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M Ravi: Section 377A should be found as a law that is “absurd”

Appeal hearing on Monday against High Court decision to dismiss cases last year




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Singapore — Amid the latest battle to repeal the country’s law banning sex between gay  men, lawyer M Ravi has stated that the colonial-era law should be found “absurd”.

Mr Ravi is counsel for one of the three people seeking the repeal of the law, Dr Roy Tan Seng Kee.

An appeal hearing was held on Monday (Jan 25) against a court decision last year to uphold Section 377A of the Penal Code, which was introduced in 1938.

Dr Tan, Mr Bryan Choong and Mr Johnson Ong Ming had filed three separate legal challenges against Section 377A last year.

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The three cases were dismissed by the High Court.

Section 377A criminalises sex acts between gay men, and is a holdover from Singapore’s colonial past. Other former British colonies, such as India, have abolished similar laws.

According to the three men, Section 377A violates Article 12 of the Constitution, which states that all are equal before the law.

Mr Choong’s lawyers, Senior Counsel Harpreet Singh Nehal and Mr Jordan Tan, submitted that men are treated unequally since women cannot be prosecuted for sexual acts with each other.

Mr Ong was represented by Mr Eugene Thuraisingam.

Mr Ravi said in a Facebook post later that he had rebutted the Attorney-General’s Chamber’s (AGC) Left-Handed Argument at the 377A hearing and pointed out the contradictions within the argument.

He quoted one paragraph from the AGC, which read: “It is submitted that the Court should only find that a law is ‘absurd’ in the substantive sense if the law would be clearly absurd based on an extremely high threshold.

“For example, a law that bans left-handed people from using elevators might qualify as such a law.”

Mr Ravi listed three rebuttals to the AGC’s argument.

First, he brought up that State Counsel Kristy Tan had said that the scientific evidence on sexual orientation is inconclusive.

Mr Ravi asserted that this argument should also apply to those who are left-handed.

“Some people considered themselves born left-handed or some who are left-handed chose to be right-handed. Many left-hand people still choose to learn to write with their right hands because society has deemed them as different.”

He followed this up by writing that having a law that banned people who were left-handed from using elevators and a law that banned homosexuals from committing homosexual acts is comparable, but absurd because they distinguish “a special class of people who are not allowed to behave in the way they are supposed to”.

Thirdly, if the AGC perceives that a law banning left-handed people from using elevators is absurd and would fail a “reasonable classification test”, then why would “377A still satisfy the reasonable classification test?”

Mr Ravi asked: “Should not 377A fail the reasonable classification test just as the ban on left-handed people will?”

In conclusion, he wrote: “Therefore, 377A should be found as a law that is ‘absurd’ in the substantive sense even if based on the extremely high threshold.” /TISG

Read also: Singapore activists appeal gay sex ban court ruling

Singapore activists appeal gay sex ban court ruling


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