Showing posts with label Singapore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Singapore. Show all posts

February 7, 2019

Some Members of the LGBT Community Prefer Their Life’s in The Closet



Public opinion over same-sex relationships is deeply divided in Singapore, where gay sex is still technically illegal under a colonial-era law and government policies promote the formation of two-parent, heterosexual families.
 So Joanna, a 38-year-old who works in sales and is married to a woman, was worried the landmark ruling could fuel a backlash from conservative Singaporeans.
“We feel that the louder you are, the more attention you’re drawing to [LGBT rights] and that actually prompts the public to be a little more aggressive in shooting it down,” she said.
Joanna, whose wife Casey is a 33-year-old civil servant, said she was not convinced “shining the spotlight” on LGBT issues was the best way to ensure equal rights. She referred to last year’s debate on repealing Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men but is not actively enforced. She said she believed the government, which is now conducting a review of the Penal Code, would have found it easier to scrap the law if activists had not drawn the attention of conservatives and religious groups to it. How Singapore’s red-light district became a playground for mainland Chinese
The couple – who asked that their names be changed and personal details kept to a minimum for this article – know their view is not likely to be shared by many among Singapore’s LGBT community.
In the last decade, LGBT issues have had a bigger airing as countries around the world move to legalise gay marriages and local gay pride rally Pink Dot attracts more people each year. In 2007 and last year, there were calls to repeal Section 377A but each time such nationwide discussions happen, the government says it is neutral and will only move forward when society is ready for it.
The government has also reinforced its pro-family stance. Since the adoption ruling, which the court explained as a bid to prioritise the child’s welfare and increase his prospects of acquiring Singapore citizenship, the Ministry of Social and Family Development has announced its desire to tighten adoption and surrogacy rules. 

 Casey, who holds a foreign passport and an employment permit in Singapore, said she doesn’t “feel trapped” there.
“I can choose to move, I can leave and go to a different place so I don’t feel so oppressed,” she said.
She said neither her nor Joanna had encountered mean comments about their sexuality like they had when they travelled overseas. While they are not legally recognised as a married couple in Singapore, they had circumvented this by drafting wills and registering lasting powers of attorney, to grant each other the right to make medical and financial decisions for the other party. According to former teacher Joseph Chong, public attitudes have changed to the point where “you can hold hands in Singapore and nobody would care or be bothered by it”.
But when it comes to equal rights for LGBT individuals, a culture of “don’t ask, don’t tell” still prevails. The 44-year-old said that while he never hid his sexuality from his colleagues at the elite school where he worked, he also never felt comfortable advertising it publicly, such as by attending the Pink Dot rally that has been allowed to take place in the city since 2009.
“I did not want to put my school in any sort of position where they will be questioned. I think I’ve to respect certain boundaries,” he said.
For Kerry Sieh, a leading geologist who was wooed to the Lion City from the United States in 2008 to set up and head the Earth Observatory of Singapore, “Singapore has gotten worse”. 


A decade ago, his employers helped his partner secure a job and residency in the country. He cited the barring of foreigners from 2017’s Pink Dot rally as evidence of changing attitudes.
“They had barricades put around the park and all the foreigners had to stay out,” he said.
Sieh has said that he only took the job initially because Lee Kuan Yew, known as the founding father of modern Singapore, had said publicly in 2007 that the government would not interfere in homosexual people’s private lives.
In September, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said that when it came to “work, housing [and] education” there is no discrimination against the LGBT community in Singapore.
While that might be true, there is still public opinion to worry about, according to Thomas, an educator in his 40s who did not want to be named for fear of repercussions.
“If you’re asking if we want to stand up and be counted, we really cannot,” he said.
“Let’s say a student or parent files a complaint, will that be used against us? There’s no clear stand [from the education ministry] on what happens if a complaint was made against you because you’re LGBT.”
Chong, the former teacher, shared similar concerns: “the general public will question, ‘Oh what’s the school’s stand? Do you allow teachers like that in the school? What is the education ministry’s stand?”

This pressure to present a public persona in spite of who you are in private is something that Amanda Wee, a transgender Singaporean now living in New Zealand, knows all too well.
As a Catholic, the 34-year-old said she feels the weight of both societal and religious expectations. Yet her LGBT friends will still pressure her to support “everything in every way”.
“I do feel torn in that while I want to support my gay friends, from a religious perspective I am constrained in how much I can support gay activism, and frankly I have not yet found a good middle ground,” she said.
Social worker and executive director of LGBT counselling group Oogachaga, Leow Yangfa, said that given the “pragmatic reality of Singapore’s situation”, a “subtle combination” of action and inaction was probably the best approach.
“What is more important is that as a community, we do not descend into having divisive views about what is right and best,” the 43-year-old said.

