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Section 377A to be challenged in court again, 4 years since failed attempt to prove it unconstitutional

Coconuts logo Coconuts 12/9/2018 Coconuts Singapore
a lit up city at night: Photo: Neville via Pink Dot SG Facebook page Photo: Neville via Pink Dot SG Facebook page

Amidst a climate where the divisive issue involving Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code has taken hold on a national level once again, a local disc jockey has made the bold step of filing a court challenge against the colonial-era ruling.

Pink Dot 2010 ambassador Johnson Ong (aka DJ Big Kid) has teamed up with prominent lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam to argue that the archaic ruling — an unenforced law that prohibits any “act of gross indecency” between two male men — is unconstitutional. The lawyer confirmed to The Straits Times that the court challenge was filed on Monday.

It would have been four years since the last legal attempt to strike Section 377A out — the Singapore Supreme Court upheld the country’s ban on same-sex relations between consenting adult men back in 2014. The court dismissed arguments that the provision is discriminatory, reasoning that the right to equal protection under the law (as guaranteed by Article 12 of the Constitution) did not include words such as “gender” and “sexual orientation”.

As unenforced as Section 377A may be, its very existence remains a blight in the eyes of Singapore’s LGBTQ community, as it effectively deems gay men as unconvicted criminals.

Ong is well aware of the failed endeavor in 2014, he told ST. For his legal challenge, he intends to draw on the international judicial developments since then, including India’s recent abolishing of a similar law. Thuraisingam — who’s acting pro bono for Ong — mentioned that they will also be presenting “medical and scientific evidence” to prove that sexuality is inherent, not a choice.

A pre-trial conference has been fixed on Sept 25.

Petitioning

In recent days, there have been renewed calls for both the repealing and keeping of Section 377A of the Penal Code. Two opposing petitions have gone viral, but the results are evident: over 32,850 signatures have been gathered in support of repealing the ruling, and over 95,300 signatures have been gathered in a call for things to remain unchanged.

But if you do want to see the general mindsets of folks wanting to keep Section 377A in the penal code, you simply have to look at their highly ludicrous comments posted on the petition.

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