Singapore—On Monday (Mar 30) three appeals to challenge the constitutionality of Section 377A of the country’s Penal Code were scrapped in the High Court. Section 377A criminalizes sexual intercourse between men, and is a holdover from Singapore’s colonial past. Other former British colonies, such as India, have abolished similar laws.
Bryan Chong, who had brought one of the challenges to Section 377A’s constitutionality, had even pointed out that the law had intended to curb male prostitution during colonial times instead of being a blanket declaration against homosexuality, based on declassified British government archives.
Justice See Kee Oon presented a rebuttal to Mr Chong’s points, as well as others raised. He said that Section 377A had not only been aimed against male prostitution, but that it was meant to be a “general application” towards homosexual practices of men. Furthermore the law was meant to enforce a “stricter standard of societal morality” when it was passed.
On his Instagram account, Heng Yirui, the husband of Li Huanwu, posted a photo late on Tuesday night (Mar 31), showing the couple seated some distance apart and captioned “Societal moral disapproval.” This picture stands in stark contrast to the other photos of the couple, which usually show them close to one another.
The couple made headlines last year when they got married in South Africa in May, given their high profile since Mr Li is the grandson of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, being the son of PM Lee’s younger son, Lee Hsien Yang.
Lee Hsien Yang and his wife, Lee Fern Suet, as well as their two other sons and Dr Heng’s family were in attendance at the wedding in South Africa. The two families also came out to support Dr Heng and Mr Li at last year’s Pink Dot, Singapore’s gay pride parade, the following month.
This was Mr Lee’s first time attending the Pink Dot. He said at the time of his son’s wedding, “I believe my father would have been thrilled to know this.”
The phrase Dr Heng used in his caption is a loaded one, having been used in the 1996 Report to US Congress that accompanied the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act. “Congress decided to reflect and honor of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.’
One person commenting on Dr Heng’s post thought that the photo was meant as an example of social distancing, but realized what it was for when he saw the hashtags.
Pink Dot SG, which aims to support the LGBTQ community in Singapore, issued a statement after the High Court dismissed the constitutional challenges to Section 377A, expressing disappointment but urging activists to keep fighting the good fight. Since this year’s pride celebration in June was cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Pink Dot has asked supporters to “join us in taking a stand against discrimination by lighting up your homes and workplaces in pink on 27 June 2020 at 6:30pm.”
The group said in its statement: “The colonial-era law, which criminalises consensual sex between men, has long been weaponised against sexual minorities. Through its trickle-down effects, Section 377A has been used to justify the discriminatory treatment of LGBTQ+ Singaporeans in areas such as housing and immigration. It has also rendered the community invisible in areas like the media, the workplace and education. While the repeal of Section 377A would not have been a panacea for all of these problems, it would have been a milestone—a significant step toward building a more equal and inclusive society.” —/TISG
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