Singapore’s High Court has dismissed a constitutional challenge to the city-state’s criminal ban on male homosexuality.
Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee had sued to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes sexual conduct between men. Though the government has said it will not actively enforce the law, activists have argued that that provides inadequate protection to Singapore gays.
In his 92-page judgment, Justice Quentin Loh said the decision on whether to keep the law or discard it should not be determined by the courts. Instead, Singapore’s Parliament, which voted to retain Section 377A in 2007, should decide. “To my mind, defining moral issues need time to evolve and are best left to the Legislature to resolve,” the judge wrote.
The decision is a blow to efforts to decriminalize homosexuality in Singapore. Though many in the island nation believe 377A is increasingly out of step with more progressive attitudes in other major Asian countries, a substantial religious conservative movement has vocally opposed the law’s repeal.
Justice Loh has yet to rule on another challenge to the law brought forth by Tan Eng Hong, who was charged under 377A in 2010.
According to a statement by Tan’s lawyer, Madasamy Ravi, Justice Loh’s decision is to be issued “any day now.” Madasamy added that, if Tan’s challenge is also dismissed, he hopes to have both the appeals heard collectively before the Court of Appeal.
“Having been together for 15 years, it is disheartening that we are criminals in the eyes of the law because of a segment of society that will not live and let live, but insist on pushing their version of religion and morality on us,” said Lim and Chee, in a statement forwarded to The Asian Lawyer by Singapore gay activist group Pink Dot. “We believe that most Singaporeans do not believe that gay people should be jailed for something they can’t change, and we believe that an equal and fair Singapore is worth striving for.”
Email: jseah@alm.com.