Singapore

Condemnation Of Singapore Library Grows

Condemnation Of Singapore Library Grows

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The condemnation of the decision by Singapore’s National Library Board (NLB) to pulp gay-themed children’s books is growing by the day.

On Wednesday, three judges of the non-fiction category of the biennial Singapore Literature Prize condemned an NLB decision last week to destroy three titles that went against its so-called “pro-family” stance.

“We condemn in the strongest terms NLB’s decision to remove and destroy these books, given that it is responsible for the dissemination of information rather than its destruction,” said T. Sasitharan, Romen Bose, and Robin Hemley.

The trio are prominent figures in Singapore’s small but vocal arts and literary community. The Singapore Literature Prize is considered the city-state’s most prestigious writing award.

In the statement on Wednesday, the three judges said the planned destruction of the books was “bigoted and sets a very worrying precedent that it is acceptable to discriminate against anyone who may hold differing values and opinions”.

The move was “unbecoming of an institution entrusted to protect and preserve learning and literature and to provide accessibility to information,” they added.

The state-funded NLB last week confirmed that three titles would be destroyed following complaints by a parent and an internal review.

They include “And Tango Makes Three” – a true story about two male penguins in a New York zoo that raised a baby penguin – and “The White Swan Express”, which features children adopted by straight, gay, mixed-race and single parents.

The third book, “Who’s In My Family”, discusses different types of families, including references to gay couples.

The decision to destroy the books was supported by Singapore’s information minister Yaacob Ibrahim, who said the NLB was “guided by community norms” which do not support teaching children about “alternative, non-traditional families”.

Singaporean writers however slammed the NLB for partaking in “book burning” and censorship.

Some 400 people including parents gathered at a library branch on Sunday to read the banned books to their children as a show of protest.

A group of writers scheduled to speak at an NLB event on Sunday about humour have also pulled out in protest.

The books episode has sharpened the split between Singapore’s religious conservatives and its growing gay-rights lobby, which staged a peaceful gay pride rally, known as Pink Dot, attended by more than 20,000 people on 28  June.

Pink Dot Biggest Ever

Pink Dot Biggest Ever

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The biggest ever Pink Dot festival ended in Singapore last night with en estimated 26,000 people attending.

Fears of anti-lgbt protests didn’t materialise and the event was was generally much like a large picnic, but the large numbers crowding Hong Lim Park, and as well as the big name corporate sponsors, which included Google, JP Morgan and Barclays Bank, have sent a powerful message to the island’s ultra conservative and strict government.

Pink, obviously was the colour of the day with beards and dogs proudly showing of the colour of the “Freedom To Love”, which is absent in Singapore which still has colonial era anti-gay laws in place.

Rally spokesman Paerin Choa stressed it was not a protest but aimed to “promote inclusiveness and diversity and to make LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Singaporeans feel that this is a place we can all call home”.

The evening was boosted by a great line up of local musical talent, as well as the finale when a huge Pink Dot was formed after dark.

A Little Pink Dot Enlightens Singapore

A Little Pink Dot Enlightens Singapore

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June 28 sees the 6th annual Pink Dot event in Singapore’s Hong Lim Park, and the chance for the city-state’s LGBT community to get together legally in a fun atmosphere.

Most LGBT Singaporeans are afraid to come out of the closet. This stems from a fear that the simple act of telling the truth can potentially pull them apart from the people that they love. As such, many of them live their lives dodging questions about their romantic life, hiding their true selves from concerned family members and friends.

Pink Dot says that from a young age, many LGBT Singaporeans struggle with self-acceptance. They know that they are inherently different from others, but they do not understand why. It doesn’t help that most of them have been told only one viewpoint by their parents, educators and society – that what they feel is wrong.

Over time, LGBT individuals distance themselves from the ones they love. This comes from a fear of compromising relationships – relationships that have taken a long time to build – with parents, siblings, relatives, schoolmates, friends and colleagues.

Pink Dot believes that love is best built on a foundation of trust and honesty, not fear and shame. As a group, we hope to bring LGBT individuals closer to their families and friends. Change for the better happens through conversations, not cover-ups and covert lives.

