A high profile Supreme Court case that challenged the constitutionality of an anti-gay law was put to an end today. Justice Loh, hearing the challenge of S377A, ruled that while anal and oral sex in private between a consenting man and woman is considered “acceptable,” the same conduct was “repugnant and offensive” when carried out between two men, “therefore no reason to strike down… S377A… as arbitrary or discriminatory.”
In a statement released following the judgment, Lim and Chee, the defendants, said, “We are disappointed that the High Court ruled against us and upheld S377A. Having been together for 15 years, it is disheartening that we are criminals in the eyes of the law because of a segment of society that will not live and let live, but insist on pushing their version of religion and morality on us.”
S377A as outlined in a recent 429Magazine article is a law that dates back to English colonialism and can be used to criminalize any male persons who commit gross and indecent acts with another male person with imprisonment of up to two years.
The basis of the case to prove that the anti-gay law is unconstitutional is how the law arbitrarily discriminates against a particular group of people, and thus is an infringement upon human rights. Under S377A, gay men who have gay sex are breaking the law. However, you can legally be a woman and engage in lesbian activities and you can legally have anal sex if you are heterosexual, but you are legally barred from homosexual sex because it is defined as a gross and indecent act.
The fight over S377A is very much reflective of a broader moral and religious problem concerning homosexuality. Although there has been much improvement over attitudes towards homosexuals, the majority of Singaporeans oppose same-sex marriage and are supportive of S377A. The conservative nature of the Singaporean social system is often at odds with its broadening financial sphere and its global infrastructure.
“In my judgment, the object of S377A is clear. It criminalizes male homosexual conduct that is not acceptable in our society. Its retention was endorsed by Parliament in 2007,” Justice Loh concluded.
This is the first of two Supreme Court cases to be heard in the court. The second which addresses another constitutional challenge has yet to be ruled upon and is expected any day now.
“¨”¨“The battle is not over. Two years ago it was an uphill task to even get Tan’s ‘standing’ before the High Court, but he succeeded at the Court of Appeal, which has brought us this far. He hopes to collectively have both the appeals heard before the Court of Appeal in the event that Tan’s current challenge is dismissed,” M. Ravi, the lawyer who is in charge of the second case, told 429Magazine.
More to come from M. Ravi’s case soon.