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Singapore steps to legalize Homosexuality: LGBTQ+ in progress, despite Sec 377A

Despite the city-state’s retention of Section 377A, which prohibits sexual relations between consenting men, LGBTQ+ activists see stirrings of progress.

Singapore’s strict law is often cited as one of the defining characteristics of a city. It deals with strict laws of the land, from the notorious gum smuggling to the imposition of a death penalty for drug use, often driving foreign views about Singapore, promoted by Michael Fay’s legacy in the United States.

However, for some men and women, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, and local and foreign queers (LGBTQ +), the law is in stark contrast to homosexuality. The remnants of British colonial law, which still shape Singapore’s legal system today, Section 377A of the Singapore Judgment Code, which prohibits sexual relations between men who confess in public and in private, stand out in this regard.

Recent events have made this section a hotbed of media circulation in Singapore and abroad, as a result of a February 28 appeal by the Court of Appeal rejecting a petition filed by three local Singaporean men in 2020, challenging a Section 377A constitutional injunction.

This latest legal challenge was prompted by an Indian court decision to lift the September 2018 sex offenders’ ban, which prompted Johnson Ong Ming, Bryan Choong, and Roy Tan Seng Kee to enforce similar legal measures in Singapore. Three locals are challenging the legality of Article 377A, arguing that this clause deprives Singapore’s gay people of “life or personal freedom” under Article 9 (1) of the Constitution of Singapore. The Supreme Court reversed their challenges in March 2020, and all three parties appealed the decision.

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In all of these legal cases, the Supreme Court reversed the 2007 political agreement with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, keeping Section 377A in effect while promising that no party could be prosecuted in a court of law for engaging in secret homosexual acts. However, Lee also emphasized that Singapore’s social norms emphasize gender equality, a stable family unit.

In the wake of the 2018 legal challenge in this section of the law, the Attorney-General’s Council issued a reminder that the public prosecutor’s use of justice “has always been, and always will not be,” which raises doubts about the safety of gay men. legal action on the basis of their homosexuality.

This is the second time that this category has been challenged in ten years.

An earlier complaint was filed in 2014, after two men – Lim Meng Suan and Kenneth Chee Mun-leon, a 15-year-old gay couple – similarly challenged Article 377A’s compliance with Article 97A and the Article 12 of the Singapore Constitution. , which recently ensures that all people are equal in the legal protection of their constitutional rights. Their appeal was further rejected by the Court of Appeals, which ruled that Article 12 did not define sexual orientation as a basis for discrimination on the basis of religion, religion, race or place of birth.

Another application was filed four years ago by Tan Eng Hong, a gay man who was arrested for having oral sex with another man in a locked public toilet. However, his appeal was dismissed on the grounds that Tan had been sexually assaulted in public, instead of in secret, and the Court of Appeal ruled that the police would arrest a gay couple for engaging in the same act.

The latest decision was received with great disappointment from LGBTQ + individuals and organizations in Singapore. In an online statement, Pink Dot SG, a non-profit organization that promotes LGBTQ + rights and integration in Singapore community, expressed its disappointment, describing the decision as “a devastating blow to Singapore’s LGBTQ + community” and pointing to the “further implications of discrimination”. 377A ”still exists.

Ready 4 Repeal, an online organization founded in 2018 to represent the abolition of Section 377A, released a public statement on its Facebook page, signed by several Singaporean-based LGBTQ + organizations, including Choong’s Oogachaga. In a statement, the signatories called for confirmation of the unconsciousness of the judges in their decision, criticizing it as “very insufficient” to provide real security [to the LGBTQ + community]. “

Ready 4 Repeal had previously applied to the Department of Home Affairs in September 2018, which received signatures from prominent Singaporean politicians and policy makers, including former Singapore Ambassador to the United Nations Kishore Mahbubani and Tommy Koh.

Following the decision of the Court of Appeal, Section 377A debates arose in Parliament on March 3. Shanmugam reiterated Singapore’s commitment to gradual evolution and public awareness of the issue. He also pointed to a change in public perceptions regarding homosexuality and LGBTQ + rights, saying that “policies need to change to conform to such views” and the Government is considering “the best way forward [Section] 377A.”

Sukhjeet *, a bilingual student in Singapore, shared his first book about moving to Singapore as a weird person because of Section 377A. However, they have acknowledged that there is a shift in the small number of LGBTQ + adopters taking place in the city. “There are places where LGBTQ + people will be welcomed and empowered, in other art galleries, restaurants and bars, without having to worry about government surveillance and police raids,” Sukhjeet said.

