Couple files challenge to S'pore law criminalising gay sex

A Singaporean gay couple has filed a legal challenge against Section 377A of Singapore's Penal Code in the High Court on Friday. (Getty Images)

A gay couple on Friday filed a legal challenge in Singapore’s High Court against a law that criminalises sex between men.

Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, who have been together for 15 years, are seeking the repeal of the country’s landmark Section 377A of its Penal Code.

In a statement sent to the media, Chee said he did not live in fear of being caught by the police for his relationship with Lim, but said he knows that "s 377A labels me a criminal".

Lim added that even though lawmakers have said that the law will not be "pro-actively" enforced, the fact that the law exists "leaves the possibility of 'passive enforcement', should someone decide to make a complaint against us one day".

Lim and Chee are represented by senior counsel Peter Low, assisted by Choo Zheng Xi and Indulekshmi Rajeswari.

Section 377A of the Penal Code, which is still in force, rules that acts of "gross indecency" between two men is punishable, carrying a jail term of up to two years.

A heated debate on the issue began in 2007, when then-Member of Parliament Siew Kum Hong filed a petition to repeal Section 377A, which he cited as discriminatory and a violation of constitutional safeguards on equal rights.

His petition was shot down by then-senior minister for law and home affairs Ho Peng Kee, who said at the time that "repealing Section 377A will be contentious and may send a wrong signal that the government is encouraging and endorsing the homosexual lifestyle as part of our mainstream way of life".

In August, Singapore's Court of Appeal overturned a High Court judge's decision to reject the challenge filed in 2010 by 49-year-old Tan Eng Hong, who was caught engaging in fellatio with another man at a shopping centre.

Tan was initially prosecuted under the section, but later had his charges reduced to committing an obscene act in public after his attorney M Ravi questioned the constitutionality of the law.

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