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26 Sep 2011

Singapore Court of Appeal to hear section 377A constitutional challenge application, Sep 27

The Court of Appeal will hear an appeal filed by human rights lawyer M. Ravi on behalf of his client Tan Eng Hong who is seeking to challenge the constitutionality of Section 377A of the Penal Code that prohibits sexual relations between men.

The Court of Appeal is scheduled to hear an appeal filed by an openly gay man, Tan Eng Hong on Sep 26 at 10am.

M. Ravi 

Tan is seeking to challenge the constitutionality of Section 377A of the Penal Code that prohibits sexual relations between men.

In a judgement dated 15 March 2011, High Court judge Lai Siu Chiu ruled that while Tan did have locus standi meaning he is affected by this law to have a legitimate interest or standing in the issue, she also ruled that there was no "real controversy" which required the court’s attention - meaning that it was not a matter of importance to be decided by a court. 

The application was filed by prominent human rights lawyer M. Ravi on behalf of his client Tan, who was originally charged under Section 377A for allegedly having oral sex with another consenting male in a public toilet. The charge was later reduced to one under Section 294 which provides for a jail term of up to three months, or fine, or both for "any obscene act in any public place." Tan was fined S$3000 for committing an obscene act in public.

Members of the public can attend the hearing at the Court of Appeal on level 9 of the Supreme Court Building.


Reader's Comments

1. 2011-09-27 00:20  
I guess it always was discriminatory and unconstitutional, as all developed Countries have realised and held in court when contested, but in SG more obviously so since the repeal of the main part of 377. Good luck Singapore!
2. 2011-09-27 11:38  
Praises to Tan for challenging this obviously discriminatory law. Having said that, could this be a good lesson to the rest of us to keep our dicks out of the public domain and in our own bedrooms? George Michael's public loo episode in LA comes to mind as he wasn't spared the rod and this was in the US where there are anti-discriminatory laws in place.
3. 2011-09-27 13:37  
*crosses fingers for Singapore*

Also kudos to Tan Eng Hong and his lawyer M. Ravi for their courage to challenge the constitutionality of 377A. May their case be well-considered, especially in light of the amazing show of support of so many Singaporeans during Pink Dot.

Re: Comment #2
There is no reason why sex in public should be criminalised as if it were such a 'moral' issue. There are dubious ethics in policing what is essentially a victimless crime. The UK, for example, has eased up on its criminalisation of public sex.

4. 2011-09-27 13:57  
#3, while your point on public sex is valid, don't forget that, in Singapore at least, public sex (whether heterosexual or otherwise) is a criminal offence. Period.

I think the first issue on repealing Section 377A is unanimous as far as the LGBT community is concerned. The second issue on public sex is more contentious, I believe, because it's no longer about discrimination but more about public decency and the prevailing norms/mores as to what constitutes a violation of public decency in a particular community.

This is just my personal view but the question I would ask is this : why do it in a public loo or any place accessible by the public when there are budget hotels galore to choose from? Is it really a question of money or is it more about the thrill that one might get caught in the act?

Nevermind the differing views within the LGBT community, the prevailing standard of public decency in Singapore is this : keep your knickers (or jockstrap) on unless you're in the privacy of your own personal space where the public has no access to.
5. 2011-09-27 18:03  
A law against sex in public should not even be necessary, since it is common sense that something like that is just unacceptable, whether gay or straight.

As for Section 377 A of the Singapore penal code, it should have been abolished a long time ago. But then again, as far as human rights are concerned, Singapore still has a lot of catching up to do, if it wants to move from the prehistoric ages into the present, that is!
Comment #6 was deleted by its author on 2011-09-27 18:46
7. 2011-09-27 18:45  
Let's focus on s377a first.

As for sex in 'public', I think that a distinction should be made between places where the "public ought not to be exposed" and those that the public are expected to be exposed to. For Tan's case, I would think that he shouldn't have done sex in a public toilet since it is a public place where the public are expected to be exposed to. Exposure, beside physical contact and sighting, should include aural perception (e.g. sound). As public toilets' users include children, we should criminalize sexual activities in them so as to protect children's exposure.

Besides, the majority who use male public toilets are heterosexuals who may feel offended if they see or hear gays having sex while using the toilet to relieve themselves. Since public toilets are shared by members of the public, including children and straight men, they shouldn't be allowed to be used by gays for gay sex. If we insist on having the 'right' to have sex in such shared places, we will only antagonize the public. Unless we have toilets that are reserved for adult gays' use, in which case both children and straight people are intentionally excluded, I would think that sex in public toilets should continue to be criminalized.

On the other hand, there are public places where the "public ought not to be exposed" that I think sex should be allowed. These include gay saunas for adult and informed customers.

Just my 2 cents.
8. 2011-09-28 01:19  
#5, believe me I know what you mean but EVERY ONE has rights, not just us gay people so, please don't assume that general members of the public like kids and grandparents want to see you flashing your family jewels in public. The fact that sex in public is illegal in Singapore (whether heterosexual or otherwise) may not necessarily be a bad thing. It's about mutual respect. As much as we don't want heterosexuals to dictate to us what we can or cannot do, I firmly believe that we need to respect the fact that they don't want to be subject to acts of public indecency such as you flashing your family jewels in a public loo where kids and others may have access.
9. 2011-10-15 13:42  
If there is Singapore's son's leader turns out to be a gay in near future. We could see some changes in Singapore. What a pity country!! Developed country with undeveloped the Human Rights govt.
Comment #10 was deleted by its author on 2012-01-27 20:58
11. 2012-01-27 20:57  
Still no word on this? 4 months seems a long time to wait for a judgement on a procedural point. What's the hold up?

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