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Lawyers clash in court challenge of Singapore's anti-gay sex law

Human rights lawyer says Singapore's Section 377A which criminalizes gay sex is 'inherently absurd, arbitrary, vague and discriminatory'
The Supreme Court Building in Singapore which houses the High Court

A case challenging constitutionality of anti-gay sex law was heard in the High Court in Singapore yesterday morning.

Human rights lawyer M Ravi went head-to-head with Aedit Abdullah, a lawyer from Singapore's Attorney-General's Chambers, the government's legal advisors.

The case, Tan Eng Hong v. Attorney-General, began in 2010 when Tan was charged for having sex with a man in a public toilet under Section 377A, the law which criminalizes sex between men.

After several court cases, the constitutional validity of the law is being challenged.

Ravi argued in court yesterday that Section 377A violates article 12 of Singapore's constitution which states 'all persons are equal before the law'. Ravi said the anti-gay-sex law is 'inherently absurd, arbitrary, vague and discriminatory'.

Aedit defended the law, arguing that the Singapore public views gay sex as immoral, citing this study which shows that the majority of Singaporeans still have negative attitudes towards homosexuals.

In the Attorney-General's Chambers' written submission, the government's legal advisors state Section 377A is necessary for 'preventing the mainstreaming of gay lifestyles'.

Aedit argued that a parliamentary discussion in 2007, after which Prime Minister Lee Hsien-Loong decided the law should stay in place, had been 'a conscious and considered protection of public morality'.

Aedit added that the law, which he says is not enforced, is 'a political compromise meant to appease a variety of parties', Singapore's Today Online reports.

Ravi countered that 'criminalizing a minority group for who they are does not advance public morality in Singapore. It merely perpetuates prejudice, which is quite a different thing'.

The judge, Justice Loh decided to reserve his judgment on the case.

Loh is also presiding on another constitutional challenge to Section 377A from gay couple Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee. He is expected to rule on both cases together.  

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