Articles Tagged ‘Section 377A - Sayoni’

Latest News of Bigotry (Singapore)

The National Council of Churches of Singapore is doing it again. In it’s latest attempt to uphold it’s medieval values of hypocrisy, homophobia and ignorant religious rant, the NCSS ‘encouraged’ the Singapore government to outlaw lesbian sex along with sex between men. Published in the monthly journal of the Methodist Church in Singapore, we
quote :

(c) We are aware that the proposed amendment to delete section 377 PC but on the other hand retaining section 377A PC may be controversial in some quarters. Nevertheless, we consider homosexual acts to be sinful, abhorrent and deviant, whether consensual or not. The NCCS commends the Government on taking a clear, unequivocal and bold stand of neither encouraging nor endorsing a homosexual lifestyle and opposing the presentation of the same as part of a mainstream way of life. At the same time, we do not condemn homosexuals as the Bible calls us to hate the sin but love the sinner. Given that section 377A PC criminalises homosexuality whether done private or publicly, we are of the view that a similar prohibition ought to be enacted in respect of lesbianism, considering that lesbianism (like homosexuality) is also abhorrent and deviant, whether consensual or not.’

Singapore is undergoing a major review of its Penal Code which the Ministry of Home Affairs is proposing to repeal Section 377 of the Penal Code which criminalises ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’ while retaining 377A which criminalises ‘gross indecency between two males.’ Section 377A of the Penal Code provides a 2-year jail term. In short, heterosexual anal or oral sex will be ok but not homosexual sex.

Taking note of NCSS’s statement that totally ignored the proposed repeal of Section 377, the question for NCSS is, why are heterosexual anal or oral sex ok now for your dust-filled holy book?

A quick note to the reader :

The comment above is institution and issue specific and not to be viewed as an offense to the religion.

Relevant links :

Methodist Message

Statement from PLU

Sayoni at Penal Code focus group

Sayoni at Penal Code focus group 2

An excellent article on proposed changes in the Penal Code by Yawning Bread

A detailed reading into the Consultation Paper on the proposed penal code amendments by the Ministry of Home Affairs

Singapore Gay-Ready!

Let me refer to the article by Detenber et al (2007). The famous article used to support the retention of 377A.
Reference:
Detenber, B. H., Genite, M., Ku, M. K. Y., Ong, C. P. L., Tong, H. Y., & Yeow, M. L. H. (2007). Singaporeans’ attitudes towards lesbians and gay men and their tolerance of media portrayals of homosexuality. Internal journal of public opinion, 19(3), 367-379.

The anti-repeal camp jumped upon this statement made in opening statement of the conclusion segment: “Overall, this study found that most Singaporeans hold negative attitudes toward lesbians and gay men, and are rather intolerant towards media portrayals of homosexuality.” (Page 373).

What the researchers did: they called up Singaporean citizens over a period of 5 days and conducted interviews. They found that 68.6% of the participants expressed negative attitudes.

Here’s the break-down of predictors for negative attitudes:
1. Religion: Specifically Christians and Muslims were found to be least tolerant among Buddhists and free-thinkers.
2. Age: Older people are less tolerant.
3. Educational level: More educated people are more tolerant.

 

6 Men Charged under s377 and s377A for sex with teen (Singapore)

In breaking news of this week, 6 men have been charged under s377A and s377 of the Singapore Penal Code, for sex with a teen they met on the internet. We reproduce the AGC Media Briefing below.

PROCEEDINGS FOR UNNATURAL OFFENCES AGAINST NG GENG WHYE, QUEK HOCK SENG, SONG CHOONG CHEN THOMAS, BALASUNDARAM S/O SUPPIAH, MUHAMMAD HAFASHAH BIN MOHD ASLAM AND NG YONG YOU VICTOR

The abovenamed six accused persons have been charged for committing unnatural
offences with a 15 year old male student on occasions in 2006 and 2007. The six
accused persons met the victim while chatting on the internet. The accused
persons are charged as follows:-

A Conversation with K Shanmugam on LGBT in Singapore

Meeting with K Shanmugam

It all started on the 6th of October 2012 when, out of sheer frustration about the state of institutionalised discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in Singapore, I left a note on the Facebook Page of the Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs, K Shanmugam.

