The Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, Part IV "Fundamental Liberties", Article 12 "Equal protection" states that:
(1) All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.
(2) Except as expressly authorised by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens of Singapore on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment under a public authority or in the administration of any law relating to the acquisition, holding or disposition of property or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation or employment.
(3) This Article does not invalidate or prohibit -
(a) any provision regulating personal law; or
(b) any provision or practice restricting office or employment connected with the affairs of any religion, or of an institution managed by a group professing any religion, to persons professing that religion.
No protection for LGBT Singaporeans
To date, the only enumerated categories guaranteed equal protection under Article 12 are on the basis of religion, race, descent or place of birth.
As such, it renders LGBT Singaporeans vulnerable to discrimination and abuse.
Much of this is witnessed in employment, especially in the teaching profession and armed forces. No teacher is allowed to be openly gay. If a military personnel wants to proclaim his sexual orientation, he has to "declare 302", i.e., subject himself to a battery of psychiatric tests based on an outdated medical concept of homosexuality and transgenderism and be classified under Category 302, which effectively medicalises his/her condition and deems him unfit for combat vocations.
Even in other spheres of employment, covert and overt discrimination exist because of the lack of legal protection afforded to LGBT Singaporeans. The latter may be refused employment at the interview or even application stage, with no reason given, be subjected to bullying, malicious gossip, unfair labelling at work, face glass ceilings and be fired at will.
The most prominent case to date which has surfaced has been that of Lawrence Wee, a senior manager at Robinsons, who was belittled at work after his boss found out he was gay, and then sacked, even though he put in a stellar performance, being promoted several times and given considerable salary increments, during his time at the company.
Campaign to make Article 12 more inclusive of workplace diversity
This deficiency in the Constitution prompted Wee to seek the help of human rights lawyer M. Ravi to fight a case, scheduled in late November 2013, which aims to grant Singaporeans the right to equal protection regardless of sexual orientation.
A committee of stakeholders was formed to organise the campaign, which enjoyed the support of the leaders of civil society in Singapore.
- Archive of Lawrence Wee's affidavit to seek equal protection for gay Singaporeans under Article 12 of Constitution, 22 Aug 2013
- Discrimination against homosexuals in Singapore
- Article 12 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore:.
This article was written by Roy Tan.