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Singapore Couple Challenge Law on Gay Sex

Friday Nov 30, 2012

SINGAPORE - A gay couple filed a constitutional challenge in a Singapore court on Friday aimed at repealing a long-standing law that criminalizes gay sex.

Gay activists say the government has become more tolerant toward gays and lesbians in recent years, but that under Singapore law, gay sex is deemed "an act of gross indecency," punishable by a maximum of two years in jail.

The couple, Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, filed their challenge with Singapore's High Court. Chee said they did so not because of any immediate fears, but because "I know that section 377A labels me a criminal."

The case comes after a man was arrested in August for having oral sex with another man in a shopping mall toilet. When he applied to have the law declared unconstitutional as it violated his right to personal liberty, the charge was converted to a different section of the law governing obscene acts in a public place.

The man was subsequently fined 3,000 Singapore dollars ($2,460).

Choo Zhengxi, one of the lawyers representing Lim and Chee, said citizens in Singapore are legally allowed to make such challenges if they belong to a group that is believed to be discriminated by any law that violates personal rights.

Sujith Kumar, a 24-year old student and co-founder of Purple Alliance, a group that advocates for equal rights among the gay community in Singapore, said he supports the legal challenge because the current law "irrationally criminalizes the gay community."

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