The United Nations human rights office today expressed regret over a recent Singapore Supreme Court ruling to uphold a law criminalizing consensual same-sex relations between adult men, calling the directive a “missed opportunity” to strike down the law.
Speaking at a press briefing in Geneva, Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said the ruling from 29 October to uphold section 377A of the Penal Code violated “a host of human rights guaranteed by international law,” including the right to privacy, the right to freedom from discrimination, and the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, including protection for sexual orientation and gender equality.
While the law is “rarely” invoked in Singapore, “it nonetheless codifies discrimination and contributes to societal stigma against individuals who are gay,” he said.
In its examination of the constitutionality of section 377A, the Supreme Court decided the section did not violate articles 9 and 12 of the Singapore Constitution, which guarantees the right to life and liberty, and right to equality before the law and equal protection of law, respectively.
While the Supreme Court expressed sympathy for the situation of the appellants, it stated it was up to the Singaporean Parliament to amend the law, Mr. Colville said.
Some political leaders in Singapore had publicly advocated for tolerance and inclusion, the spokesperson said, noting that OHCHR was thus hopeful that Singapore’s legislature would respond to the Court’s decision by repealing the section and enacting anti-discrimination legislation that includes discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.