Saturday, 1 November 2014

Singapore Court Ruling for Gay Rights

UN dismayed with Singapore anti-gay ruling
The UN says Singapore's law against sex between men 'codifies discrimination and contributes to societal stigma against individuals who are gay'

The United Nations joined Singapore’s gay community in criticizing a decision of a top court to uphold a law criminalizing sex between men.

The UN’s Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it is “disappointed” with the ruling of Singapore’s highest court to declare constitutional a law that sets a two-year jail term for men who engage in acts of “gross indecency” in public or private.

“The Office said using criminal law to prosecute individuals for engaging in consensual same-sex conduct violates a host of human rights guaranteed by international law, including the right to privacy and the right to freedom from discrimination,” read the statement issued on Friday, October 31.

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Singapore edict criminalizing same-sex relations ‘missed opportunity’ – UN rights office
Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). UN Photo

The United Nations human rights office today expressed regret over a recent Singapore Supreme Court ruling to uphold a law criminalizing consensual same-sex relations between adult men, calling the directive a “missed opportunity” to strike down the law.

Speaking at a press briefing in Geneva, Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said the ruling from 29 October to uphold section 377A of the Penal Code violated “a host of human rights guaranteed by international law,” including the right to privacy, the right to freedom from discrimination, and the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, including protection for sexual orientation and gender equality.

While the law is “rarely” invoked in Singapore, “it nonetheless codifies discrimination and contributes to societal stigma against individuals who are gay,” he said.

related: Discrimination of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender People Must End

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Court's decision raises concerns about freedoms at Yale-NUS

In recent months, campus discussion regarding freedom of expression at Yale-NUS has been focused on Singaporean laws limiting free speech. But on Wednesday when, Singapore’s highest court upheld a law — Section 377A — criminalizing sex between men, questions arose regarding whether students at Yale-NUS are free to explore their sexual orientation.

The verdict to uphold 377A comes after two separate appeals by three gay men in Singapore who claim that the law violates their human rights. Though the law has been in effect since 1938, sources say the law is not enforced in Singapore, including at Yale-NUS. More than a dozen Singaporean students and Yale-NUS professors interviewed — as well as members of the Yale community in New Haven – said the law is not an accurate representation of Singapore’s tolerance towards its gay population.


“[Section 377A] is definitely not enforced on campus,” said Sherlyn Goh Xue Tin NUS ’17, a founder of Yale-NUS’s diversity alliance, The G Spot. She added that while some Singaporeans are frustrated that the law was upheld, others would be more upset if it was repealed.

related: Yale-Singapore college criticism reignited by ban of film

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Why Court of Appeal rejected arguments that Section 377A was unconstitutional
Singapore's Court of Appeal has ruled that Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men, is constitutional. -- PHOTO: NEW PAPER FILE

The Constitution is the supreme law of Singapore and any law enacted by Parliament which is inconsistent with the Constitution is considered void, or invalid.

Mr Tan Eng Hong and gay couple Mr Gary Lim and Mr Kenneth Chee contended that Section 377A contravened Articles 9 and 12 of the Constitution and so should be struck down. But the Court of Appeal on Wednesday rejected their arguments and ruled that Section 377A was constitutional.

Article 9 states that "no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with the law".

related: Court of Appeal rules that Section 377A that criminalises sex between men is constitutional

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Singapore’s Top Court Upholds Ban on Sex Between Men
Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee

Singapore’s highest court said it can’t do anything to help homosexuals seeking to overturn a ban on sex between men because the 76-year-old law is constitutional.

The “intensely controversial” challenge brought by three gay men is best debated before the city’s parliament, Court of Appeal Justices Andrew Phang, Belinda Ang and Woo Bih Li said in their 107-page decision delivered today.

“Whilst we understand the deeply held personal feelings of the appellants, there’s nothing that this court can do to assist them,” the judges wrote in their ruling. “Their remedy lies, if at all, in the legislative sphere.”

