Gay sex remains illegal in Singapore, court affirms

There have been several failed attempts to get the legislation repealed in recent years, a contrast to progress on gay rights in other parts of Asia, like Taiwan and India.
The entrace of Singapore's Supreme Court

The entrace of Singapore's Supreme Court

Agency Report

Singapore's top court on Monday dismissed the latest challenge to a law banning sex between men, but gay rights campaigners pledged to fight on and get the legislation overturned.

A holdover from British colonial rule, the law is not actively enforced but campaigners say it still denies members of the gay community their rights despite the affluent city-state's increasingly modern and vibrant culture.

There have been several failed attempts to get the legislation repealed in recent years, a contrast to progress on gay rights in other parts of Asia, like Taiwan and India.

The latest ruling, by Singapore's Court of Appeal, was on a challenge against a 2020 High Court decision.

A panel of judges dismissed the appeal, saying it was unnecessary for them to rule on it as the campaigners who brought the case "do not face any real and credible threat of prosecution".

But they did go further than in previous cases, noting the law was maintained due to its "symbolic weight" but on the basis that it "would not be proactively enforced".

The legislation "is unenforceable unless and until the (attorney-general) of the day provides clear notice that he" decides to enforce it, they added.

Roy Tan, a retired doctor and among three people who lodged the challenge on the grounds the law is unconstitutional, welcomed the statement the law was "unenforceable".

But he said it did not go far enough as the law "remains on the books, and that is a huge signpost to society that gay men are still criminals, even though they may not be prosecuted".

Tan said he intended to pursue fresh legal challenges.

Gay rights campaigner Bryan Choong, one of the trio who brought the case, said that "we are upset and disappointed with the judgement".

But the ruling "does not mean our work to make Singapore a more inclusive and accepting society will stop", he added.

Officials maintain most in socially conservative Singapore would be against repealing the law, which carries a maximum of two years in jail for homosexual acts.

AFP

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