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Singapore high court allows challenge to law criminalizing homosexuality

The Court of Appeal of Singapore [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Tuesday that a man charged with gross indecency under a provision of the penal code criminalizing sexual acts between men can proceed with a constitutional challenge against the law in court. Known as Section 377A [AFP report], the law traces its origins to British colonial rule and carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail for homosexual acts: "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." Tan Eng Hong and another man, each in their forties, were arrested in 2010 after being caught engaging in oral sex and "were separately charged under s 377A with the commission of '[an] act of gross indecency with another male person.'" Tan argued that his charge should be dismissed because 377A is inconsistent with Articles 9, 12 and 14 of the Singapore Constitution [text]. Tan eventually pleaded guilty to a substituted lesser charge of committing an obscene act in a public place and was fined Sg $3,000 (USD $2,400), but he continued his challenge to 377A. The Court of Appeal ruling allows his challenge to proceed by overturning a lower High Court decision in which Tan was found to have standing but his 377A challenge was dismissed solely for a failure to state a cause of action.

Earlier this week lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists filed a lawsuit against Russian authorities [JURIST report] in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] seeking €200,000 over the Russian Justice Ministry's refusal to register their organization's house for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games [official website]. Last week a city court in Moscow refused to overturn a ban on gay pride marches for the next century [JURIST report], affirming the Moscow municipal government ruling that any public gatherings that could be classified as gay pride marches are prohibited from March 2012 until May 2112. Earlier this month the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] expressed concern about draft legislation passed in the Liberian Senate that would criminalize homosexual behavior [JURIST reports] in Liberia [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. In June Uganda's government banned 38 NGOs accused of promoting gay rights [JURIST report].

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