This is the first time Singapore’s human rights record will come under scrutiny by the United Nations as a part of the Universal Periodic Review of all UN member nations. The mechanism, which started in April 2008, involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years with the objective of improving the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur. 128 reviews have been completed to date.
Gay advocacy group People Like Us is among eight civil society groups which has submitted a joint report collated by MARUAH, the Singapore Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism. Many of the reports were released at a media conference on Sunday, one day before the deadline for their submission to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
In the 10-page joint report which covers a wide range of issues such as media regulations, preventive detention without trial and the death penalty, gay-related issues were mentioned twice under Registration of societies and Discrimination against homosexuals:
13. Registration of societies. Any association of 10 or more persons must be registered under the Societies Act, failing which it becomes an unlawful assembly, membership of which is a criminal offence. The Registrar of Societies has some discretion on whether to refuse registration. There are at least two publicly documented instances where this discretion was exercised, in an arbitrary and unconstitutional manner, to deny the registration applications of the gay rights group People Like Us in 1997 and 2004.
19. Discrimination against homosexuals. Section 377A of the Penal Code criminalises private consensual sex between adult men. However, the same acts by an opposite-sex heterosexual couple are legal. Section 377A is therefore discriminatory and violates Articles 7 and 12 of the UDHR, as well as Article 12(1) of the Singapore Constitution. Despite the Government’s public promise not to “proactively” enforce Section 377A, as at the time of writing of this submission, there is at least one active prosecution under Section 377A before the courts.
From the joint report by Coalition Of Singapore NGOs (COSINGO).
Aside from PLU, the other groups are Association of Women for Action & Research (AWARE), Challenged People’s Alliance and Network (CAN!), Deaf and Hard of Hearing Federation, Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics, MARUAH (Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, Singapore), Singaporeans for Democracy, and Transient Workers Count Too.
Singapore will be reviewed in May 2011. Following the review, an “outcome report” will provide a summary of the actual discussion and recommendations made by States to the country under review, as well as the responses by the reviewed State. Although the report is not legally binding, it will form the basis of future reviews.
A copy of the submission (in PDF format) can be downloaded from this site.