All three men to appeal dismissal of their challenges against Section 377A

All three men to appeal dismissal of their challenges against Section 377A

377A combi
The men mounting challenges to Section 377A, and their lawyers. (Photos: Facebook/Remy Choo Zheng Xi, Ching S. Sia, Facebook/Roy Tan)

SINGAPORE: The three men who mounted challenges against Section 377A, a law that criminalises sex between men, are disappointed by the High Court's dismissal of their cases and will be taking to the highest court in the land to appeal against the decision.

Disc jockey Johnson Ong Ming, retired general practitioner Roy Tan Seng Kee and Bryan Choong Chee Hoong, the former executive director of LGBT non-profit organisation Oogachaga, will each be appealing against the decision in the Court of Appeal, their lawyers told CNA.

Justice See Kee Oon on Monday rejected arguments put forth by the three men's lawyers that Section 377A is unconstitutional and upheld an earlier decision by the Court of Appeal.

According to Section 377A of the Penal Code, any man who commits any act of gross indecency with another man in public or in private can be jailed for up to two years. This extends to any man who abets such an act, procures or attempts to procure such an act.

READ: High Court judge dismisses all three challenges to Section 377A

Dr Tan's lawyer, M Ravi, has already filed a notice to appeal, in documents seen by CNA.

Dr Tan told CNA that he is disappointed that the High Court "has seen it fit to uphold the constitutionality of Section 377A, an unjust, archaic, colonial-era law which has no place in a modern, developed nation like Singapore". 

He said the statute "discriminates against a significant demographic that contributes in no small measure to the country's economy, especially in the creative industries, and effectively renders them second-class citizens". 

"The government has pledged not to enforce 377A but this unsatisfactory compromise is not only legally unsound but is also at odds with several important sections of the Criminal Procedure Code," he said.

Dr Tan said the existence of Section 377A "has manifold ramifications that adversely affect the lives of gay men in numerous areas such as positive media representation, censorship, workplace and housing discrimination, bullying in schools and recognition of their relationships".

READ: Three court challenges to Section 377A: A summary of key arguments

He also referred to how several key figures such as former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, former Attorney-Generals Walter Woon and V K Rajah, Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair and former law professor and ambassador Tommy Koh have called into question the constitutionality of Section 377A.

"Therefore, I feel that the High Court ruling is at odds with their expert legal opinion and merits re-examination," said Dr Tan.

DJ Johnson Ong Ming, whose challenge was heard jointly with Dr Tan, told CNA that the decision was "disappointing, but not entirely surprising, as Justice See mostly felt that he was bound by the decision of the Court of Appeal in 2014".

Mr Ong added that he has decided to appeal as "it will give the Court of Appeal an opportunity to reverse its decision and to overturn this bad law". 

"The fact remains that 377A continues to inflict harm on LGBTQ Singaporeans every day that it remains in force," he said.

The third man who mounted a challenge, Bryan Choong Chee Hoong, said he was disappointed but was keeping his eyes "firmly on the road ahead".

His lawyer Remy Choo said they would be filing the appeal individually, but that it is likely to be heard jointly again.

In a statement after Monday's outcome, non-profit LGBTQ movement Pink Dot said it was disappointed that the constitutional challenges had been dismissed, "despite significant progress in the acceptance of LGBTQ people".

Source: CNA/ll

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