Singapore’s Attorney General still has the right to prosecute under Singapore’s anti-gay law, Section 377A, he said on Tuesday (2 October).
It comes amid intense debate over the legislation.
Attorney-General Lucien Wong responded to suggestions from former attorneys-general that Singapore’s Government and Parliament may have directed the public prosecutor not to pursue cases.
‘Such comments may give rise to the inaccurate impression that the exercise of the Public Prosecutor’s discretion has been removed or restricted in respect of Section 377A’, Wong said in a statement on Tuesday.
Debate has flared in Singapore over Section 377A which criminalizes gay sex with up to two years in prison.
Calls to both repeal and retain the law have flared since India dismantled a similar colonial-era law last month. The Supreme Court ruled Section 377 was unconstitutional and enshrined equality for LGBTI Indians.
A government petition to retain the law garnered more than twice as many signatures as one to oppose repeal it.
Wong said the public prosecutor did not pursue cases between consenting adults and in private places as it was not in the public interest.
He said Section 377A could still be used to prosecute if reports are lodged with police, particularly in relation to minors.
‘Gun to your head’
Former attorneys-general Professor Walter Woon and Mr V K Rajah had, in online comments and newspaper articles, suggested the law was inactive or redundant.
Wong said Section 377A could still be used to prosecute. He used a 2008 case an example. The police referred a case to the public prosecutor of a 16-year-old male who had oral sex in a public toilet. The Attorney General at that time pursued the case.
Lawyer and human rights activist Ravi Madasamy, better known as M Ravi, said ‘prosecutorial discretion on such a fundamental rights issue sends confusing signals to the public’.
He urged the government to repeal the law entirely. ‘If there is a Law, it must be the duty of the Attorney General to prosecute, not the discretion,’ he wrote on Facebook.
‘To allow the discretion means you are letting the AG be judge, jury and executioner’.
Court-challenger Ong said 377A was ‘like holding a gun to your head’.
‘There are no guarantees to our life and liberty until the gun is put away’, he therefore wrote on Facebook.