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Singapore's highest court green-lights anti-gay law challenge

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Singapore's highest court green-lights anti-gay law challenge

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – Singapore's highest court has paved the way for a constitutional challenge against a British colonial-era law that criminalizes sex between men, The Bangkok Post reports.

The Court of Appeal's Aug 21 ruling struck down a high court decision that rejected the challenge brought by Tan Eng Hong, who was arrested after he was caught engaging in oral sex with another man in a shopping centre toilet in 2010. According to the Post, Tan was charged under Section 377A of the penal code, which states that "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." 

The charge against Tan, 49, was reduced to one of committing an obscene act in public, and he and the other man were fined $2,400 each.

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

But authorities say the provision must remain on the books because "most Singaporeans are conservative and still do not accept homosexuality," according to the Post.

One of Tan's lawyers, Indulekshmi Rajeswari, says the Court of Appeal ruling is "nothing less than earth-shattering for the LGBT community."

"For the first time, the courts have acknowledged the existence of the gay person and the gay community and their interests," Rajeswari says. "Furthermore, for the first time, they have acknowledged that s377A is 'alive and kicking,' and has effects on the community beyond that of direct enforcement.

"While we await the next step, we can take a moment to celebrate a significant step in our march towards equal rights."

 

Landing image: commonwealth.org

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