Pink Dot is not without its opponents in this small and very conservative country, where the official government line is “family values” which exclude the LGBT community and outlaw gay sex. One religious teacher has launched an online campaign urging fellow Muslims to wear white on Pink Dot Day, to protest against homosexuality.

In an advisory issued to mosques across the country, Singapore’s highest Islamic authority stated that it does not approve of the “pervasiveness” of the LGBT lifestyle, and cannot agree to efforts promoting it, while at the same time cautioning against adopting a “confrontational approach”, or vilifying those who are LGBT.

The numbers attending Pink Dot every year grow, and the event has attracted some major corporate sponsors including BP, Goldman Sachs, Google, Barclays Bank, JP Morgan, CooperVision, Park Royal Hotel, and The Gunnery, which has made the government uncomfortable although it does not seem to change official attitudes.

Support The Singapore Equality Appeal

Support The Singapore Equality Appeal

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A legal challenge in under way in Singapore to fight the city-state’s legal ban on consensual sexual relations between same-sex partners.  Everyone can help by donating to the fight on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo.com (we are not associated with this website).

The case stems from colonial era legislation inherited by Singapore when it gained its independence from Great Britain, and the government has steadfastly refused to repeal or amend the law known as Section 377A.

The appeal to a high court ruling in April is being mounted by two Singaporeans, Gary Lim, 44, and Kenneth Chee, 37, who have been together for 15 years and have described the antiquated and discriminatory legislation as “an affront to our legal identity”. The court ruled ‘It is clear that Parliament saw a reasonable differential upon which to distinguish between two classes: anal and oral sex in private between a consenting man and a consenting woman (both aged 16 and above) was acceptable, but the same conduct was repugnant and offensive when carried out between two men even if both men were consenting parties.’  A statement that could be interpreted as sympathetic, but in our opinion the judges were not prepared to challenge the state over the issue.

The couple has appointed Senior Counsel Deborah Barker who is a partner and head of Litigation & Dispute Resolution, at Khattar Wong LLP, one of Singapore’s leading law firms. They have also retained Queen’s Counsel Lord Peter Goldsmith, a former Attorney-General of England & Wales, to argue the appeal as co-counsel with Barker, although his application to argue the case in Singapore is still pending.

The crowdsourcing funds to fight the appeal case currently stand at around $S100,000 but much more is needed to create an effective legal case.

 

 

 

A Pink Dot On The Landscape

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong must be choking on his noodles this morning following an evening when 21,000 of the country’s citizens lit up the night sky at Hong Lim Park in a demand for equality, fully supported by a number of large businesses.

Singapore might seem on the surface to be a modern thriving democracy, but despite the fact that elections do take place, there is little real freedom for the city-state’s inhabitants, as almost every aspect of their lives are regulated in some way by the government.

One minority group suffers from discrimination, criminalization, and legally unfair treatment in their daily lives – the country’s LGBT community, and the very people who last night very politely and very calmly call upon their ‘elected’ government to treat them equally with every other sector of society.

Regrettably, they feel so intimidated that the event could not be publicly called a “gay”, an “LGBT” or even a “Pride” event. Pink Dot promotes itself as “Growing Support For The Freedom To Love” in a discrete message which avoids throwing the words ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ into the face of a homophobic government.

The event, if held anywhere else in Singapore, would never receive a permit to go ahead, but unique rules for Hong Lim park have allowed this peaceful and family friendly gathering to take place over the last five years, although permission to close two roads edging the park was bluntly refused despite the fact that it was widely expected, and materialised, that the number of people attending this year would be far greater than last year. In fact the figure grew from 16,000 in 2012 to an estimated 21,000 this year.

Another irritation for Lee Hsien Loong must be knowing that both local and international corporations offered sponsorship and other support to Pink Dot and their rightful aims; amongst them were JP Morgan, Google, and Barclays Bank, plus well known local brands CooperVision, Park Royal On Pickering, and The Gunnery.

Perhaps this event will be a real stepping stone towards equality and acceptance for our brothers and sisters in Singapore.

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