Singapore gay sex ban: Court rejects appeals to overturn law

A gay rights rally, Pink Dot, is in held in Singapore annuallyImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A gay rights rally, Pink Dot, is in held in Singapore annually

A bid to overturn a law that criminalises gay sex in Singapore has been dismissed by a court, dealing a blow to the city state’s LGBT movement.

The high court rejected appeals by three gay men who had argued the colonial-era law was unconstitutional.

The presiding judge said the law was "important in reflecting public sentiment and beliefs" in Singapore.

Under Section 377A, men found guilty of homosexual acts in public or private can be jailed for up to two years.

Speaking outside court, a lawyer for one of the complainants, M Ravi, said he was “very disappointed” by the ruling.

"It's shocking to the conscience and it is so arbitrary,” he said.

The legal challenges were the latest attempts to repeal Section 377A, after an effort by a gay couple in 2014 was rejected by the Court of Appeal.

But the LGBT rights movement in Singapore regained momentum after India’s decision to scrap similar legislation in 2018 renewed hopes for reform.

Singapore's authorities rarely enforce Section 377A, first introduced in 1938 by British colonial rulers.

But Singapore’s leaders, including its current prime minister, have refused to remove it, saying it reflects the conservative mores of the city state’s society.

In Monday’s judgement, the court echoed that sentiment, saying non-enforcement of the law against consensual gay sex in private did not render it redundant.

The court concluded the law was constitutional because it did not violate articles regarding equality and freedom of speech.

The latest attempt to overturn the law was spearheaded by three people: a retired doctor, a DJ and an LGBT rights advocate.

One of the men told Reuters news agency he was disappointed by the ruling, adding “my eyes are firmly on the road ahead”.

Currently 70 countries criminalise same-sex relations.