LGBT community ‘shocked and disappointed’ by Section 377A verdict

File photo of Singapore Supreme Court taken on 7 May 2014.

[UPDATED on 30 October 2014 at 6pm: Adding statement from Pink Dot]

Singapore’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has spoken out about the latest ruling on Section 377A in a joint statement on the Pink Dot website.

"We are greatly shocked and disappointed by the Court of Appeal’s ruling against appeals brought forth by Kenneth Chee, Gary Lim, and Tan Eng Hong, thereby upholding the constitutionality of Section 377a of the Penal Code criminalising sex between men,” reads the statement.

"It is not an imposition for a segment to seek the same rights as the rest of society. To be viewed as equal in the eyes of the law, to feel safe at home, and to be protected against discrimination, mistreatment, even physical and emotional harm, is a right to which every Singaporean should be entitled, and not denied on the basis of whom they love.”





The lengthy legal road for repeal of Section 377A has ended for Tan Eng Hong, as well as for couple Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee.

On Thursday, Singapore's apex court, the three-judge Court of Appeal, ruled that the country's law that bans and criminalises sex between men is constitutional and does not infringe on human rights as detailed in the constitution.

"Indeed, many of the arguments tendered to this court, whilst valid (or, at least, plausible) in their own right, involved extra-legal considerations and matters of social policy which were outside the remit of the court, and should, instead, have been canvassed in the legislative sphere," the judges wrote in concluding paragraphs of a 101-page judgement.

They stressed that Singapore's courts can only consider legal arguments, and not legislative ones, which would come under the purview of Parliament instead. "If the court were to assume legislative functions, it would no longer be able to sit to assess the legality of statutes from an objective perspective," it added.

"Whilst we understand the deeply-held personal feelings of (Tan, Lim and Chee), there is nothing that this court can do to assist them. Their remedy lies, if at all, in the legislative sphere," they concluded.

Responding to the judgement on Wednesday evening, the pair said in a statement shared with Yahoo Singapore that they were "deeply disappointed", but thankful that the Court of Appeal had taken the time to consider their appeal in detail.

"While the legal road for us has ended, we believe and hope that this case has inspired Singaporeans -- straight, gay, bisexual and transgender -- not to keep silent in the face of prejudice and inequality," they said, adding their hopes that Parliament will be able to consider their appeal against Section 377A in detail.

"We hope that Singaporeans will see this as a minor setback for equality and fairness, and that we can as a country recognise the value of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people... this particular journey may have ended for us but it continues for the rest of the community," the couple said.

Tan, 51, who was the first to challenge the validity of the section, was initially charged under Section 377A when he was arrested in 2010 for engaging in oral sex with another man in a toilet cubicle in a mall. His charge was later altered to committing an obscene act in public after his counsel, human rights lawyer M Ravi questioned the constitutionality of the law.

Ravi, who represented him pro-bono since 2010, expressed his "huge shock" at the court's decision, saying that Section 377A "is particularly aimed at criminalising gay men, while female homosexuals are treated differently under the law simply because our society disapproves of one group over another".

Tan’s challenge has been before the courts for four years and its precedent could be far-reaching, Ravi said in a statement. He added that the decision made by Justices Andrew Phang, Belinda Ang and Woo Bih Li "has legitimised discrimination against gay men and approved the criminalisation of the conduct of their private lives by statute".

"This unequal treatment in the law is based on hatred for hatred's sake and discrimination for discrimination's sake and nothing else," he said.