Peter Tatchell says latest court ruling ruling 'reaffirms that gay men in Singapore remain criminals'

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A FRESH attempt to overturn a Singapore law banning gay sex has failed after a court dismissed several challenges, marking a setback for efforts to promote greater LGBT rights in Asia. The failure of the court challenge was roundly condemned by Tatchell, above,

The Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation commented:

This ruling reaffirms that gay men in Singapore remain criminals. It is a clear violation of the right to privacy, equal treatment and individual freedom, and is contrary to international human rights principles.

Singapore is a member of the Commonwealth and signed the Commonwealth Charter which pledges ‘equality…for all without discrimination on any grounds.’

Singapore’s anti-gay law was originally imposed by Britain in the nineteenth century, during the colonial era. Similar British-imposed laws exist in half of the nearly 70 countries that continue to outlaw same-sex relations. They are the poisonous legacy of colonialism.

Ending the criminalisation of homosexuality would have been a huge step forward but there would have remained huge challenges to end the stigma, discrimination and hate crime that LGBTs suffer in Singapore – and other parts of Asia.

The law is rarely enforced but campaigners say it jars with the affluent city-state’s increasingly modern and vibrant culture.

But others argue that Singapore remains at heart conservative and is not ready for change. Officials believe most would not be in favour of repealing the legislation.

The latest attempt to overturn the law was led by three people – a retired doctor, a DJ and an LGBT rights advocate – who lodged court challenges seeking to prove the law is unconstitutional.

But the high court dismissed all three after hearing them together behind closed doors. It ruled that the law did not violate articles of the constitution regarding equality and freedom of speech.

M Ravi, a lawyer for one of the complainants, told reporters outside court he was “very disappointed”.

It’s shocking to the conscience and it is so arbitrary. It is so discriminatory this legislation.

A first challenge to the law was dismissed in 2014. The repeated failure to overturn it contrasts sharply with progress made elsewhere in the region on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

In 2018, India’s supreme court decriminalised gay sex by overturning legislation from its period under British rule, a decision that spurred campaigners in Singapore to renew their efforts.

And in Taiwan, lawmakers took the unprecedented step last year to legalise same-sex marriage, making the island the first place in Asia to do so.

Singapore’s ban, introduced in 1938, carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail for homosexual acts.