The nation's highest court on Wednesday (Oct 29) ruled that a law that criminalises sex between men is constitutional. The ruling covers both cases contesting the law, one brought by two graphic designers who have been in a relationship for 16 years, and the other by an artistic therapist who had been arrested for a sexual act committed in a toilet."We have carefully considered all the legal arguments tendered to this court in all their various forms, including the relevant historical materials ... (and) we dismiss both the present appeals," judges Andrew Phang, Belinda Ang and Woo Bih Li of the Court of Appeal said in their statement.
The judges found that Section 377A of the Penal Code did not infringe on the rights of Lim Meng Suang and Kenneth Chee Mun-Leon, who in 2012 argued that the statute was inconsistent with Article 12 of the Constitution, or 51-year-old artistic therapist and social volunteer Tan Eng Hong, who had been arrested for engaging in oral sex with another man in a public toilet in 2010.
The judges noted the "vexing difficulty" in dealing with the emotional extra-legal considerations surrounding the topic, and emphasised that they could only consider the legal arguments.
"While we understand the deeply-held personal feelings of the appellants, there is nothing that this court can do to assist them. Their remedy lies, if at all, in the legislative sphere," the Court of Appeal said in its judgment.
No order to costs was made.
"THE EXISTING LAW OF THE LAND"
"It is also important to emphasise that it follows that nothing in this judgment impacts the freedom of a person or group of persons to freely espouse as well as practise his/its values within the boundaries of the law. This is not mere political rhetoric, but a real and practical framework that furnishes real and practical freedom for each group and each individual ... provided this is done within the parameters and boundaries laid down by the existing law of the land," the judges said.
"This freedom cannot, however, extend to an insistence by a particular group or individual that its/his values be imposed on other groups or individuals."
The court also noted that similar cases in other countries should be considered in their unique circumstances. "Foreign cases that conferred expansive constitutional rights to life and liberty should be approached with circumspection because they were decided in the context of their unique social, political, and legal circumstances."
Lawyer M Ravi, who had represented Mr Tan for four years, said the precedent set by the ruling could be "far-reaching".
"Today’s decision has legitimised discrimination against gay men and approved the criminalisation of the conduct of their private lives by statute," he said in a statement to the media. He called the ruling a "huge step backwards for human rights in Singapore".