Repeal of section 377A will end ‘online vitriol and abuse’ against Singapore’s LGBTQ community, says DJ who filed legal challenge

Johnson Ong, who goes by his stage name DJ Big Kid, mounted the latest court challenge against Section 377A on Monday. — TODAY pic
Johnson Ong, who goes by his stage name DJ Big Kid, mounted the latest court challenge against Section 377A on Monday. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Sept 12 — The disc jockey who filed a fresh constitutional challenge against section 377A of the Penal Code — which criminalises sex between two men — told TODAY he was spurred to do so by India’s recent ruling and comments by veteran diplomat and international lawyer Tommy Koh.

Responding to TODAY’s queries today, Johnson Ong said via email that he believes repealing the section would put an end to the “online assaults, vitriol and abuse” against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.

The 43-year-old, who also goes by his stage name DJ Big Kid, mounted the latest court challenge against section 377A on Monday, when his lawyers submitted his papers to the High Court.

In the court documents seen by TODAY, the Attorney-General is listed as the defendant in the case.

Ong said he was “energised” by the news of India’s Supreme Court striking down section 377 of its Penal Code, which criminalises gay sex. He also decided to “take up” Prof Koh’s challenge of getting the gay community in Singapore to mount another constitutional challenge.

On Friday, Prof Koh commented on a Facebook post by National University of Singapore law dean Simon Chesterman, who shared The New York Times’ report on the news in India. Prof Koh wrote: “I would encourage our gay community to bring a class action to challenge the constitutionality of Section 377A.”

Reminded by another Facebook user that a previous challenge four years ago was struck down by the highest court of the land, he said: “Try again.”

Represented by Eugene Thuraisingam and Suang Wijaya as his lawyers, Ong’s case will highlight the concept of human dignity, which was not argued in a previous challenge filed four years ago. They will also adduce expert opinion, which was also not led in the 2014 case that was struck down.

Said Ong: “I feel the current sentiment is that we have for decades silently suffered through enough discrimination at our workplaces, in our communities and within our own families, and not so recently, by conservatives, and religious organisations.”

While he expects “public backlash even to my own personal detriment” following his move to file the legal challenge, he reiterated that he is unperturbed and “ready for it”.

Ong’s filling comes four years after a previous constitutional challenge was struck down by the apex court. On Wednesday, he told TODAY he was “hopeful”, and felt that he stood a good chance this time round.

The case will be heard at a pre-trial conference on September 25. — TODAY

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