Calls for S’pore to axe gay law

A veteran Singapore diplomat has called for the gay community to challenge the constitutional ban on homosexual sex, following India’s scrapping of the same British colonial-era law.

Tommy Koh, chief ambassador at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responded to a Facebook post by a Singapore-based academic, Simon Chesterman of the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law, praising India’s landmark ruling.

“I would encourage our gay community to bring a class action to challenge the constitutionality of Section 377A,” Koh commented on the tread.

Previous legal challenges in 2014 on the constitutionality of the law failed but Koh added: “Try again”.

The intervention comes as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in neighbouring Indonesia and Malaysia are under increasing pressure. Two women were publicly caned in the last week under shariah law in the Malaysian state of Terengganu for alleged lesbian activity in a car.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that voters would want to keep the statute and that society “is not that liberal on these matters”.

Under law 377A, a man found to have committed an act of “gross indecency” with another man could face two years in jail, although prosecutions are rare. The law does not apply to lesbian acts.

Catholic abuse

The Catholic Church in Singapore says it is dealing with allegations of child abuse and committed to promoting a safe environment.

Archbishop William Goh recently revealed there were “a handful” of allegations of abuse involving Singapore’s church.

The cases had been handed over to the Professional Standards Office (PSO) of the Archdiocese for investigation and were judged to be inconclusive, he said last week.

The Catholic News platform has now outlined efforts to keep children safe.

“The Catholic Church in Singapore has in place a document that promotes a safe environment, including the implementation of a protocol to receive any complaint of sexual abuse or harassment of a minor or young person,” the church said.

This document sets out the procedures to “ensure a just treatment of all complaints in a transparent and judicial manner”.

If the accused was found guilty and if the case involved a member of the clergy, “Rome will be duly informed”, it added.

“Should the complainant choose to lodge a police report midway through the inquiry, he or she has the right to do so, in which case the PSO inquiry committee will immediately cease its investigations so as not to obstruct or interfere with the operation of any agency or civil authorities,” it added.

Crucially, the directive says any probe will be kept behind closed doors.

It added: “The investigations by PSO and the outcomes are confidential, including all the proceedings at any inquiry.”

Singapore’s gay community enjoys more freedom than its counterparts in many other Asean countries. Picture credit: Wikimedia