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S'pore court rules that law that criminalises sex between men is constitutional

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of the provision, rejecting two separate challenges to strike down the law.

Gay couple Gary Lim, 46, and Kenneth Chee, 38, as well as 51-year-old Tan Eng Hong, contend that the provision is inherently discriminatory and should be declared void by the court.

Their argument is that Section 377A infringes their rights to equality under Article 12 of the Constitution and violates their rights to life and personal liberty under Article 9.

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Singapore top court affirms law criminalizing homosexuality

The Court of Appeal of the Republic of Singapore, the appellate division of the Supreme Court of Singapore, on Tuesday ruled that a national law criminalizing male homosexuality conforms with the city-state's constitution. Three homosexual men brought the case against the attorney general, arguing the 76-year-old homosexuality provision of the current penal code, Section 377A, violates their right to equal protection and life and liberty, pursuant to Article 12 and Article 9 of the constitution.

Section 377A is entitled "Outrages on Decency," and the provision establishes a jail term not to exceed two years for men who commit acts of "gross indecency" with other men, in public or in private. The court held the statutory provision does not conflict with the constitution and the plaintiff's remedy, if any, may lie in the legislative process. The Parliament of Singapore amended provisions of Section 377A in 2007, following a two-day debate in parliament.

The legal rights afforded to homosexual couples in the US and other nations have increased substantially in recent years. However, many international countries retain laws that criminalize homosexual acts or are considering legislation to criminalize homosexuality.

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Activists condemn Singapore court gay ruling
Gay rights groups have held the annual Pink Dot rally in the heart of Singapore since 2009

Human rights groups have condemned a Singapore court's decision that a law banning gay sex is constitutional.

The Court of Appeal on Wednesday rejected two legal challenges arguing that the law, Section 377A, infringes on gay citizens' rights.

Under Section 377A, men who engage in "gross indecency" privately or publicly can be jailed for up to two years.

related:
Singapore dilemma: When diversity policy meets local law
Gay laws challenged in Singapore
Thousands attend Singapore gay rally
Singapore withdraws gay penguin book

Singapore upholds law that criminalises gay sex

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Singapore: Court Ruling a Major Setback for Gay Rights
Repeal Retrograde Law Banning Consensual Sex Relations Between Adult Men

A Singapore Supreme Court ruling on October 29, 2014 to uphold the country’s ban on same-sex relations between consenting adult men is a major setback for equal rights in Singapore, Human Rights Watch said today. The court decision sends a message that gay men may lawfully be subject to discrimination.

The Supreme Court held that section 377A of Singapore’ penal code, which criminalizes sexual intimacy between men, does not violate articles 9 and 12 of the country’s constitution. These articles guarantee the right to life and personal liberty, and provide that all people are entitled to equal protection before the law.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is a terrible setback for homosexual people in Singapore who want to live their lives like everyone else, without government interference,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights program at Human Rights Watch. “The ruling tramples upon basic rights to privacy, equality, and non-discrimination.”

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Singapore upholds law that criminalises gay sex
The judgment comes as gay rights have become an increasingly thorny issue in Singapore's traditionally conservative society

Singapore's highest court ruled on Wednesday that a law that criminalises sex between men is in line with the city-state's constitution, rejecting two separate appeals by three men that the measure infringed their human rights.

The judgment comes as gay rights have become an increasingly thorny issue in Singapore's traditionally conservative society. Massage therapist Tan Eng Hong and gay couple Lim Meng Suang and Kenneth Chee Mun-Leon sought a repeal of the law, which prescribes a jail term of up to two years for men who engage in any act of "gross indecency", in public or private.

They said it infringed their rights to equality, life and personal liberty under Singapore's constitution, a claim the court rejected.

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Singapore’s Court supports ban on gay sex
Singapore’s top court ruled Wednesday that a law criminalising sex between men is constitutional

The Court of Appeal dismissed two separate challenges to the constitutionality of the section of the Penal Code that bans gay sex.