I wrote of friends leaving and the National Conversation making no effort to remember that we are Singaporeans too. I highlighted our trip to the United Nations last year to present our shadow report detailing the kind of discrimination that the government so often denies. As I wrote, I got a little bolder and said that if LGBT citizens are not wanted, please tell us, so that we can all forget this struggle and move on to wherever we need to be.

Minister Shanmugam kindly replied, “There can be no suggestion that LGBT citizens are not wanted.” The bigger question is, with the diverse viewpoints in our society and often held strongly by various groups, the government is often caught in the middle trying to decide what would be acceptable to the majority.

I replied by speaking about retaining laws like 377A, which in turn informs or influences policies, creating a cascading effect felt deeply by every LGBT person in Singapore. The exchange went on a few more times and Minister Shanmugam suggested that we meet for a proper chat for him to hear us more on the issues.

Breaking News: Indian High Court has decriminalised gay sex

Just today, the High Court of India ruled that s377 of the Indian Penal Code did not include consensual homosexual sex. This breakthrough comes after three years of litigation that commenced in 2006, by an interest group known as Naz Foundation sought a declaration that the law was discriminatory towards homosexuals. The decision is expected to be appealed. We will be reporting further on this development, and presenting an analysis of the judgment once it has been published.

Originally Reported by Reuters.

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – An Indian court Thursday ruled gay sex was not a crime, a verdict that will bolster demands by gay and health groups that the government scrap a British colonial law which bans homosexual sex.

In a country where public hugging and kissing even among heterosexuals invites lewd remarks and sometimes beatings, gay sex has been a taboo, leaving the government unsure how conservative Indians would react if the law was repealed.

The Delhi High Court’s ruling that homosexual sex among consenting adults is not a crime is expected to boost an increasingly vocal pro-gay lobby in India that says the British-era law was a violation of human rights.

Breaking News: s377A appeal fails at High Court (Singapore)

This is breaking news: no other news media outlet has reported this at the time of publishing. Sayoni is able to report this based on our own sources closely involved in the case. At the time of writing, the judgment has not been published in Singapore Law Review, or been reported on Singapore Law Watch. The citation of the case, for those interested, is Tan Eng Hong v Attorney General, [2011] SGHC 56. However, Sayoni has obtained a scanned copy of the judgment, which we are glad to attach for the perusal of our readers. Once it has been reported on the Singapore Law Watch, we will be glad to provide that link for our readers.

 

The High Court of Singapore has dismissed the appeal against the decision of the Registrar to strike out the constitutional challenge to s377A, lodged by Mr Tan Eng Hong. The challenge to s377A arose out of the arrest of Mr Tan Eng Hong and another man in a public toilet months ago, as we reported then. He was initially charged under s377A.

Broken Promises – 377A and Non-enforcement (Singapore)

The following news story was spotted on the blog of a local gay blogger – the original newsletter that was sent out is not available for linking. Club 1-7 is a male-only sauna, and such saunas are popularly associated with cruising venues for queer men.

From 1-7 newsletter

Dear members,

Our water supply was turned off at 10pm on the 25th April 2008, Saturday. When we opened the back door to investigate and turn it back on, a few plain-clothed officers from the CID rushed in. Sam immediately tried to stop them and demanded to know what was going on. They told him that they were conducting a ’spot-check’. When asked what they were checking for, they simply repeated ’spot-check’. the officers refused to specify what they were checking for despite repeated demands. Sam also asked if they had a warrant to check the premises. They refused to reply.

At this point in time, we turned on all the lights upstairs and downstairs to alert the members that a check was going on. None of the members were stopped from dressing or leaving, nor were they searched or any particulars taken.

