HERO Awards 2023: The Honourees

By September 29, 2023 November 28th, 2023 Regional, What We Do

Shivananda Khan Award
for Extraordinary Achievement
Award Recipient

Remy Choo

Singapore

My name is Remy Choo, I am an activist for LGBTQI+ Equality both in Singapore and globally. I am a trial lawyer based in Singapore, and I am the Joint Managing Director of my own law firm RCLC Law Corporation. I am also an Executive Committee Member of Singapore’s first LGBTQI+ and allied Chamber of Commerce. I am also the Vice Chairman of the International Bar Association’s LGBTQI+ Committee.

Tell us about your work (professional)

My day job is being a trial lawyer for commercial, criminal defence and public interest cases. As an executive Committee member of Q Chamber, I regularly speak to MNCs about how they can protect and promote the cause for equality in the workplace, and more broadly how they can engage, support and promote the work of LGBTQI+ non-profits in Singapore. As the Vice-Chairman of the IBA’s LGBTQI+ Committee, I harness the resources of the IBA to build and strengthen the global network of queer lawyers to influence international legal business to advance the cause for equality, whether it is in the field of promoting de-criminalisation or in DEI work.

Can you explain more about your role that has led to the historic repeal of Singapore’s section 377A? What kept you going for 2 constitutional challenges against Section 377A of the Penal Code between 2013 and 2022?

I was one of the lawyers that filed a constitutional challenge on behalf of a gay couple, Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, on 29 November 2012. The challenge was unfortunately rejected by the Singapore Court of Appeal (our apex court) in 2014. We thought that would be the end of the challenges in Court. However, after the Indian Supreme Court ruled S377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional in 2017, I was approached to file another constitutional challenge. Ultimately, this was once again rejected by the Court of Appeal in early 2022, but by then the Singapore Government had gotten concerned enough about the repeated Court challenges that they then announced, later in 2022, that they would repeal S377A in parliament.

Exactly 10 years after I filed my first constitutional challenge to S377A, S377A was officially repealed in parliament on 29 November 2022.

What’s next for LGBTQI equality in Singapore?

The next challenge for activists is to galvanise our community and the public around the reality that the repeal of S377A is the beginning and not the end of the fight for equality. Discrimination is woven into the fabric of our everyday existence, whether it’s in the lack of workplace protections for LGBTQI+ persons, the inability to access public housing, or our invisibility in media representation as a result of institutionalised censorship.

While we can celebrate repeal, we can’t allow our comfort with this new normal to be the limit of our aspirational horizons. We need to keep fighting for full equality before the law.

What do you do to recharge your battery?

Spend time sharing experiences with global equality activists, who help me put our struggles into perspective. It gives me a sense of connectedness, solidarity and community that helps me realise that there’s so much more to the work I do than me, and so much more in the world than Singapore.

More recreationally, I wake surf, or try to go on a vacation where I can squeeze in some surf time. 

What is your vulnerability and how do you overcome it?

Mastering my own expectations and emotions has been the greatest challenge in my advocacy. Specifically, trying to find the right balance between optimism and cynicism.

When I started my first constitutional challenge in 2012, I was quite naïve, and I was sure that we would win in Court. I was broken when we lost.

When I was asked to take on the second set of constitutional challenges in 2017, I nearly said no because of the experience in 2012. I was sure that challenge would be futile, and would be doomed to failure in Court.

Ultimately, I’m glad we didn’t give up, although ultimately still realistic that change happened not just because of the legal advocacy but because of a lot of work that had also been done in society by numerous other community groups and advocacy organisations. 

Can you share with us what else are you working on? 

Locally, I’m working on building Q Chamber as a credible platform for local and international businesses interested in promoting equality in the workplace. This is an important part of the equality puzzle in Singapore, where a lot of societal norms are formed around relationships with the workplace and capital. I’m also working to brainstorm and incept a broader equality organisation, that’s still at the drawing board.

Globally, I’m currently working on using my platform as the co-Vice Chairman of the International Bar Association’s LGBTQI+ Committee to find ways to bring the power of global-lawyering to the global fight for equality. This year, at the Paris IBA Annual, my Committee managed to bring legal champions for LGBTQI+ equality from Kenya, Namibia and Continental Europe to Paris to educate the global legal community on the issues facing queer people around the world.

Do you have any message that you would like to share with the other activists, advocates and allies working on LGBTQI equality in the Asia Pacific region?  

Through the course of working on repeal in Singapore, I’ve received so much wisdom, encouragement and support from the global community of activists who have and are still fighting the same fights we are. Whether it’s in Taiwan, Kenya, India, so many have reached out to shine their light on our struggle and to lift us up.

In the words of Maya Angelou: no one of us can be free until everybody is free.

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