The article makes extensive mention of the Yong Vui Kong case and the judicial review points raised by M. Ravi in the case.
This article reviews some of the recent challenges to the legal status of homosexuality in Singapore. On July 14, 2014, the Court of Appeal of Singapore heard oral arguments from two sets of plaintiffs regarding the repeal of Section
377A of the Singaporean Penal Code: the section of the code that criminalizes gay male sex between two consulting adults. This article demonstrates how the cases on appeal uncover a trepidatious government carefully untangling itself from values left behind by Colonial rule, and an equally apprehensive court system that seeks refuge in outmoded statutory guidelines and shifting popular sentiment. The article also aims to document some of the changes over the past few decades in Singapore’s landscape that have contributed to the monumental changes taking
place regarding gay rights in the city-state, and how such changes may hopefully provide for the broadening of civil rights and the easing of governmental control in the near future.
A comparative analysis of incrementalist approaches to gay rights as they are deployed in the United States and Singapore demonstrates that seeking gay rights in a full democracy is actually no better than seeking them in an authoritarian regime. Incrementalism ultimately promotes sexual normativity by dividing the gay community into “good gays,” who deserve equal protections, and “bad queers,” who are further marginalized. Incrementalism in the United States began with decriminalization of sodomy and terminated with the recognition of gay marriage but did so by imagining gay sexuality within the context of committed relationships. The gay rights movement in Singapore is currently challenging the constitutionality of the country’s anti-sodomy statute, but has also encountered problems with bifurcating good gays from bad queers. Singaporean gay rights advocacy has adopted an approach that looks similar to incrementalism in the United States, but is actually adapted as a strategy of survival within the authoritarian structures of its illiberal democratic government. Dissecting these similarities shows how gay rights in the United States has acquiesced to a similar, but more hidden, disciplinary regime of social control that venerates marriage as an imagined ideal and suppresses other forms of sexual expression. The recent decision by the Singapore judiciary to reject the good gay and bad queer dichotomy and treat the two similarly, however, has forced gay rights advocacy to adapt and imagine a different and more unified strategy than in the United States.
On March 4, 2015, Singapore’s Court of Appeal issued its judgment in Yong Vui Kong v. Public Prosecutor, upholding the punishment of caning imposed on the defendant as constitutional. The decision is significant because it discusses the impact of the prohibition of torture, a peremptory norm of international law, on domestic legislation. The Court of Appeal determined that, even if caning were to be considered a form of torture, the customary international law prohibition on torture did not invalidate its domestic law permitting caning as a form of punishment.
As the number of judicial review applications increase, it becomes correspondingly important to understand who may or may not bring judicial review – the issue of locus standi. This article will describe the Court of Appeal’s recent endeavour to
unify the standing requirements for judicial review. It will also submit that the difficult choices still lie ahead, as suggested by two recent High Court decisions. Some of M. Ravi’s cases are discussed in this article.
The mandatory death penalty for the crime of murder is in rapid retreat worldwide. Originally diffused to the common law countries of the Caribbean, Africa, and South and Southeast Asia by way of the British Empire, the penalty has been found unconstitutional and incompatible with human rights norms in at least ten Caribbean nations since the year 2000. A new wave of litigation has appeared in the postcolonial common law nations of East and Southern Africa, and courts in Malawi, Uganda, and now Kenya have found an automatic sentence of death unconstitutional and have replaced mandatory schemes with discretionary ones that allow consideration of mitigating factors in the capital sentencing process.1 The resulting criminal justice regimes operate in closer
conformity with international human rights norms and explicitly adopt these norms in their domestic legal systems. The article discusses Malaysia and Singapore as ‘the holdouts’ from page 275 onwards.