Fresh Challenge to S377A

Two men have filed a new challenge against Section 377A of the Penal Code. I'm sure most of us will be following the developments anxiously, to see if this law that signals that same-sex relationships are wrong will be overturned one day.

We reproduce the press release below.

--

30 Nov 2012 (Singapore) –A fresh challenge has been made today against s 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes physical relations between two men. Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, partners for 15 years, filed the challenge following a recent landmark ruling by the Court of Appeal in Tan Eng Hong v Attorney General (“Tan Eng Hong”) that clarifies that the very existence of an unconstitutional law in the statute books may suffice to show a violation of an applicant’s constitutional rights.

Singapore is the only one among thirty-five advanced economies [1] in the world that criminalises physical relations between men, and one of only four countries in East and South East Asia [2] to do so. Though the Prime Minister stated in parliament 5 years ago that s 377A would not be ‘pro-actively’ enforced, there have been cases since where individuals have been threatened and charged with s 377A by the police, which was remarked upon by the Court of Appeal.

“I don’t live in fear every day that I will get caught by the police because of my relationship with Gary but I know that s 377A labels me a criminal,” said Kenneth.

Gary adds: “While lawmakers have stated in Parliament that s 377A will not be ‘pro-actively’ enforced, this is not enough because it leaves the possibility of ‘passive enforcement’, should someone decided to make a complaint against us one day.”

MHA Women’s Focus Group Discussion on Penal Code Amendments (Singapore)

Last Thursday, gathering my Sayoni mates and a whole lot of courage, I went to the MHA Focus Discussion Group for women. Coincidentally, or maybe not, it was held at Ang Mo Kio Grassroots Club, right in the bastion of the PM.

Upon registeration at the welcome-desk, one of our members refused to give our IC as identification, which caused some amount of confusion for the desk-helpers. Apparently, no one had ever tried to hold on their privacy before]. She was eventually allowed to pass. We went inside, and waited for quite a long time for the event to start, even though we had arrived after seven. During this time, we went through the amendments like we were mugging last-minute for an examination.

Finally, people started coming in. AWARE members took up at least half the audience, and the rest was made up of Sayoni women and private citizens. Two girls, one of whom we recognised to be a PSC/President's scholar, started the event by welcoming everyone, and reading out the entire amendment in, all 8 pages of it, in flat tones. Before I zoned out, I noticed one comment on the powerpoint presentation: they explicitly stated that lesbian sex would not be criminalised. And the speaker added a comment that this was 'so as not to give the impression that we are regressive in the area'. We could only look at each in confused incredulity, aware of the glaring contradiction as 377A was still in place.

On the prosecution of Mr Tan Eng Hong under Section 377A and the challenge to the law’s constitutionality

People Like Us (PLU)'s official statement :

www.plu.sg

 

On 24 September 2010, Mr M Ravi, a lawyer acting for Mr Tan Eng Hong, initiated a constitutional challenge to Section 377A of the Penal Code. This is the law that makes “gross indecency” between two men a crime in Singapore, punishable with up to two years’ imprisonment.

 

Mr Tan had been charged under Section 377A in connection with an alleged incident of sex in a shopping centre toilet.

 

People Like Us is not a party to this case and the associated constitutional challenge that Mr Ravi initiated. Moreover, as the matter is now before the courts, it is not appropriate for us to make any comments about the specifics of the case.

 

Online Petition for LGBT Rights at Commonwealth Meeting

We would like to call on our readers to sign this petition, addressed to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, to support his message of decriminalising homosexuality.

Leaders of 54 Commonwealth nations, including PM Lee, will be meeting in Perth from Oct 28-30 for the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Reports say that human rights will be an important focus of the summit, with news surfacing that there will be a push for these ex-British colonies to repeal their homophobic laws. The issue on people's minds will be the continuing relevance or irrelevance of the Commonwealth as an institution.

