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Scoops > Community > Top court hears challenge to 1938 colonial era ban on gay sex
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The appeal case of constitutional challenge of Section 377A of the Penal Code finally commenced this 14th July. Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee who have been together for the past 16 years were represented by Senior Counsel Deborah Barker. They asked for 377A to be modified such that it does not apply to private acts between consenting adults. Ms Barker added that her clients are not asking for "social change or the affirmation that male homosexual conduct is acceptable in Singapore".

The Court of Appeal heard joint appeals of two separate challenges against 377A on the basis that it is unconstitutional as it is inherently discriminatory as it does not cover gross acts of indecency committed by heterosexual or female couples. This appeal is also not about "legislation of same-sex marriage or sex education, or adoption of what books about penguins children should read”, Ms Barker said, but about “the infringement of the human rights provided under the Constitution”.

On the second day of the joint appeal, Ms Barker looked into the history of the colonial era law and argued that the law forbidding any man from committing an act of gross indecency with another in private or in public, enacted in 1938, was meant to deal with the problem of male prostitution at the time. Its intention was not to criminalise consensual sexual conduct between two men. She urged the court to carry out its constitutional role as the guardian of the Constitution and the fundamental rights guaranteed therein.

Section 377 refers to the section of the Penal Code in several former British colonies, including Singapore, that criminalises homosexual acts. It is no surprise that countries that retain this law form the majority of countries in the Commonwealth of Nations. Section 377 was repealed in England and Wales in 1967 and subsequently in Scotland, Northern Ireland, UK Crown Dependencies, Guernsey, Jersey and Isle of Man over the years.

Who is Gary and Kenneth? Watch their fundraising video below.






 

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