With a full-blown debate over Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code — our ban on sex between gay men — taking place on a national level once again, a local disc jockey has taken the bold step of filing a court challenge against the colonial-era ruling.
Pink Dot 2010 ambassador Johnson Ong (aka DJ Big Kid) has teamed up with prominent lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam to argue that the archaic ruling — an unenforced law that prohibits any “act of gross indecency” between two male men — is unconstitutional. The lawyer confirmed to The Straits Times that the court challenge was filed on Monday.
It’s been four years since the last legal attempt to strike down Section 377A failed. The Singapore Supreme Court’s ruling in 2014 upheld the country’s ban on same-sex relations between consenting adult men.
The court dismissed arguments that the provision is discriminatory, reasoning that the right to equal protection under the law (as guaranteed by Article 12 of the Constitution) did not include words such as “gender” and “sexual orientation.”
As unenforced as Section 377A may be, its very existence remains a blight in the eyes of Singapore’s LGBTQ community, as it effectively deems gay men unconvicted criminals.
Ong is well aware of the failed endeavor in 2014, he told ST. For this new legal challenge, he intends to draw on the international judicial developments since then, including India’s recent abolishing of a similar law. Thuraisingam — who’s acting pro bono for Ong — mentioned that they will also be presenting “medical and scientific evidence” to prove that sexuality is inherent, not a choice.
A pre-trial conference has been fixed on Sept 25.
In recent days, there have been renewed calls for both the repealing and keeping of Section 377A of the Penal Code. Two opposing petitions have gone viral, but the results are evident: over 32,850 signatures have been gathered in support of repealing the ruling, and over 95,300 signatures have been gathered in a call for things to remain unchanged.
But if you do want to see the general mindsets of folks wanting to keep Section 377A in the penal code, you simply have to look at their highly ludicrous comments posted on the petition.