Two suits challenge Singapore’s colonial-era anti-gay law

Singapore is facing two lawsuits asking the courts to overturn the nation’s colonial-era anti-homosexuality law, Section 377A.

As many as 20,000 people gather in Singapore for the Pink Dot festival, which seeks recognition of the human rights of LGBTI people. (Photo courtesy of Yahoo)
As many as 20,000 people gather in Singapore for the Pink Dot festival, which seeks recognition of the human rights of LGBTI people. (Photo courtesy of Yahoo)

Both constitutional challenges were filed after the Indian Supreme Court in September overturned that nation’s anti-homosexuality law, similarly named “Section 377” and similarly inherited from when the nation was part of the British Empire.

In Singapore, a previous legal challenge failed in 2013 when Singapore’s High Court rejected a gay couple’s appeal to overturn Section 377A.

 

An “Equal Eyes” news summary from UNAIDS and Straits Times reported on the latest legal challenge:

LGBT rights advocate files case against Attorney-General, stating Section 377A of Penal Code is void

Bryan Choong (Photo courtesy of Soul World News)
Bryan Choong filed his challenge to Singapore’s anti-gay law in November 2018. (Photo courtesy of Soul World News)

SINGAPORE – An LGBT rights advocate has filed a case against the Attorney-General, stating that Section 377A of the Penal Code – which criminalises sex between men – is “inconsistent” with portions of Singapore’s Constitution, and “is therefore void”.

Mr Choong Chee Hong, better known as Bryan Choong, filed it at the Supreme Court in November last year.

Mr Choong, 41, is the former executive director of Oogachaga, a non-profit organisation working with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Johnson Ong, who also goes by his stage name DJ Big Kid, is suing to overturn Singapore's anti-gay law, Section 377. (Photo courtesy of Today)
In September 2018, Johnson Ong, who also goes by the stage name DJ Big Kid, filed his suit seeking to overturn Singapore’s anti-gay law. (Photo courtesy of Today)

According to court documents, Mr Choong stated that Section 377A is inconsistent with Article 9 of the Constitution, which states: “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with law.”

The two other portions deemed “inconsistent” are: Article 12, stating that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to its equal protection; and Article 14, which states that every citizen of Singapore has the right to freedom of speech and expression.

Straits Times also reported:

On Sept 10 last year, a disc jockey also filed a court challenge against Section 377A arguing that the law is unconstitutional.

Mr Johnson Ong Ming, then 43, who goes by the stage name DJ Big Kid, filed his challenge four days after India’s Supreme Court struck down a similar law.

That decision sparked a renewed debate on Section 377A in Singapore, with camps on both sides starting petitions either to keep the law or repeal it.

In the wake of the Indian decision, Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also suggested that a new attempt be made to challenge Section 377A in the courts.

Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, who unsuccessfully challenged Singapore's anti-gay law.
Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, who unsuccessfully challenged Singapore’s anti-gay law in 2013.

A legal challenge to strike down Section 377A failed in 2014, when the highest court in Singapore rejected that the provision was unconstitutional.

Gay couple Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee as well as Mr Tan Eng Hong had then argued that the provision was discriminatory.

Mr Choong and Mr Ong’s cases are still pending.

Straits Times also published pro and con commentaries, which unfortunately are labeled as “Premium stories” requiring a subscription to read:

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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