The Court of Appeal has rejected cases brought by three men, who said the law which penalises sex between men with jail terms infringes their human rights under Singapore’s constitution.
“Whilst we understand the deeply-held personal feelings of the appellants, there is nothing that this court can do to assist them. Their remedy lies, if at all, in the legislative sphere,” the judgement reads.
A human rights lawyer who acted for one of the men who brought the case, M Ravi, says the judgement is a step backwards for human rights in Singapore.
“It appears that this absurd and discriminatory law criminalises the core aspect of an individual’s identity, in this case, homosexual men.
“This unequal treatment in the law is based on hatred for hatred’s sake, and discrimination for discrimination’s sake, and nothing else.”
The maximum penalty for gay sex, or ‘gross indecency’, is two years’ jail.
International media had reported that massage therapist Tan Eng Hong and gay couple Lim Meng Suang and Kenneth Chee Mun-Leon sought a repeal of the law after Tan was arrested for having oral sex with another man in a public toilet in 2010.
He and his partner who have been in a relationship for 15 years were initially charged under the law, known as Section 377A of the Penal Code. However, the prosecutor later substituted charges under a different law.
Gay rights are a contentious issue in Singapore, with many either wanting to retain or abrogate a British colonial-era law.
The government claims it does not actively enforce that ban but many Christian and Muslim religious groups want no debate on discarding the law and have become vociferous in opposing gay rights ever since Singapore last month witnessed its largest gay-rights rally with 26,000 people attending.
Under Section 377A, any male person who, in public or private, commits, abets, procures or attempts to procure any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years.
There have been various calls for Section 377A to be repealed in recent years and the issue of repealing or retaining it has also been brought up in Parliament in recent years.