 

Link to petition:

http://www.allout.org/en/actions/wearenotillegal

 

Latest news:

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2011/10/26/commonwealth-secretary-general-backs-gay-rights/

Speaking in Perth, Australia, ahead of the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting, Mr Sharma said Commonwealth countries should “embrace difference” and commit to “tolerance, respect and understanding”.

He said: “We recall the 2009 Affirmation of Commonwealth Values and Principles, which includes a clear commitment to tolerance, respect and understanding. This means we embrace difference, and that includes sexual identity.

Report of s377A Hearing at the Court of Appeal, Singapore

This article is written by Indulekshmi Rajeswari, one of our active contributors and original founders of Sayoni. She is a law graduate who is currently getting her qualification for the bar. She has been actively involved in the case since last year and is currently the only person on M Ravi's legal team.

Writer's note: As I am intimately involved with the case, it would not be appropriate of me to give my personal thoughts on the matter, especially since the judgment is not out yet. However, a factual account is still warranted.


27th Sept was a fairly historic day. For the very first time, the Court of Appeal in Singapore heard a case relating to sexual orientation. Judgment has been reserved till a later date.

 

The journey to get here has been long and filled with sleepless nights, but I personally am glad I sacrificed sleep (and some sanity).

 

Sayoni has reported on this legal saga that started last year, with M Ravi filing a constitutional challenge against s377A in the name of Tan Eng Hong, someone who was caught for public sex with another man and charged under s377A. The charge was later dropped and substituted with s294(a), concerning an obscene act in public. Subsequently, the AGC filed to strike out the constitutional challenge and eventually, the motion came all the way to the Court of Appeal.

 

The hearing today focused on whether the plaintiff (the Appellant in this case) had the right to even bring the challenge. Both sides had voluminous written arguments. The AGC team was lead by Chief Prosecutor Aedit Abdullah.  It must be noted that Aedit Abdullah is a well-respected Deputy Public Prosecutor who was a former Senior District Judge. He had three assisting counsel, including Teo Guan Siew, whose resume is also fairly impressive. The Appellant's team was led by M Ravi, who is known for having brought various constitutional challenges. At the time of this article, I was the sole person on his legal team.

Section 377A Challenge Can Proceed: Court of Appeal

This article is by Indulekshmi Rajeswari, who was the head of M Ravi's legal team in the case.

Today was an absolutely historic day in the fight for LGBT rights in Singapore. The Court of Appeal decided to allow the constitutional challenge against s377A to go ahead, reversing the decision of the High Court.

At around 11am today, the Court of Appeal of Singapore released their decision regarding the hearing that took place almost a year ago, in 2011. I reported on the hearing back then, and it is useful reading for those who wish to know the background on this case.

In the 106-page judgment, the Court of Appeal explained their reasons. The reasons given are more or less consistent with the arguments of the Appellant, Tan Eng Hong. Primarily, the Court of Appeal opined the following:

To Singapore’s LGBT Community and Friends

 

To Singapore’s LGBT Community and Friends,

Recent events have caused much grief to many of us. Issues surrounding being LGBT are once again cast in the limelight and being discussed in the media. Hateful words have been used, disinformation has been spread as fact, and our leaders' positions do not appear to be evolving. While many of us are understandably hurt, even angered, by some insensitive comments that have been made, and there is fear that justice and equality may not prevail, it is important that we stay rational and keep calm.

There will be little to be gained from responding to vitriol with more vitriol. In the words of Gandhi, “Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.” Let us not devolve into the very image of the angry and intolerant, whose hearts and minds we ought to win over through love and kindness. Misinformation is best countered rationally, with facts.

At times like this, it is especially difficult for those of us who are not yet ‘out’ and feel like we are living with stigma on our own. The issue may be debated among our peers – at the workplace, in school or in National Service – or even with family members at home. It may be placing undue pressure on those of us who fear being ‘outed’ if we simply took a stand.

Remember, you are not alone. There is a strong community of people – straight and LGBT – who understand what you are going through.It is important that we lend support to one another at this difficult time. While the resources are few, they are available, thanks to the efforts of our own community. You can find links to some of them below.

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