issues surroundign Section 377A. (Screengrab from LoveSingapore Facebook page)</p>

Law Minister K Shanmugam met with a group of pastors from a local Christian network last Friday to discuss issues surrounding a law banning intercourse between men.

According to a post on the minister’s Facebook page on Monday, the LoveSingapore church network, led and founded by Faith Community Baptist Church senior pastor Lawrence Khong, requested a meeting with him on the issue shortly after Shanmugam met with activist group Sayoni.

Summing up the meeting in a separate post on the LoveSingapore Facebook page, Khong wrote that the meeting the network leaders had with Shanmugam was “about defending the moral future of our nation”.

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Repeal of gay sex law a “looming threat” to the family unit: Singapore pastor

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong (left) with Faith Community Baptist Church founding pastor Lawrence Khong on stage during a church service on Jan 13. A press release and 14 photos of the visit were posted on the church's website this week.

A pastor of a megachurch in Singapore has called on his congregation – with a visiting former Prime Minister in the audience – to lobby the government to retain a colonial-era law which criminalises sex between men.

In a press statement posted on the Faith Community Baptist Church’s website to highlight former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s visit to the church on Jan 13, founding pastor Lawrence Khong told his congregation with Goh in the audience that his church members are committed to “build strong families in Singapore” and by their definition the family unit “comprises a man as Father, a woman as Mother, and Children.”

The Emeritus Senior Minister is a long-time MP for the Marine Parade district where the church’s Touch Centre auditorium is located. The visit is said to be part of the minister’s walkabout to meet with constituents in the area. Goh was also the guest-of-honour at the launch of the Marine Parade Christmas light-up last year which cost the church over S$300,000, as revealed by Khong during a recent church service.

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Homosexual restriction laws repealed would threat families, says Singapore pastor

"Examples from around the world have shown that the repeal of similar laws have led to negative social changes, especially the breakdown of the family as a basic building block and foundation of the society," Khong expressed in a statement addressing former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, but did not name which countries in particular he had in mind.

Singapore has strict laws against homosexuality that have stood in place since colonial times. They are currently being challenged by gay rights activists who insist that they should be repealed.

Khong, 51, leads one of Singapore's biggest megachurches with 9,000 congregants, which he founded in 1986. Besides being a popular preacher, Knong is also an entertainer, movie producer and magician -- he has led stage shows called the "Magic of Love" and "Magic Box" intended to share Christ with others.

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Singapore Mega-Pastor Calls Repeal Of Gay-Sex Law “A Looming Threat”

The pastor of a Singapore megachurch is warning his followers that a repeal of the country’s colonial-era law banning homosexual sex would threaten religious freedom and the basic family unit.

Pastor Lawrence Khong of the Faith Community Baptist Church used former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s January 13 visit as a platform to spread his message of intolerance: Khong warned his flock that LGBT activists working to repeal Section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code were a “looming threat” to the basic building blocks of society.

Lesbian activist Jean Chong recently spoke with government minister K Shanmugam, who told her “there can be no suggestion that LGBT citizens are not wanted” in Singapore, but that “the government is often caught in the middle trying to decide what would be acceptable to the majority.” 

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Daily DG: 15 Apr 2013

Section 377A (What is Section 377A?)
– Under The Angsana Tree: Section 377A and the LGBTs
Defending OUR Lion City
– Senang Diri: Guessing game continues over Singapore’s plans for F-35 fighter
Peasant’s way or Government’s highway
– Singapore Notes: Perils Of Staying On State Land
– Bertha Harian: Unsettled over re-settlement

A Vote For Change
– Work Suspended: Why yes, I should be allowed to vote.

read more

related:
Singapore Court Ruling for Gay Rights
FAQs on Sexuality, LGBTs and Section 377A
Section 377A and the LGBTs
'Wear White' 2014
Pink Dots @ Hong Lim Park 2014
‘Wear White’ vs ‘Pink Dot’
Pink Dots @ Hong Lim Park 2013