Singapore's court upholds colonial-era law that jails LGBTQ people

While the world comes together to fight COVID-19, today Singapore decided to further ostracize its LGBTQ citizens, many of whom are already at risk from the virus.

Singapore’s high court has dismissed the cases of three men challenging Section 377A of the country’s penal code, which criminalizes LGBTQ people. The law, a holdover from British colonialism, gives a sentence of up to two years in jail for “gross indecency.”

“Singapore had an opportunity to lead the world in safeguarding and protecting its LGBTQ citizens, and it’s heartbreaking that they passed on that opportunity,” said Ross Murray of GLAAD. “The plaintiffs, like all LGBTQ Singaporeans, are patriotic citizens, fighting to make their country fairer and safer for all people within its borders.”

One of the plaintiffs is Johnson Ong, an internationally recognized DJ who uses the stage name Big Kid. GLAAD spoke with Ong about the lawsuit.

“Singapore’s 377A law continues to inflict harm on LGBTQ Singaporeans every day that it remains in force,” Johnson said of the ruling. “My wish is for the next generation of young LGBTQ to grow up unencumbered by such an oppressive law, and to have the confidence to fully participate and contribute to Singapore society without feeling less than equal.”

Even without strict enforcement, Singapore remains one of over 70 countries that criminalize LGBTQ people or activity. At least five countries impose the death penalty on LGBTQ people. Lawyers for the three plaintiffs say they are planning an appeal.

“This issue is bigger than any one person or any one campaign,” Johnson told GLAAD in 2018. “It is a Singaporean issue and is heartening to know that many Singaporeans are now ‘woke’ to the larger issue of equality and justice and fairness.”