In recent years, other venues such as The Projector, a history movie theater featuring independent queer cinema, art shows, and drag shows, have become important safe havens for travelers in Singapore. Sukhjeet describes a situation in which the government tolerates and often ignores the existence of a visible queer community, as long as this seems to be still delayed in these vacancies. “I don’t think we can really move forward as a society if we can only expose ourselves to these gaps,” they said, emphasizing the importance of Shanugam’s claims that policies should change accordingly.

Max *, a gay Singaporean man, sees in this a glimmer of hope. Shannugam’s statement “shows that the government is committed to reviewing the law in the light of the views of its people,” he said in an online interview. “With government, the expectation is that when they make a statement about a particular topic, there is a greater tendency for them to follow,” he added.

Max’s position was confirmed on the night of March 22, when an online survey on LGBTQ + issues was submitted by Reach, Singapore’s official response unit. Among other questions, the survey sought the views of Singaporeans on whether they believe Singapore is a safe haven for LGBTQ + minorities, and questioned their position on Section 377A: whether they believe this clause should be repealed, amended, or maintained.

Reach closed the poll the next day at Singapore time, having collected more than 30,000 responses, saying the response “would be shared with relevant agencies and could be used by Government to review policy and reform.”

This survey was the first of its kind in Singapore, and represents an unprecedented step towards achieving greater LGBTQ + issues in public speaking in Singapore. To Max, along with many other gays in the city, this study is seen as the next step in the government’s plan to deal with Section 377A. “I can applaud the speed of REACH in doing so; they presented the study within the same month as Minister Shmugam’s statement, ”he said.

Organizations such as Pink Dot and Oogachaga have played a key role in promoting online surveys through social media. “We need to move beyond Singapore to a more populous and small Singapore, and start having real conversations about the life we ​​live here in this country, and how we are affected by legal and social discrimination at home, in schools, and in the home, in the workplace,” Pink Dot told Instagram.

Speaking to the local newspaper TODAY, Oogachaga Executive Director Yangfa Leow said he “applauded the Singapore government’s first attempt” and hoped that “the information collected… will support and add to all the issues raised earlier … by civil society organizations.”

However some organizations have expressed doubts about the manner in which the study was conducted and presented to the public. In an Instagram post, Singapore queer brand Heckin ‘Unicorns criticized the language used in the test, as well as the questionnaire. “While this study is a step in the right direction, we cannot restrain ourselves but we are ashamed that our country still thinks that the fate and rights of LGBTQ people should be determined based on people’s perceptions, instead of facts or principles. , ”Says the document.

Max expressed similar concern, saying that “the manner in which the survey was conducted could have been improved. By making the survey anonymous, online and easily accessible, it also provided an opportunity for the survey to spread easily across different communities. ” He added, “Having a large number of people who have completed a study is not a bad thing, but with such a sensitive topic, online research that does not have measuring standards can have a negative impact.”

The Sukhjeets expressed frustration with the way the survey was started: “It was written sometime in the evening, but like many others I only found out the next morning. When I answered, I could see that it was closing. What kind of involvement is this? “In the midst of this frustration, the Indian national has expressed little hope that the survey will mark the development of attitudes.”

Contemplating what the next steps should look like as the government moves forward with Section 377A, Max hopes that there will be more public consultation that could change. He said REACH “must continue to conduct additional surveys, surveys, focus groups and thinking sessions” with various communities to “understand the nuances of the issue, and for community representatives to express their views.”

Sukhjeet, on the other hand, maintains a level of skepticism about what it might want to discuss with parliament in the future. “Shanmugam said it considers all views, including religious groups that follow the rules,” they noted. “It is not yet clear what the ‘best way forward’ includes, nor does it guarantee that Section 377A will be repealed.” They would not say, “But I hope these small steps will at least create more debate in the community and in Parliament about how to better accept minority LGBTQ + people.”

Progress and eradication of homosexuality in Singapore will represent the significant progress of LBGTQ + rights in Asia-Pacific. As of today, Taiwan and the Tokyo prefecture are the only two places where same-sex marriage is legal, although South Korea recognizes same-sex relationships. India is currently considering a decision to legalize same-sex marriage. No Southeast Asian country has legalized same-sex marriage at this time, despite homosexuality.

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