The challenges were brought by gay couple Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, as well as Tan Eng Hong. They argued that the legislation is discriminatory and infringes on their rights to equal protection under the law, as well as life and liberty as guaranteed by the constitution.

The law punishes those who commit acts of “gross indecency” with other men with up to two years in jail. The judges acknowledged that there are many emotional extra-legal considerations related to the issue, but said that they could only consider legal arguments.

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Singapore's highest court upholds law criminalising gay sex
Singapore's Court of Appeal on Wednesday dismissed a constitutional challenge against a law criminalising sex between men, striking a fresh blow to the city-state's growing gay-rights movement

The Court of Appeal, which is Singapore's highest court, upheld rulings by lower courts that it was up to Parliament to repeal the provision in the penal code. Gay sex is criminalised in Singapore under Section 377A.

"Whilst we understand the deeply held personal feelings of the appellants, there is nothing that this court can do to assist them," judges Andrew Phang, Belinda Ang and Woo Bih Li said in a written verdict.

"Their remedy lies, if at all, in the legislative sphere," the judges said.

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Gay Rights In Singapore

A FOUR-YEAR battle ended yesterday, when Singapore's highest court upheld the constitutionality of Section 377(a) of the country's penal code, which renders any man convicted of committing "or abet[ting] the commission of...any act of gross indecency" with another man liable to two years in prison. Tan Eng Hong first challenged the law in September 2010, after he was charged under 377(a) for having oral sex with another man in a public-toilet stall. Two years later a second challenge was raised by Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, a gay couple who have been together for 17 years. They argued that the law contravened two articles in Singapore's constitution: Article 9, which guarantees that "no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with the law", and Article 12, the first section of which states, "All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law."

The result was not entirely surprising. Singapore's government tends to do well before Singaporean courts: it has, for instance, never lost a defamation suit. The court itself, both in oral arguments last summer and in this ruling, repeatedly expresses unwillingness to consider "extra-legal" and "emotional" arguments, which have their place in the legislative rather than the judicial process. The court's role, the ruling said, was to be "independent, neutral and objective", though in the early, throat-clearing section of this ruling, the court noted that it grants the government a "presumption of constitutionality", because "our legislature is presumed not to enact legislation which is inconsistent with the Singapore Constitution." In other words, the court will neutrally and objectively weigh the arguments presented by each side, though one side (the government's) enters with the wind at its back.

Attorneys for Messrs Lim and Chee argued that inherent to Article 9's guarantees of life and liberty are "a limited right to privacy and personal autonomy allowing a person to express affection and love toward another human being." The court swiftly shot down that argument: in Singaporean jurisprudence, Article 9 only guards against unlawful detention. Mr Tan's attorney argued that 377(a) criminalises a group of people for an innate attribute; the court concluced here that "there is, at present, no definitive conclusion" on the "supposed immutability" of homosexuality (Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore's prime minister, takes a different view). M. Ravi, a human-rights lawyer representing the challengers, had argued that Section 377(a) arbitrarily distinguished between gay men and women, leaving the former open to incarceration and the latter untouched, but his argument also held no weight for the court. It cited an earlier ruling that validated that distinction because female homosexual acts "were either less prevalent or perceived to be less repugnant than male homosexual conduct". As for appeals to Article 12(1), the court pointed to the article immediately following, which states, "Except as expressly authorised by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens of Singapore on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth," but does not mention sex, gender or sexual orientation.

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Singapore: Court upholds colonial-era anti-gay law
The country’s Court of Appeal today upheld a ruling refusing to strike down the law, striking a blow to the country’s gay rights movement

Judges Andrew Phang, Belinda Ang and Woo Bih Li wrote in their verdict:
“Whilst we understand the deeply held personal feelings of the appellants, there is nothing that this court can do to assist them. Only one voice – and one voice alone – is relevant. It is the voice of the law, which represents the voice of objectivity.”
The judges also indicated that a repeal would have to come from the country’s government, adding: “Their remedy lies, if at all, in the legislative sphere.”

