Last edited: November 24, 2007


  • Statute: Section 377, Unnatural Offences and Section 377A Outrages on Decency
  • Penalty: Life
  • Restrictions: Does not apply to women in private.

From the International Lesbian and Gay Association's world survey:

Section 377 (Unnatural Offences): "Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine. Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence in this section."

Section 377A (Outrages on Decency): "Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets 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 two years."

Both sections carry a mandatory punishment of jail. In practice, it seems that Section 377 has in recent years been applied mostly in non-consensual heterosexual cases, while Section 377A has been used to convict same-sex acts in public settings such as a parked car, and open-space parks etc. In 1991/92 the sentencing norm was 2 - 3 months, but from 1993 onward it was set at 6 months. (Leong/Singapore/SCH).

Determining the legal status of oral sex has posed a challenge for Singapore's judiciary in recent years (Leong/Singapore/SCH), but a final position now appears to have been reached: "Oral sex is a crime unless it is followed by penile-vaginal sex, Singapore's Court of Appeal ruled Feb. 21 [1997]. "the coitus of the male and female sexual organs" is natural and "unnatural acts" are permitted only as foreplay, the court said." RW/2696

Certain lesbian acts are punishable under Section 20 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act which refers to "riotous, disorderly or indecent behaviour" in a public setting, liable on conviction to fine not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment not exceeding one month. There has been no case yet of lesbian acts having been tried. (Leong/Singapore/SCH)

The largest number of arrests for homosexual activities is initiated by the police acting as decoys. Most are convicted under Section 354 of the Penal Code for "molest", i.e. the "use of criminal force to outrage the modesty of a person", where the agents provocateur arrest their victims the moment they are touched on the buttocks or genitals. The crime carries a maximum jail sentence of two years, a fine, caning, or a combination of any two such punishments. Where the police decoy is not touched, he can rely on Section 19 (soliciting in a public place) of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, which covers both prostitution and soliciting "for any other immoral purpose". This offence carries a fine of up to $1,000, doubling on a subsequent conviction, including a jail term not exceeding six months. Finally, if the victim uses a symbolic gesture to signal sexual activity with the police decoy, he can be tried under Section 294A of the Penal Code, which covers the commission of any obscene act in any public place to the annoyance of others (subject to a maximum of three months jail, a fine, or both) (Leong/Singapore/SCH).

Since the late 1980s police swoops on homosexual haunts have been routine. There are no official figures for the number of arrests, but between 1990 and 1994 newspapers reported 67 convictions arising from police undercover activities. This is likely to be a minute fraction of the total. Of the 67 cases, 50 were for "molest" (s.354) (typical punishment from 1993: 2 - 6 months in prison plus caning, usually three strokes), 11 for soliciting (s.19) (fines of $200 to $500) and 6 for obscene acts (s.294A) ($200 to $800). In 1994, in an appeal in a "molest" case, Chief Justice Yong Pung How substituted a fine of $2,000 for a sentence of four months imprisonment and three strokes of the cane, on the basis that there was some degree of consent among police officers acting as agents provocateur and that imprisonment was rather inappropriate for homosexuals. (Leong/Singapore/SCH)

"Police are known to entrap men using young and handsome decoys. The most recently reported case made the front pages of the Straits Times on November 22, 1997. An internationally recognized local artist was entrapped in a truly despicable manner. While the judge was lenient, applying only a small fine to what could have been a prison sentence or caning, the newspaper printed the man's photograph in a well-orchestrated front-page public humiliation, more befitting a serial murderer than a lonely homosexual". (Utopia Website)






People Like Us


SiGNeL - the Singapore Gay News List

SiGNeL is the email forum of People Like Us, serving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Singaporeans and Singapore residents. It is meant for sharing news and views in our community.

The forum is moderated. Please familiarise yourself with the Content Guidelines, which will explain that there are no personal ads, nor cruising-type messages in SiGNeL. Nor are attachments allowed, which means there are no pictures in SiGNeL.


Click to subscribe to signel

[Home] [World]