Re: Concerns about Singapore

John C Klensin <> Sat, 09 April 2016 22:35 UTC

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Date: Sat, 09 Apr 2016 18:35:38 -0400
From: John C Klensin <>
To: Melinda Shore <>, Brian E Carpenter <>
Subject: Re: Concerns about Singapore
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--On Saturday, April 09, 2016 13:20 -0800 Melinda Shore
<> wrote:

> On 4/9/16 12:56 PM, Brian E Carpenter wrote:
>> I think that's the point, and unfortunately, like so many
>> things, it ends up as a judgment call.
> Not really - Singapore has laws on the books that criminalize
> gay relationships.  That's a fact, not a judgment call.  It's
> also a fact that a law criminalizing consensual physical
> relationships between adult men was upheld by the Singapore
> Supreme Court less than two years ago and apparently has been
> inconsistently and selectively enforced (that's not a good
> thing).

This has been said several times and I think needs to be
stressed.  There is a huge practical difference between 

	* Having an obnoxious (to use a deliberately-mild term)
	law on the books that has not been enforced for many
	years, for which there is no reasonable expectation that
	it would be enforced, _and_ for which there are
	reasonable grounds for assuming that any attempt to
	enforce it would result in the rapid elimination of the
	law itself -- rapid enough to act as a further deterrent
	to attempts to enforce it, rather than causing IETF
	community members to feel "not very much" pain and
	* Having a law that has been enforced in recent memory,
	especially if it has also been validated (or "upheld")
	in recent memory by courts or other relevant authorities
	and/or created in recent years (as in the North Carolina
	situation that has been cited as an example). 

Referring to what Pete said at the plenary, the second set of
cases should (actually MUST) never be treated as a matter of a
judgment call or balancing factors.   By analogy with the visa
issue, a situation in which regular participants from some
countries will find obtaining visas to be a major pain in the
anatomy involves a judgment call; one in which participants from
some countries cannot, under normal circumstances, obtain visas
or in-meeting-country protections as citizens of their origin
countries because the potential countries deliberately does not
maintain diplomatic recognition or relations with those origin
countries is a showstopper.

I agree with Melinda that inconsistent and selective enforcement
is bad news (and because it includes non-zero frequency of
enforcement, moves a potential venue into the second category).
I also think it is worth stressing that, especially in an area
where rights to free speech and/or assembly and/or to hold
demonstrations about a political position are even nominally
valued, the ability to hold a parade or demonstration in favor
of particular rights or legally-prohibited behavior without
interference is of approximately zero value in predicting
whether actual exercise of those rights or behavior would result
in enforcement actions.

I hope that, as the IAOC continues "actively seeking
clarification", the distinction between the ability to express
support without getting arrested and the ability to practice the
nominally-criminal behavior without getting arrested (even
occasionally) is well understood.

It may be just me, but the distinctions really seem a lot more
clear than the length of this discussion thread would seem to