Singapore’s High Court Will Hear Legal Challenges to Gay Sex Ban

Gay sex is punishable by up to two years in prison.

Singapore’s High Court will begin hearing a series of legal challenges this week to a colonial-era law banning gay sex.

Three different activists, inspired in part by last year’s ruling overturning a similar ban in India, have launched separate attempts to decriminalize male same-sex activity in the city-state. Lesbian sexual activity is already legal.

Although it is rarely enforced, men engaged in consensual sexual activity can be jailed for up to two years under Section 377A of the legal code. Previous attempts to scrap the anti-gay law have failed, but the petitioners are hopeful that changing attitudes will spur a more successful outcome.

The court will begin hearing the cases on Wednesday, and has set aside six days for the legal challenges to be heard.

“I have full confidence in our judicial system and I am hopeful that the court will come to the right decision…and overturn Section 377A,” one of the petitioners, Johnson Ong Ming, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Singapore Pink Dot
ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images
Supporters form a rainbow among lights at the annual “Pink Dot” event in a public show of support for the LGBTQ community at Hong Lim Park in Singapore on July 1, 2017.

“Our judiciary isn’t totally insulated from judgments in other parts of the world,” Tan Seng Kee, one of the other men to bring a challenge to the law, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation back in September. “They can see the trend all around the world is to get rid of these anti-gay laws.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said Singapore society “is not that liberal on these matters.”

According to a poll of more than 4,000 people published in May, by the Singapore think-tank the Institute of Policy Study, opposition to gay marriage has fallen to 60%, down from 74% in 2013.

A survey conducted by Ipsos last year found 55% of the 750 Singaporeans polled believed the gay sex ban should remain in place.

“If the decision in Singapore goes our way, then it will boost our morale here in Malaysia,” said Numan Afifi, president of the LGBTQ advocacy group the Pelangi Campaign.

Last week, five Malaysian men were sentenced to caning, jail, and fines for attempting gay sex.

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