Written by Lune Loh

Mr. Chan’s challenge

On 14 October, former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong published a 72-page report titled “Equal Justice Under The Constitution And Section 377A Of The Penal Code: The Roads Not Taken” on the online-based Singapore Academy of Law Journal.

The report is based on a talk he gave in February 2019 at the Law Faculty of the National University of Singapore (NUS). Mr. Chan bases his main argument upon how Section 377A criminalizes only male-to-male acts of “gross indecency” and its inconsistency with regards to similar acts that might be committed between male and females, or females and females. 

He also argues upon whether Section 377A is constitutional if it goes against Article 12(1) of the Singapore Constitution, which states that “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”, meaning that homosexual and bisexual men are given unequal treatment and protection under current laws.

According to him, Section 377A was historically enacted in 1938 to stamp out male prostitution, not because of its inappropriateness in society back then. He likewise elaborates how after the 2007 review of Section 377A and the 2013 High Court challenge initiated by Mr. Lim Meng Suang and his partner, there were no similar conditions of male prostitution in those years. He concluded that in contemporary times, Section 377A has no reason to exist, and that it can be read as a “gender-neutral provision that criminalises non-penetrative sex of gross indecency committed in public” in order to conform to the constitution.

More attempts to sashay away 377A

Ever since India’s historic Supreme Court decriminalization of Section 377 on 6 September 2018, many Singaporean academics and establishment figures like Janadas Devan and Professor Tommy Koh have weighed in on the possibility of Singaporean courts following suit. Sure enough, LGBT rights activist Dr. Roy Tan, disc jockey Mr. Johnson Ong Ming, and former executive director of Oogachaga Mr. Bryan Choong, will all be presenting their respective challenges in court this November. The LGBT community will certainly be watching closely.

Lune is a core member of /S@BER (/Stop @ Bad End Rhymes), a Singaporean writing collective, and is currently an Undergraduate at the National University of Singapore. Her works have been published in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Cordite Poetry Review, 聲韻詩刊 Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine, Math Paper Press' SingPoWriMo 2017 & SingPoWriMo 2018 and Squircle Line Press' Anima Methodi anthology. She has also been featured at Singaporean LGBTQ+ pride events such as Contradiction XIII and TransIt 2. Find her waxing at lune.city.

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