Tommy Koh Encourages Singapore Gay Community To Challenge 377A
Veteran Singapore diplomat Tommy Koh has called for the gay community to challenge Section 377A, the controversial gay sex ban.
His comments follow this week’s landmark ruling in India that decriminalises consensual gay sex.
Tommy Koh’s challenge to the gay community
Mr Koh issued the challenge in response to a Facebook post by Professor Simon Chesterman, dean of NUS’ Law Faculty. Prof Chesterman had congratulated his former classmate and others on the Indian ruling.
A netizen then responded to Mr Koh’s comment, citing Lim Meng Suang’s previous unsuccessful attempt at challenging the legislation in the courts.
Mr Koh then responded in a straight-to-the-point manner,
Previous contentions to 377A
Under Section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code, a man found committing an act of “gross indecency” with another man can be jailed for up to 2 years. This stature does not apply to homosexual acts between females.
In 2013, graphic designers Lim Meng Suang and Chee Mun Leon challenged this statute on the grounds that it discriminates against the male gender. This, they claimed, violated Article 12 of the Constitution which states,
All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.
However, their challenge was not successful.
In his 92-page-judgement, Justice Quentin Loh said that in Singapore, the decision to discard or retain a social norm that has “yet to gain currency” should be decided by Parliament. Parliament had previously voted to retain Section 377A in 2007.
Mr Shanmugam’s thoughts
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Minister of Law and Home Affairs Mr K Shanmugam said that while there is a growing segment in favour of repealing 377A, Singapore remains “deeply split” on the matter.
Mr Shanmugam also said that while the law has been in existence for a long time, there have been no prosecutions over the years for private conduct.
When asked about his personal stance, Mr Shanmugam stated that one ought to be careful about criminalising and treating people as criminals based on their lifestyles and sexual attitudes.
However, he admitted that it would not be appropriate for him as an individual to impose his personal views on society. In fact, he later added that,
Ultimately, society has got to decide which direction it wants to go, and the laws would have to keep pace with the changes in society and how society sees this issues.
You can watch the full interview here.
Change on the horizon?
What are your thoughts? Could India’s decriminalising of gay sex pave the way for a similar change in Singapore?
Featured image from YouTube.