The colonial-era Singapore law banning gay sex is facing a legal challenge from LGBT+ rights activists.

Section 377A of Singapore’s penal code has the same British colonial roots as the anti-gay law that was struck down in India in September 2018.



The law bans gay sex in the city state, stipulating that any man who “commits, or abets the commission of, or procures…. any act of gross indecency with another male person” can be imprisoned for up to two years.

Singapore activists hope to replicate victory in India

In the wake of the ruling from India’s High Court, activists in Singapore are hoping to emulate its success with a fresh legal challenge drawing from the shared legal framework of the two countries.

LGBT+ rights campaigner Bryan Choong has filed a legal challenge at Singapore’s Supreme Court, arguing that the section of the penal code violates the constitution.

Choong’s legal challenge cites the country’s constitutional protections for personal liberty, equal protection and freedom of speech and expression.

According to the Straits Times, a legal team has been assembled to fight the battle, led by Senior Counsel Harpreet Singh Nehal from Cavenagh Law.

A spokesperson for the Singapore Attorney-General’s Chambers told the newspaper: “We are unable to comment further as the matter is now before the courts.”

The anti-gay law has faced several unsuccessful challenges in the past, with the Supreme Court most recently dismissing an attempt to repeal it in 2014.

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Singapore gay sex ban is ‘violation of human dignity’

A second lawsuit on the issue is pending before the court from Johnson Ong Ming, who goes by the stage name DJ Big Kid.

The DJ’s lawyers said that the law is “absurd and arbitrary” and “in violation of human dignity.”

A unique Pride event in Singapore, Pink Dot, annually attracts tens of thousands of supporters, who all dress in pink to mark the occasion with a group photo.

Supporters form a rainbow among lights at the annual Pink Dot event in a public show of support for the LGBT community at Hong Lim Park in Singapore on July 1, 2017.
Supporters form a rainbow among lights at the annual Pink Dot event in a public show of support for the LGBT community at Hong Lim Park in Singapore on July 1, 2017. (ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty)

Polling on the issue in Singapore has shown growing support for decriminalisation.

An Ipsos Public Affairs poll in September found that 55 percent of Singaporeans said they support Section 377A, with just 12 percent favouring repeal and 33 percent undecided.

However, the numbers shifted when pollsters asked whether respondents agreed with a more general statement, “I believe that Singaporeans should be able to participate in same-sex relationships.”

28 percent of Singaporeans agreed with that statement, with 38 percent opposed.

Young people were significantly more liberal in response to both questions.

56 percent of under-24s agreed that Singaporeans “should be able to participate” in same-sex relationships, while 30 percent support the abolition of Section 377A.




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