Singapore’s highest court on Monday declined to overturn a colonial-era law that criminalises sex between men. The Court of Appeal left it up to the Parliament to change laws and pointed to the government’s promise to not enforce the law.

LGBTQI advocacy group Pink Dot SG called the court’s refusal to strike down section 377A of the country’s penal code “a devastating blow” to the community. 

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“Today’s ruling is frustrating for those who were hoping for some real change,” Pink Dot SG’s spokesperson Clement Tan said in a statement. “Despite acknowledging that gay men should be able to live freely in Singapore, without harassment or interference, the court still hesitated to strike it down. It now falls on Parliament to deal the final blow to Section 377A.”

‘Cold Comfort’

The petition was filed by retired medical practitioner Dr. Tan Seng Kee, disc jockey Ong Ming Johnson and activist Choong Chee Hong.

The court’s acknowledgement of the government pledge that it will not enforce the law  was “cold comfort”, said the group. 

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“Section 377A’s real impact lies in how it perpetuates discrimination across every aspect of life: at home, in schools, in the workplace, in our media, and even access to vital services like healthcare,” Pink Dot said in a statement on social media. The group urged the country’s leaders to repeal the law. 

Singapore’s Parliament in 2007 repealed Section 377 of the penal code, which criminalised oral and anal sex between consenting adults. Section 377A, which criminalised sex between men, however, remained on the books. The law does not apply to women. 

In 2020 at at tech forum Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong welcomed gay and lesbian people as “valued members of society”, but added it was “unwise” to force change.

 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

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