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Any male person who, in public or private, commits or is party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable at the discretion of the Court to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour.

Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885

Gross indecency is a term used in some criminal statutes to criminalize certain forms of sexual activity. Its definition varies by jurisdiction.

The term "gross indecency" originated in the United Kingdom with the Labouchere Amendment—Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, introduced by Henry Labouchere, Liberal MP for Northampton—which was passed by Parliament. The amendment did not define what constituted gross indecency, but it specified that it involved acts between at least two men.[1]

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British colonies, Section 377[]

The Labouchere Amendment were exported by the British to several of its colonies. It was first codified as Section 377 in the Indian Penal Code as "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" in 1860. It was then adopted by other former British colonies. Due to the common origin of historical penal codes in many former British colonies, the prohibition of homosexual acts, specifically anal sex between men, is provided for in Section 377 in the penal codes of 42 former British colonies.[2] The British have contributed nearly half of all gross indecency laws that were still in place in 2006 (42 out of 92).[3][4] Today, homosexual activity remains a criminal offence in 35 of the 54 sovereign states of the Commonwealth; and legal in only 19.

India[]

India has Section 377 on September 6, 2018.[5]

Singapore[]

A photo taken from a nearby condominium from Hong Lim Park where the Pink Dot gathering and protest is held. The crowd is glowing with pink lights and across the crowd is spelt with bright pinkish white light, Repeal 377A.

Pink Dot SG 2019 at Hong Lim Park in Singapore demanding that S377a be repealed

The introduction of S377 to Singapore's Penal Code was not due to homophobia, but instead racism; at this time, it was disgraceful to the British to learn that European men were consorting with "Asian male prostitutes".[6] Following a penal code review in 2007, the original Section 377 was repealed, with a new Section 377 taking its place. The new section was used to criminalize necrophilia, while Section 377a would be used for homosexual relations. Section 377a as it currently reads states:

"Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years."[7]

While it is said that it is enforced, S377 is used as a foundation to justify several government policies that discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people in Singapore. There have been three court cases raised regarding the constitutionality of S377; the first was in 2010,[8] the second occurred in 2012,[9][10] and the third in 2018.[11] The need for the legislation had been questioned in August 2018[12] after India repealed S377 in its own penal code.[13]

In early 2020, the High Court dismissed all three challenges,[14] with two of the plaintiffs appealing immediately.[15]

Pink Dot SG, Singapore's pride event, first organized in 2009 strives to unite people under the slogan, "Freedom to Love" advocating for the repeal of S377a.

On 29 November 2022, the Parliament of Singapore passed a bill to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code. The repeal is a significant step forward for the LGBT community in Singapore. The repeal sends a message that Singapore is a more inclusive and tolerant society, and it is hoped that it will lead to further progress on LGBT rights in the future like marriage equality.[16]

References[]

  1. Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 (48 & 49 Vict. c.69) by Robert William Burnie. Published 1885. (web archive)
  2. "The Origins of "Sodomy" Laws in British Colonialism" on <hrw.org>. Published 2008-12-17 by Human Rights Watch. (no backup information provided)
  3. "71 countries where homosexuality is illegal" on <76crimes.com>. Published by 76 Crimes. (no backup information provided)
  4. With the government in our bedrooms by Ottosson, Daniel. Published by ILGA. (web archive)
  5. "Three magic words- Section 377 Repealed: Retracing India's tryst with the draconian law against homosexuality" by Arora, Amrtansh on <timesnownews.com>. Published 2018-09-10 by Mirror Now News. (no backup information provided)
  6. "377A Was Introduced Because Of Racism, Not Homophobia" by Rice on <ricemedia.co>. Published 2021-01-21 by Rice Media. (no backup information provided)
  7. "Penal Code 1871, 2020 Revised Edition" on <sso.agc.gov.sg>. Published 2022-02-11 by Singapore Statues Online. (no backup information provided)
  8. "Lawyer challenges gay sex law" by Wee Keat, Leong on <web.archive.org>. Published 2010-09-24 by Today. (no backup information provided)
  9. "New constitutional challenge to Section 377A filed" by Yawning Bread on <yawningbread.wordpress.com>. Published 2012-12-02 by Wordpress. (no backup information provided)
  10. "Singapore couple sue to end sodomy law" by Potts, Andrew on <web.archive.org>. Published 2012-12-01 by Sand Diego Gay and Lesbian News. (no backup information provided)
  11. "Repeal of section 377A will end 'online vitriol and abuse' against LGBTQ community, says DJ who filed legal challenge" by Chua, Alfred on <todayonline.com>. Published 2018-09-16 by Today. (no backup information provided)
  12. "Businessman Ho Kwon Ping opens up on his ISA detention at packed ST Book Club event" by Ho, Olivia on <straitstimes.com>. Published 2018-08-29 by Straits Times. (no backup information provided)
  13. "India's top court lifts ban on gay sex in landmark ruling" by Reuters on <straitstimes.com>. Published 2018-09-06 by Straits Times. (no backup information provided)
  14. "High Court dismisses challenges against law that criminalises sex between men" by Kurohi, Rei on <straitstimes.com>. Published 2020-03-21 by Straits Times. (no backup information provided)
  15. "Two men file appeals against High Court decision to dismiss Section 377A challenge" by Kurohi, Rei on <straitstimes.com>. Published 2020-03-29 by Straits Times. (no backup information provided)
  16. Goh, Yan Han (29 November 2022). "Parliament repeals Section 377A, endorses amendments protecting definition of marriage". The Straits Times. Singapore. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
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