The rationale used by the Court of Appeal to declare Section 377A of the Penal Code constitutional “goes against international human rights norms” and is a “perilous step back for human rights in Singapore”, said human rights group MARUAH in a statement following a panel discussion on Sunday on the same subject matter.
MARUAH’s president Braema Mathi issued the statement on behalf of the discussion group, which included lawyers M Ravi and Peter Low, blogger Alex Au and law professor Jack Lee. The panel spoke at the event “Section 377A: What Does It Constitute?”
In October 2014, the Court of Appeal has rejected two separate Constitutional challenges to Section 377A of the Penal Code, the law that criminalises sex between men, maintaining that the law does not contravene Singapore’s Constitution.
The cases, brought by Tan Eng Hong and gay couple Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, have sought to contended that the provision is discriminatory and should be declared void by the court, as it infringes their right to equal protection under the law, as guaranteed by Article 12 of the Constitution, and violates their right to life and liberty, as guaranteed by Article 9.
“The rather narrow interpretation of Articles 9 and 12, vis-a-vis Section 377A, has left the SOGI (Sexual Orientation Gay Identities) community little recourse in claiming their personal freedom and dignity,” said MARUAH in the statement.
“As a law, Section 377A of the Penal Code violates fundamental human rights – among them the right to privacy, to freedom from discrimination and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. It also adds to the stigma and abuses that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people do face.”
“MARUAH is clear that Governments have a duty to protect people from prejudice, not to add to it. Public hostility towards gay and lesbian people can never justify violating their fundamental human rights.
The statement indicated that there is no mention of any gender, sex or sexual orientation in Article 12, and the arguments on cultural relativism, societal morality and rights of all individuals in Singapore are not in sync.
MARUAH also affirmed Singapore’s position as a secular state, where the laws of the land come from the Constitution, which should be regarded as a contract between the people and the government on sovereignty, structure and principles for the country.
The group ended the statement by calling for education on the Constitution and citizenship rights; amendments to the Constitution to offer equality to all citizens regardless of race, language, religion and gender; and affirmation that Singapore is a secular country in its ideology that appreciates the diversity.