Singapore’s gay sex ban and the LGBTQ+ movement: The story so far

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02/01/2021

It has been an important week for LGBTQ+ activists in Singapore, both in the courtroom and on the streets. While the affluent country has seen some moves towards liberalisation, the queer community continue to fight against legal and social inequality. Recently, campaigners launched an appeal against the 2020 High Court decision to uphold Singapore’s colonial-era gay sex ban. Section 377A of the Penal Code was enacted in 1938 and carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison for consensual sex between adult men. Though it is rarely enforced, the law is a major concern for the LGBTQ+ community and a divisive issue for Singaporean society as a whole. After a government review of the penal codes in October 2007, many of the provisions of Section 377 were repealed, however, the ban on gay sex was maintained. In the years since, several different cases have been brought against the legislation, primarily on the grounds that it undermines the rights to personal liberty and equality as outlined in Singapore’s constitution. In 2012, Lim Meng Suang and Kenneth Chee Mun-Leon, a gay couple of over 15 years, brought a constitutional challenge to Section 337A. However, the case was dismissed by the High Court and later the Court of Appeal, where it was ruled that the issue was a matter for parliament.

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