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Veteran Singapore diplomat Tommy Koh calls for gay community to challenge sex ban

Call comes after India’s scrapping of the same British colonial-era legislation

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 September, 2018, 12:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 September, 2018, 3:50pm

A veteran Singapore diplomat has called for Singapore’s gay community to challenge a law that bans gay sex in the conservative city state, following India’s scrapping of the same British colonial-era legislation.

Tommy Koh, a prominent diplomat and lawyer, made the comments in response to a Facebook post by a senior Singapore-based academic on India’s landmark ruling on Thursday.

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Simon Chesterman, dean of the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law, shared a New York Times story on the ruling, congratulating a former classmate and others on the change.

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

Previous legal challenges in 2014 on the constitutionality of the law failed. Reminded of this by another Facebook user, Koh said: “try again”.

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

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The prime minister’s office and the home ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Koh’s comments or current government thinking on the matter on Friday.

Koh did not immediately respond to a request for further comments.

Under Singapore’s law 377A, a man found to have committed an act of “gross indecency” with another man could be jailed for up to two years, although prosecutions are rare. The law does not apply to homosexual acts between women.

A spokesman for LGBT rights group PinkDot said that it had been told in its last constitutional challenge that it was up to parliament, not the courts, to change the law.

“We hope that parliament will consider the decriminalisation of S377A...We are ready to keep up with India.”