LGBT activist Roy Tan files legal challenge against constitutionality of Section 377A

Singapore LGBT activist Roy Tan has filed a legal challenge against Section 377A of the Penal Code. (PHOTO: Facebook / Roy Tan)
Singapore LGBT activist Roy Tan has filed a legal challenge against Section 377A of the Penal Code. (PHOTO: Facebook / Roy Tan)

SINGAPORE — A prominent Singaporean activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights has filed a new challenge against Section 377A of the Penal Code, a law that criminalises sex between men.

Dr Roy Tan, who was the main organiser of the first Pink Dot event in 2009, argues that the law is unconstitutional in filing the case in the High Court last Friday. The retired medical practitioner is represented by lawyer M. Ravi from Carson Law Chambers.

In a media statement released on Wednesday (25 September), Dr Tan said, “This anachronistic law adversely affects the lives of gay men.

“By institutionalising discrimination, it alienates them from having a sense of belonging and purposeful place in our society, and prevents them from taking pride in Singapore’s achievements.”

Inconsistent with Constitution

According to The Straits Times, Dr Tan stated in court documents that Section 377A is inconsistent with Article 9 of the Constitution, which states that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty.

He also stated that Section 377A is inconsistent with Article 12, which states that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to its equal protection, and Article 14, which states that every citizen of Singapore has the right to freedom of speech and expression.

Dr Tan said in his media statement that his challenge is based on “novel arguments” conceived by Ravi.

He cites the examples of the Public Prosecutor having the discretion on whether to prosecute a person accused under Section 377A, and the Singapore government also having said that the law will not be enforced against acts done in private.

These examples are incongruous with Section 14 of the the Criminal Procedure Code, which requires the police to unconditionally investigate all complaints of suspected offence.

“It represents not only a contradiction between the Public Prosecutor's prosecutorial discretion and the non-discretionary carriage of criminal justice on the ground but is also a restriction on their personal liberty which is not consistent with Article 9(1) of the Constitution,” Dr Tan said in his statement.

Challenging Court of Appeal ruling

The case will challenge the Court of Appeal's previous ruling in 2014 that Section 377A is constitutional.

It had already rejected two separate challenges on the ruling – the first by Tan Eng Hong, who was also represented by Ravi, and the second by a gay couple, Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee.

Two other constitutional challenges against Section 377A are currently before the courts.

One was filed in November last year by Bryan Choong, the former executive director of Oogachaga, a non-profit organisation working with the LGBT community.

The other was filed in September last year by disc jockey Johnson Ong, shortly after India's Supreme Court struck down a similar law.

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