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Singapore Will Not Overturn Its Ban on Gay Sex

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Singapore’s highest court rejected a challenge to the country’s infamous law that criminalized “acts of ‘gross indecency’ between men” according to TheGayUK. Known as Section 377A, the law is a relic of colonial rule that is used to criminalize sexual acts between consenting men. A similar law had been overturned in India in 2018.

“In declining to strike out this archaic and discriminatory law, the Court has reaffirmed that all gay men in Singapore are effectively un-apprehended criminals,” Téa Braun, Director of the Human Dignity Trust, said according to TheGayUK.

Singapore had loosened many of the strict laws governing morality and sexual behavior in 2007 to reflect the changing values of the country. While consensual acts of oral and anal sex between consenting heterosexuals were decriminalized, they remained illegal between consenting men.

The law was challenged by three men over the last few years: Johnson Ong Ming, 43, a disc jockey and producer; Bryan Choong Chee Hoong, 42, the former executive director of the LGBTQ+ group Oogachaga; and Roy Tan Seng Kee, 61, a retired medical doctor.

A similar effort against Section 377A failed in 2014, but after India removed their own British-era Section 377 from their books in 2018 and there was hope that Singapore would do the same.

“This decision will be extremely disappointing for the plaintiffs and the wider LGBT community in Singapore, who had great hopes that new evidence presented to the Court would make it clear that these draconian laws cannot withstand proper constitutional scrutiny,” said Braun. “The ruling will also echo harmfully around Asia, where millions of people are criminalized simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

According to Human Rights Watch, Singapore citizens “face severe restrictions on their basic rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly through overly broad criminal laws and regulations.” Gay men specifically and the LGBTQ+ community generally face heightened state oppression. In addition to criminalizing sex between men, there are also no legal anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community. Furthermore, all positive depictions of LGBTQ+ life are prohibited on television and the radio. The recent move Love, Simon, about a gay teen coming to terms with his sexuality, was given a rating the prevented viewing by anyone under the age of 21.

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