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Singapore: Challenge to Law on Homosexuality Permitted

(Aug. 27, 2012) In an August 21, 2012, decision, the Court of Appeal of Singapore ruled that a constitutional challenge, lodged against the Penal Code provision criminalizing male homosexuality, can go forward. (Tan Eng Hong v Attorney-General, 2012 SGCA 45, available from THE JURIST.) The ruling states that no decision was made on the merits of the case, but rather on the fact that it is arguable. (Id. ΒΆ 187.) The plaintiff, Tan Eng Hong, is challenging section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code, which states:

Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years. (Penal Code, SINGAPORE STATUTES ONLINE (last updated Jan. 2, 2011).)

Tan had been arrested with another man in 2010; each of them was charged under this provision of the Code. Although Tan eventually pled guilty to a lesser charge and paid a fine of Sg $3,000 (about US$2,400), he pursued his case against section 377A on the grounds that it was inconsistent with articles 9, 12, and 14 of Singapore's Constitution.

Article 9 of the Constitution concerns liberty of the person, article 12 is on equal protection before the law, and article 14 covers freedom of speech, assembly, and association. (Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, Aug. 9, 1965, SINGAPORE STATUTES ONLINE (last updated July 1, 2010).)

The recent Court of Appeal ruling overturns a High Court decision and allows Tan's case to proceed. (Dan Taglioli, Singapore High Court Allows Challenge to Law Criminalizing Homosexuality, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Aug. 22, 2012).)