Statement to the media, 9 May 2008.

On 8 May 2008, the Straits Times reported [1] that Chan Mun Chiong was charged with committing an act of gross indecency, i.e. under Section 377A of the Penal Code.

His offence, to which he apparently intends to plead guilty, was to have oral sex with a 16-year-old boy when he knew he was HIV-positive. For that, Chan was also charged under the Infectious Diseases Act for endangering the health and the life of his partner.

People Like Us fully support prosecuting anyone, such as Chan, who acts so recklessly in spreading HIV.

But, however culpable Chan was in this regard, he should not have been discriminated against for having another male person as his sexual partner and should not have faced the additional charge under Section 377A.

If an HIV-positive man had sex with a 16-year-old female, there would be no comparable charge for the sex act itself, since a 16-year-old female is considered by law to be capable of giving consent. Neither would it be so if an HIV-positive woman had sex with a 16-year-old boy, for here too, the sex act would be legal.

The Prime Minister, last October 23rd, said in Parliament that the authorities would not “proactively enforce Section 377A.” In effect, he was assuring gay citizens that they could consider Section 377A as no threat and not fear discriminatory treatment under the law.

This case of Chan Mun Chiong contradicts this assurance. By having to face an additional charge where heterosexual couples would not, he was being discriminated against. Guilty though he might have been of putting a young life at risk through concealing his HIV status, he still deserved to be treated fairly with respect to his choice of sexual partner.

The assurance by the Prime Minister is clearly revealed by this case to be insufficient and underlines again the need to bring clarity to the law, by repealing Section 377A.

[1] – For an archived copy of that newspaper report, see HIV-positive man charged because he didn’t inform teen partner.

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