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Singapore's highest court hears appeals to have 377A declared unconstitutional

Three men, including a gay couple, are seeking a declaration from the Court of Appeal that a law that criminalises sex between men is "unconstitutional".

SINGAPORE: The law that criminalises sex between men should be modified so that it does not apply to consenting adults and for sexual acts done in private, the lawyer for a gay couple argued before the Court of Appeal on Monday (July 14).

Defence lawyer Deborah Barker said her clients are not seeking to change the constitution, but only to enforce it. 46-year-old Gary Lim Meng Suang and 38-year-old Kenneth Chee Mun-Leon, have been in a romantic and sexual relationship for the past 16 years.

As they felt they had lived their lives under threat from Section 377A of the Penal Code, they filed an application in 2012 to have the law declared unconstitutional.

With the High Court dismissing their application in 2013, they are appealing against its decision.

Ms Barker also submitted that her clients are not asking for social change or the affirmation that male homosexual conduct is acceptable in Singapore.

Rather, they are seeking a ruling that the majority cannot impose its views, disguised as public morality, to target an unpopular minority group by restricting their intimate conduct in private which is legal for everyone else.

The three-judge Court of Appeal is also hearing a parallel appeal by 51-year-old artistic therapist and social volunteer, Tan Eng Hong.

Tan was arrested for engaging in oral sex with another man in a public toilet in 2010. He contested the law but had his application dismissed by the High Court in 2013. For his appeal, Tan is represented by lawyer M Ravi.

Both the couple and Tan contend that Section 377A is unconstitutional as it breaches laws that protect life and personal liberty, as well as against unlawful discrimination.

Senior Counsel Aedit Abdullah from the Attorney-General's Chambers said it is not permitted for the legislative purposes of Section 377A to be examined as the Constitution does not provide a standard under which such an examination can be made.

Any examination of this has to be raised in Parliament. The hearing continues on July 15. 

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