Australian human rights experts send a message to the Singapore Government over homosexual criminalisation

March 17, 2022

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has expressed concern at  the retention of an  archaic and discriminatory law that criminalises homosexuality in Singapore. The comments  follow a challenge to the law in the Singapore Court of Appeal which ultimately dismissed the plaintiffs’ constitutional arguments for lack of standing.

ALHR executive and LGBTI cochair, Nicholas Stewart, said, “The law criminalising homosexuality, s 377A of the Singapore Penal Code, is a very old law and stems right back to Singapore’s earlier colonial rulers, the British. It was introduced into the Singapore Penal Code in 1938 because, at the time, Singapore’s rulers thought that it was appropriate to “[punish] acts of gross indecency between male persons’’. 

Stewart continued, “Singapore gained independence in 1965 yet, almost 60 years later, it has maintained a discriminatory law that clearly has no place in a modern, progessive society. Even though the recent Court of Appeal decision references a 2018 prosecutorial policy of Attorney-General Lucien Wong Yuen Kuai stating his intention to not enforce section 377A, LGBTQIA+ communities cannot feel safe while this law remains alive and potent in the Legislative Division of Singapore. A policy not to prosecute a law is discretionary and may be overturned at any time.”

ALHR LGBTI Subcommittee Co-Chair , Georgia Burke, said “While Singapore is unfortunately only a party to a small number of international human rights treaties, none of which concern the rights of LGBTIQA+ communities, the country should take action to repeal section 377A.   Its Attorney General has explicitly stated his policy not to enforce the law, and we hope that the Singapore Government will now take steps to completely decriminalise homosexuality and acknowledge the law as a relic of a colonial system of government which has no place in a modern Singapore.” 

”As a member of both the United Nations and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings, Singapore seeks to participate in international affairs. It has a duty to ensure its LGBT citizens and visitors, including the many LGBT ex-patriot corporate employees who move to Singapore each year, feel safe in the country.” 

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