Asia’s LGBTQ+ community suffered a setback Monday after Singapore’s high court dismissed multiple challenges to overturn a colonial law criminalizing gay sex.
Though polls have shown most Singaporeans do not accept homosexuality, there is widespread tolerance in the country. But conservatives pushed back, campaigning vigorously for Section 377A to remain. Though rarely enforced, 377A bans men from any act of gross indecency with another male. It is punishable by up to two years in prison.
Efforts to overturn the law and prove it is unconstitutional were led by a retired doctor, a LGBTQ+ rights advocate and a DJ. But even after Singapore’s high court heard from all three, it ruled the ban constitutional saying it does not infringe on articles concerning freedom of speech or equality.
“Legislation remains important in reflecting public sentiment and beliefs,” the court argued, saying just because the law is not heavily enforced, does not “render it redundant.”
After the final verdict was decided, lawyer M. Ravi, who represented one of the complainants, spoke to reporters outside the courthouse and expressed his disappointment. “It’s shocking to the conscience and it is so arbitrary. It is so discriminatory, this legislation.”
This wasn’t the first time the ban was challenged in court. In October 2014, attempts were also made to lift the ban but were rejected for the same reason as Monday’s decision.