Court of Appeal’s Verdict on 377a Constitutional Challenge: A Missed Opportunity
SINGAPORE, Thursday, October 30, 2014 – We are greatly shocked and disappointed by the Court of Appeal’s ruling against appeals brought forth by Kenneth Chee, Gary Lim, and Tan Eng Hong, thereby upholding the constitutionality of Section 377a of the Penal Code criminalising sex between men.
Despite the authorities’ claim that this law will not be enforced, the existence of Section 377a has a wide-ranging effect not just on Singapore’s Gay men, but also its Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender communities.
It gives carte blanche for discrimination and reinforces prejudice, leading to censorship in the media and the aggravation of negative stereotypes, and impacting the health and wellbeing of a significant segment of society.
While we appreciate the Court’s position that it cannot assist in providing a judicial remedy to what it views as a legislative issue, we cannot accept its narrow interpretation of the constitution in this regard, and its view that this is an ‘insistence by a particular group or individual that its/his values be imposed on other groups or individuals’.
It is not an imposition for a segment to seek the same rights as the rest of society. To be viewed as equal in the eyes of the law, to feel safe at home, and to be protected against discrimination, mistreatment, even physical and emotional harm, is a right to which every Singaporean should be entitled, and not denied on the basis of whom they love.
With this verdict, an opportunity to showcase Singapore as a truly accepting, open and inclusive society – and a great place to live, work and play – has been missed.
An opportunity to demonstrate that we all stand by our guiding principle of being one united people, building a democratic society based on justice and equality, has been missed.
With that in mind, we however recognise efforts made by the High Court and Court of Appeal to hear the cases. We appreciate it is not an easy issue and we trust that all options and avenues had been carefully considered in deliberations leading up to the final ruling.
In view of the Court’s stance, we call on Parliament to demonstrate true leadership and do the right thing by nullifying this crippling piece of legislation.
We also wish to collectively thank the people involved in both legal challenges: partners Kenneth and Gary, fronted by lawyers Deborah Barker and Peter Low; and Tan Eng Hong, represented by M Ravi, for their time, effort and devotion to this cause of building an equal and caring society in Singapore.
We recognise that the journey toward building Singapore into a society that truly understands, accepts and appreciates the value of diversity and inclusivity is still in its early days – this is by no means the end of the road to equality for the LGBT community.
Let us all do our part, and work towards the day when the freedom to love, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, finally becomes a reality.
- End -
This statement is jointly issued by the following community groups: