Retired doctor championing gay rights legally challenges Section 377A –

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A retired General Practitioner and lecturer at the National University of Singapore Dr Roy Tan filed a case last Friday (September 20) challenging the constitutionality of Section 377A of the penal code – a law which criminalises sex between men.

A Mr Tan Eng Hong first challenged 377A in 2010 which was initially met with resistance from the gay community itself.

Dr Tan Seng Kee, 61, better known as Roy Tan, was the main organiser for the first Pink Dot event in 2009 advocating LGBT rights.

He is represented by human rights lawyer M. Ravi from Carson Law Chambers.

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A pre-trial conference has been set for Oct 8.

The case will challenge the Court of Appeal’s previous ruling in 2014 that Section 377A is constitutional.

The three-judge Court of Appeal had then rejected two separate challenges by Mr Tan Eng Hong, who was also represented then by Mr M. Ravi, and a gay couple, Mr Gary Lim and Mr Kenneth Chee.

Two other constitutional challenges against Section 377A are currently before the courts.

When asked for comment, Dr Tan explained, “I feel that this is an opportune time for the courts to reconsider the constitutionality of Section 377A and contemplate striking it down in light of the developments around the world that have taken place since the last unsuccessful attempt in 2014. India recently struck down its analogous Section 377 and eight other countries have decriminalised same-sex relations, with another country, Bhutan, currently in the process of doing so”.

According to court documents seen by TISG, Dr Tan stated that Section 377A is inconsistent with Article 9 of the Constitution, which states that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with law.

He also stated that Section 377A is inconsistent with Article 12, which states that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to its equal protection, and Article 14, which states that every citizen of Singapore has the right to freedom of speech and expression.

At the Smart Nation Summit in San Francisco earlier this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made his thoughts on the matter clear.

PM Lee said that Singapore is open to the LGBT community even though Section 377A, the law that criminalises sex between men, will continue to remain on Singapore’s legislation.

PM Lee said: “You know our rules in Singapore. Whatever your sexual orientation, you are welcome to come and work in Singapore.”

He added that LGBT people are living freely here with the annual Pink Dot gathering occurring over the years.

He also said: “But this has not inhibited people from living, and has not stopped Pink Dot from having a gathering every year.”

“My personal view is that if I don’t have a problem — this is an uneasy compromise — I’m prepared to live with it until social attitudes change”, he said. -/TISG

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