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Author Topic: Gay sex ban divides Singaporeans  (Read 43 times)

Mary-Jane

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Gay sex ban divides Singaporeans
« on: October 05, 2018, 07:56:17 AM »
Gay sex ban divides Singaporeans
By Miro Lu 2018-10-01 14:02 GMT+8


A colonial-era law that bans gay sex became a center of attention in Singapore after India's Supreme Court last month struck down the similar ban. 

Section 377A of the penal code, a colonial-era law that bans gay sex, has revived in Singapore following a decision by India's Supreme Court earlier this month to strike down the same law.

At the helm of this debate is Johnson Ong, a 43-year-old gay man in Singapore. On September 10, Ong, who is himself trained in law, filed a challenge in Singapore's court to repeal section 377A, which impose restrictions on gay sex.

He is represented by human rights lawyer, Eugene Thuraisingam, who said he is taking on the case pro bono.

"It's an antiquated law passed down by the British via the Indian penal code. It really has no place in Singapore in 2018. Other surrounding regions like Taiwan and Hong Kong and now India they're all pretty progressive in their gay rights," said Ong. 

"I don't think there's an opportune time, any time is a good time for human rights," he said.

A pre-trial conference was held on Tuesday. The High Court gave Ong about two months to file evidence for his challenge, such as testimonies from medical experts. While trial dates have not been set, the second pre-trial conference is slated to take place on December 3.

This is not the first time a case to repeal the law has been filed in the city-state's courts. In 2014, a Singaporean gay couple contended that section 377A violated constitutional rights. The Court of Appeal, the nation's highest court, ultimately rejected the argument that the section was unconstitutional.

Ong believes that this time it will be different because there is a shift in global consensus toward acceptance, including gay marriage in America, and the discrediting of gay conversion therapy. "A lot of developments have happened, and certainly, the Indian decision as well. The climate is really different from 2014 when the case was first brought up," he said.

Under section 377A, any "gross indecency" between two men is a criminal act and could result in jail time of up to two years. However, the law is not actively enforced in the country.

A volunteer holds a sign at the annual "Pink Dot" event in a public show of support for the LGBT community at Hong Lim Park in Singapore, July 1, 2017. /VCG Photo

The first prime minister of Singapore, late Lee Kuan Yew, widely recognized as the city-state's founding father, has said that he thought homosexuality should not be criminalized because he believed it was genetically determined.

Singapore's Home and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said that any decisions on section 377A is "a matter for Parliament" and should remain as such, though he recognized that the public is "deeply split" over the matter. He added depending on legislation, public opinion is relevant when it comes to public policy making.

This debate has triggered a national brouhaha, splitting the nation into two camps. The biggest highlight of this debate is the separation of church and state. Many religious groups in Singapore have spoken out against the repeal.

Proponents say that while the law isn't actively enforced, it acts as an imaginary noose around the collective necks of the LGBT community meant to keep them in their place. They argue that a repeal of the law would signal a breakdown in core family values.

"I do believe it's time for our government to repeal the 377A particularly because we run our country as a secular state, despite how there are religious opinions - of which I'm not saying they are not valid - but in a sense, they shouldn't be imposed on how a secular state should be run," said Shary, a 24-year-old Singaporean.

"I think we should. I think this is very common, it's a new generation. This is what I think. It's not only our country, every country is doing it," said another Singaporean, 52-year-old Elizabeth.

Since the debate once again entered the public sphere, a host of prominent figures in Singapore have spoken up. These include veteran Singapore diplomat Tommy Koh, who in one of his Facebook posts, urged the LGBT community to challenge the ban.

A participant dressed in pink poses for a photograph at the annual "Pink Dot" event in a public show of support for the LGBT community at Hong Lim Park in Singapore, June 13, 2015. /VCG Photo

A petition mounted by PinkDot, a gay-rights group, had circulated online. The petition has shored up approximately 46,855 signatures, including a nod from diplomats Tommy Koh, Kishore Mahbubani, and even the prime minister's wife, Ho Ching, who shared the petition on her social media profile.

Religious groups from the Catholic and other Christian churches, and Muslim community have also spoken up against the repeal, calling it unnatural. An anonymous video touting the dangers of the repeal was shared widely online by opponents of the repeal. The video called the repeal a slippery slope to the green-lighting of gay marriages, and the discrimination of the people against that idea.

While this renewed debate in Singapore was sparked by the decision made by India's Supreme Court, some experts have said that the situation is more nuanced and complex and that Singapore's provision for sodomy is different.

Definition of Hats aka "Conflict of Interest" Statement: Mary-Jane is Editor of Perth Gay News, The Media Annuncio of the Perth Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence of the Abbey of the Black Swan & Editor @ HIV Institute of WA.

#Twitter @AbbeyBlackSwan1

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Gay sex ban divides Singaporeans
« on: October 05, 2018, 07:56:17 AM »