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Supreme Court of Singapore dismisses attempt to repeal country’s gay sex ban

On Monday, Singapore’s highest court dismissed a lawsuit by three gay rights activists to a law criminalising sex between men, holding that the law did not violate plaintiffs’ constitutional rights because authorities did not implement it.

The news: The Court of Appeal’s decision comes as activists stepped up their efforts to repeal the colonial-era statute after India repealed similar restrictions four years ago. In the socially conservative city-state, previous bids in 2020 and 2014 also failed.

  • A retired doctor, a DJ, and a former director of a non-profit organisation were among the campaigners who submitted the latest challenge to the rarely used statute, which allows offenders to be imprisoned for up to two years.
  • Although the rule, known as Section 377A, had “long been a lightning rod for polarisation,” Singapore’s Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said in a written opinion that the court did not find a constitutional violation.
  • Because Singapore authorities do not intend to punish gay intercourse, the rule is “unenforceable,” according to Menon, because it would not deprive a person of their right to life or personal liberty under Article 9 of the Singapore constitution.
  • Such prosecutions, according to the Attorney-Chambers, General’s would not be in the public interest.

What they’re saying: After the court highlighted that the rule was legally unenforceable, Eugene Thuraisingam LLP, which represented one of the activists, stated in a statement that the verdict “may be seen as a small step in the right direction.”

  • Téa Braun, the executive director of the London-based human rights organisation Human Dignity Trust, said the 1938 law had “no place in a 21st century democracy like Singapore.”
  • Despite the court’s decision to remove the possibility of arrest, homosexual and bisexual males in Singapore are still effectively un-apprehended offenders and exposed to a culture of humiliation and bigotry, according to Braun.

Facts and figures: Gay intercourse is illegal in about 70 nations around the world, mostly in Africa and the Middle East.

  • Though some polls show a higher acceptance of homosexuality in Singapore, the matter remains controversial.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore has described the bill as an uneasy compromise because society “is not is not that liberal on these matters.”

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