Singaporean challenging gay sex law praises judges grappling with ‘delicate legal situation’

Johnson Ong with lawyers Eugene Thuraisingam, Suang Wijaya, Joel Wong, and Johannes Hadi at Monday’s hearing. Photo: Ruey Loo
Johnson Ong with lawyers Eugene Thuraisingam, Suang Wijaya, Joel Wong, and Johannes Hadi at Monday’s hearing. Photo: Ruey Loo

One of the three Singaporeans challenging the gay sex law yesterday praised the five appeal court judges who heard their arguments for taking them seriously.

Local DJ Johnson Ong, 44, who was represented by high-profile attorney Eugene Thuraisingam, praised the judges for asking difficult questions and making sure everyone’s voice was heard while reflecting on the hearing that took place. 

“There were moments of spirited exchanges between the justices and counsels, including with counsel from [Attorney-General’s Chambers],” Ong wrote afterward. 

Ong and two others were appealing the high court’s 2020 decision to uphold Section 377A of the Penal Code, commonly known as the gay sex law, which bans “acts of gross indecency” between men. 

He felt they got a fair hearing.

“What struck me about today was the robustness of our judicial system, the high standard of legal discourse and I felt the genuineness of our justices really grappling with a very delicate legal situation, that is 377A, and really trying to see things (and some tough questioning) from the point of view of all the parties involved,” he added.

The hearing was presided by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and appeals court judges Andrew Phang, Judith Prakash, Steven Chong and Tay Yong Kwang. A date for their ruling has yet to be announced. 

Among the arguments made in court was that S377A specifically applied to gay men, all of whom were at risk of prosecution even though the law has not been systemically enforced. Those found guilty of violating it can be jailed for up to two years. 

Thank you for all your words of encouragement! ❤️❤️ I know many of you are very anxious as to the outcome. The hearing…

Posted by Johnson Ong on Monday, 25 January 2021


The other two appellants were retired doctor Roy Tan, who was represented by M Ravi of Carson Law Chambers, and Bryan Choong, the former chief of an LGBT nonprofit advocacy group. He was represented by Harpreet Nehal Singh SC from Audent Chambers. 

Yesterday’s hearings began at 10am and lasted several hours. The judges will issue their ruling at a later date. 

“I know many of you are very anxious as to the outcome. The hearing is now concluded and the court of appeal has reserved judgment. That means the court can take a few weeks to several months to issue a decision,” Ong said. 

Correction: Roy Tan was represented by only one lawyer and not two, as previously indicated. 

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