The Court of Appeal is scheduled to hear an appeal filed by an openly gay man, Tan Eng Hong on Sep 26 at 10am.
Tan is seeking to challenge the constitutionality of Section 377A of the Penal Code that prohibits sexual relations between men.
In a judgement dated 15 March 2011, High Court judge Lai Siu Chiu ruled that while Tan did have locus standi meaning he is affected by this law to have a legitimate interest or standing in the issue, she also ruled that there was no "real controversy" which required the court’s attention - meaning that it was not a matter of importance to be decided by a court.
The application was filed by prominent human rights lawyer M. Ravi on behalf of his client Tan, who was originally charged under Section 377A for allegedly having oral sex with another consenting male in a public toilet. The charge was later reduced to one under Section 294 which provides for a jail term of up to three months, or fine, or both for "any obscene act in any public place." Tan was fined S$3000 for committing an obscene act in public.
Members of the public can attend the hearing at the Court of Appeal on level 9 of the Supreme Court Building.
Also kudos to Tan Eng Hong and his lawyer M. Ravi for their courage to challenge the constitutionality of 377A. May their case be well-considered, especially in light of the amazing show of support of so many Singaporeans during Pink Dot.
Re: Comment #2
There is no reason why sex in public should be criminalised as if it were such a 'moral' issue. There are dubious ethics in policing what is essentially a victimless crime. The UK, for example, has eased up on its criminalisation of public sex.
I think the first issue on repealing Section 377A is unanimous as far as the LGBT community is concerned. The second issue on public sex is more contentious, I believe, because it's no longer about discrimination but more about public decency and the prevailing norms/mores as to what constitutes a violation of public decency in a particular community.
This is just my personal view but the question I would ask is this : why do it in a public loo or any place accessible by the public when there are budget hotels galore to choose from? Is it really a question of money or is it more about the thrill that one might get caught in the act?
Nevermind the differing views within the LGBT community, the prevailing standard of public decency in Singapore is this : keep your knickers (or jockstrap) on unless you're in the privacy of your own personal space where the public has no access to.
As for Section 377 A of the Singapore penal code, it should have been abolished a long time ago. But then again, as far as human rights are concerned, Singapore still has a lot of catching up to do, if it wants to move from the prehistoric ages into the present, that is!
As for sex in 'public', I think that a distinction should be made between places where the "public ought not to be exposed" and those that the public are expected to be exposed to. For Tan's case, I would think that he shouldn't have done sex in a public toilet since it is a public place where the public are expected to be exposed to. Exposure, beside physical contact and sighting, should include aural perception (e.g. sound). As public toilets' users include children, we should criminalize sexual activities in them so as to protect children's exposure.
Besides, the majority who use male public toilets are heterosexuals who may feel offended if they see or hear gays having sex while using the toilet to relieve themselves. Since public toilets are shared by members of the public, including children and straight men, they shouldn't be allowed to be used by gays for gay sex. If we insist on having the 'right' to have sex in such shared places, we will only antagonize the public. Unless we have toilets that are reserved for adult gays' use, in which case both children and straight people are intentionally excluded, I would think that sex in public toilets should continue to be criminalized.
On the other hand, there are public places where the "public ought not to be exposed" that I think sex should be allowed. These include gay saunas for adult and informed customers.
Just my 2 cents.
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