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Press briefing notes on Singapore and Tunisia

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 31 October 2014

(1) Singapore

We are disappointed by the Singapore Supreme Court ruling on 29 October to uphold section 377A of the Penal Code which criminalizes consensual same-sex relations between men.

The Supreme Court had been asked to examine the Constitutionality of Section 377A. The Court decided that this section does not violate articles 9 and 12 of the Singapore Constitution which guarantees the right to life and liberty, and right to equality before the law and equal protection of law respectively.

The Supreme Court expressed sympathy for the situation of the appellants, but stated that it was up to the Singaporean Parliament to amend the law.

Using criminal law to prosecute individuals for engaging in consensual same sex conduct violates a host of human rights guaranteed by international law, including the right to privacy, the right to freedom from discrimination and the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention including protection for sexual orientation and gender equality.

While this law is rarely invoked in Singapore, it nonetheless codifies discrimination and contributes to societal stigma against individuals who are gay. Gay people are as entitled as anyone else to be treated with respect and dignity.

We regret the courts have missed this important opportunity to strike down this law.

We note that some political leaders in Singapore have publicly advocated for tolerance and inclusion, and we therefore hope Singapore’s legislature will now respond to the Court’s decision by repealing section 377A of the Penal Code and enacting comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that includes discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

(2) Tunisia

We congratulate the people of Tunisia, and the country’s political parties and institutions, and warmly welcome the peaceful completion on 26 October of the legislative elections in Tunisia.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights hopes that the new Government, which is currently being formed, will continue to consolidate the significant progress that has been made in the area of human rights and rule of law, including the important transitional justice process. OHCHR hopes that the forthcoming presidential election in November will be conducted in an equally peaceful manner, with full respect of the human rights of all Tunisians. The UN Human Rights Office looks forward to working with the new Government as well as with the new Assembly of the Representatives of the People.

ENDS

For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org)

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