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Colonial-era law criminalizing gay sex retained in Singapore

Gay sex is illegal in Singapore. The ban carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail for homosexual acts.

Photo by Lily Banse from Unsplash.com

Gay sex is illegal in Singapore.

That’s the gist in the decision made by Singapore’s High Court, which ruled that its colonial-era law criminalizing sex between men is constitutional and would be retained, overturning a bid by gay rights activists to scrap it.

Singapore is one of former British colonies still clinging to Section 377A of the Penal Code (the “anti-buggery law”), which came into force in 1938 after being adapted from a 19th-century Indian penal code. Though rarely enforced, that the law exists at all is an affront to equal treatment sought by the LGBTQIA people particularly of Singapore.

In Singapore, the ban carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail for homosexual acts.

The latest attempt to overturn the law was spearheaded by three gay activists who lodged court challenges seeking to prove that the law is unconstitutional. But the High Court dismissed all three after hearing them together behind closed doors. The High Court ruled that the law does not violate articles of Singapore’s constitution regarding equality and freedom of speech.

The High Court similarly stated that just because the legislation was not enforced, it did not “render it redundant,” stating: “Legislation remains important in reflecting public sentiment and beliefs.”

Speaking outside the High Court, M. Ravi, a lawyer for one of the complainants, said that the decision is “shocking to the conscience and it is so arbitrary. It is so discriminatory, this legislation.”

This is not the first time that the law was challenged. In 2014, the first challenge to the law was also dismissed, highlighting that the city-state is still conservative.

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