After almost a year of deliberation, the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court’s decision to dismiss the application to challenge the constitutionality of a law criminalising sex between men.
Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code says that “[a]ny male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years.”
In their judgement, Justice V K Rajah, Justice Andrew Phang and Justice Judith Prakash stated that the constitutionality of the law is of “real public interest” and “affects the lives of a not insignificant portion of our community in a very real and intimate way.”
The constitutional challenge was filed two years ago by Tan Eng Hong, who had been caught having oral sex with another man in a cubicle of a public toilet. Although he was first charged under 377A, the charge was later reduced to one of committing an obscene act in public.
The government has often justified retaining Section 377A by saying that it is in line with the general conservativism of Singaporeans who are not ready to accept homosexuality, but have also assured people that the law is not actively enforced. The Attorney-General argued against the challenge proceeding on the grounds that there is “no real and credible threat of prosecution”.
However, the Court of Appeal has pointed out that as long as 377A “remains in the statute books, the threat of prosecution under this section persists”.
This judgement from the Court of Appeal has once again revived discussions over whether Singapore is ready to get rid the anti-gay law. Despite the government’s assertion that people are not ready to accept homosexuality within Singapore’s society, the large amount of support enjoyed by LGBT movements such as Pink Dot may indicate that a shift is underway.
The date for the hearing for the application has not yet been fixed.