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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

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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Pink Dot SG 2019 at Hong Lim Park in Singapore demanding that S377a be repealed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" continues to advocate for the repeal of S377a.

References

  1. Burnie, Robert William. 1885. (web archive)
  2. "The Origins of "Sodomy" Laws in British Colonialism" (2008-12-17). hrw.org. Human Rights Watch.
  3. "71 countries where homosexuality is illegal". 76crimes.com. 76 Crimes.
  4. Ottosson, Daniel. With the government in our bedrooms. ILGA. (web archive)
  5. Arora, Amrtansh: "Three magic words- Section 377 Repealed: Retracing India's tryst with the draconian law against homosexuality" (2018-09-10). timesnownews.com. Mirror Now News.
  6. Rice: "377A Was Introduced Because Of Racism, Not Homophobia" (2021-01-21). ricemedia.co. Rice Media.
  7. "Penal Code 1871, 2020 Revised Edition" (2022-02-11). sso.agc.gov.sg. Singapore Statues Online.
  8. Wee Keat, Leong: "Lawyer challenges gay sex law" (2010-09-24). web.archive.org. Today.
  9. Yawning Bread: "New constitutional challenge to Section 377A filed" (2012-12-02). yawningbread.wordpress.com. Wordpress.
  10. Potts, Andrew: "Singapore couple sue to end sodomy law" (2012-12-01). web.archive.org. Sand Diego Gay and Lesbian News.
  11. Chua, Alfred: "Repeal of section 377A will end 'online vitriol and abuse' against LGBTQ community, says DJ who filed legal challenge" (2018-09-16). todayonline.com. Today.
  12. Ho, Olivia: "Businessman Ho Kwon Ping opens up on his ISA detention at packed ST Book Club event" (2018-08-29). straitstimes.com. Straits Times.
  13. Reuters: "India's top court lifts ban on gay sex in landmark ruling" (2018-09-06). straitstimes.com. Straits Times.
  14. Kurohi, Rei: "High Court dismisses challenges against law that criminalises sex between men" (2020-03-21). straitstimes.com. Straits Times.
  15. Kurohi, Rei: "Two men file appeals against High Court decision to dismiss Section 377A challenge" (2020-03-29). straitstimes.com. Straits Times.
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