The ruling also noted it was based solely on “legal arguments”, and not “extra-legal considerations and matters of social policy which were outside the remit of the court”.

related: Human Rights groups condemn court for upholding colonial-era anti-gay law

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LGBT groups "shocked and disappointed" at Court of Appeal verdict
Section 377A criminalises acts of "gross indecency" between men, without distinctions on whether it is in a public or private space, and imposes a maximum jail term of two years

The appeals court rejected the argument of gay couple Gary Lim, 46 and Kenneth Chee, 38, as well as 51-year-old Tan Eng Hong that the provision infringes their rights to equality under Article 12 of the Constitution and violates their rights to life and personal liberty under Article 9.

In a statement released today, the LGBT community said that despite claims by the authorities that the law would not be enforced, its existence had a wide-ranging effect not only on Singapore's gay men, but also its lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, adding that it also gives carte-blanche for discrimination and reinforces prejudice.

The statement read:
"It is not an imposition for a segment to seek the same rights as the rest of society. To be viewed as equal in the eyes of the law, to feel safe at home, and to be protected against discrimination, mistreatment, even physical and emotional harm, is a right to which every Singaporean should be entitled, and not denied on the basis of whom they love."
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LGBT community: Shocked and disappointed by Court of Appeal's verdict on Section 377A
The LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community here released a statement on Thursday expressing their disappointment in the ruling by the Court of Appeal that Section 377A of the Penal Code is constitutional

Section 377A is the law that criminalises sex between men. The offence carries up to a two-year jail term for men who, in public or private, commit acts of "gross indecency" with other men.

The statement read: "Despite the authorities' claim that this law will not be enforced, the existence of Section 377A has a wide-ranging effect...It gives carte blanche for discrimination and reinforces prejudice, leading to censorship in the media and the aggravation of negative stereotypes, and impacting the health and wellbeing of a significant segment of society.

"With this verdict, an opportunity to showcase Singapore as a truly accepting, open and inclusive society - and a great place to live, work and play - has been missed."

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Same-sex Marriage and Repealing 377A in Singapore

Controversial and contentious amongst conservatives, the issue of same-sex marriage and repealing 377A is a subject any future government has to deal with, whether they want to or not. It’s a matter of public policy, economics and demographics.

In Singapore, it’s arts and literary professionals who most often come out of the closet to reveal themselves, exposing themselves to the public sphere as such. The highest profile gays in Singapore are at this point in time Vincent Wijeyasingha, filmmaker Royston Tan, playwright Alfian Sa’at and theatre professional Ivan Heng.


Notable deceased gays in Singapore are the late Paddy Chew, the public face of AIDS in Singapore, who passed away in 1999. Another is the late Arthur Yap, a Singaporean poet who won the Singapore Cultural Medallion For Literature and the South East Asian Write Award in 1983, who passed away in 2006.

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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.


HPB’s sexuality FAQs provide advice from public health perspective: Minister
Same-sex relationship not too different from heterosexual one in that both require commitment, says minister

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that the FAQs on sexuality published by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) do not encourage same-sex relationships, “but rather provide advice to young persons and their parents on mental and physical health issues from a public health perspective”.

He was responding to a parliamentary question filed by Mountbatten Member of Parliament Lim Biow Chuan, who asked why the HPB was promoting a same-sex relationship as not being different from a heterosexual relationship.

In a written reply, Mr Gan said that the statement “A same-sex relationship is not too different from a heterosexual relationship” — which was part of a response in the FAQ — should be taken together with the statement that followed it: “Both require the commitment of two people.”


The Singapore Daily
Section 377A (What is Section 377A?)


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Full Coverage:
Rappler: UN dismayed with Singapore anti-gay ruling
Human Rights Campaign: Singapore Court Upholds Anti-LGBT Law
Jakarta Globe: Singapore's Top Court Upholds Anti-Gay Law
The Economist: Gay rights in Singapore
Independent Online: Groups slam Singapore gay ruling