July 4, 2018

The 12 Boys Lost in The Cave Were Found But Getting Them Out Could Take Weeks to Months


Image result for cave and 12 boys
 Food, Oxygen, and Equipment are being Taken to the Boys. The Cave system is over four miles and the kids are about one third down the cave system. There are other connecting caves in the system. The only way to get to the boys or the boys out is diving through the water and is not a short distance and the water is not clear water. You can't see in front of your face 🦊 which makes it unnerving for someone, not experience.
                                 





 The rescue of 12 members of a boys’ soccer team and their coach trapped in a northern Thailand cave could take months, the navy said Tuesday, as officials weigh the best extraction options after a dramatic nine-day search.  
Thai authorities are committed to “100 percent safety” in extracting the boys and their coach from a partially flooded network of caves, said Narongsak Osatanakorn, governor of Chiang Rai province, according to the Associated Press. Options include coaching the boys on how to use special breathing masks or draining water from the cave. None of the boys can swim or dive.
The boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach, went missing on June 23. They were exploring a cave complex in a forest park in northern Thailand, close to the border with Myanmar. Local and international rescuers, including a team of Thai navy divers and cave experts, had spent days trying to locate the team, but muddy waters complicated their efforts and blocked access to the chambers of the cave complex. The search for the boys gripped the nation and the world, and it ended Monday evening when two British divers found the team on a dry patch in one of the flooded chambers. 
In a video posted by the Thai navy on its Facebook page, the boys are seen huddled on a rock in mud-stained T-shirts and shorts surrounded by water. 
“How many of you are there — 13? Brilliant,” a member of the rescue team, speaking in English, said to the boys. “You have been here 10 days. You are very strong.” 

The members of a youth soccer team and their coach are pictured moments after they were found inside the Tham Luang cave complex in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park, Chiang Rai province, Thailand. (Royal Thai Army//EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
When one of the boys asked if they could leave the cave, the rescuers replied that they could not yet but that many people were coming for them. 
“Navy SEAL will come tomorrow, with food and doctors and everything,” the rescuer said. 
The Thai military has confirmed that it is preparing for long-term food supplies and diving training for the group. Waters in the cave must recede to safe levels before the boys can be safely extracted, experts say. Engineers have been pumping water out of the cave, but more precipitation is expected as the rainy season hits the area.  
Options for extraction include drilling through the cave to find another entrance in among the caverns. But experts have warned that this could take a very long time, and be difficult and the boys are in a small space. Diving them out has been floated as the fastest but among the most dangerous extraction methods. A Thai official said that the boys may have no choice but to try to swim out, ahead of bad rains predicted later this week, according to the Associated Press.
Khaosod English, a Bangkok-based news organization, reported that officials are calling for donations of small diving masks that would fit the boys, as regular diving equipment could be too dangerous. 
Thai prime minister urges rescue workers not to 'rush' getting boys to safety
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha praised the rescue teams for finding the soccer team trapped in a cave but urged them not to rush the rescue operation. 
Officials say they have performed an informal medical evaluation and determined that most of the boys are in stable condition. No one has any critical injuries, said Chiang Rai’s governor.  
The British Cave Rescue Council, a voluntary underground rescue operation, has been in touch with the British divers who located the boys. In an interview with the BBC, the council’s vice chairman, Bill Whitehouse, said the divers described the dive as “gnarly.” 
There were “complications and problems,” said Whitehouse, “They were having to swim against the currents and pull themselves along the walls. The visibility wouldn’t have been very good.”
The dive took about three hours, he added. The cave system is at least four miles long, and waters can reach depths of 16 feet during the monsoon season, which lasts through October.

January 30, 2018

An LGBT Couple, Their Marriage Wiped Off in Singapore are Going to Court







A Singapore court has agreed to review the decision to delete a Singaporean couple’s marriage from the city-state’s marriage registry after one partner underwent gender-affirming surgery, according to lawyers for the couple. 
The marriage was revoked and deleted in February last year after the registrar decided that the marriage, while a heterosexual union at the time it occurred in 2015, had become a same-sex marriage, which is not allowed in Singapore. The couple applied in November to have the authorities’ actions examined in a bid to get their union reinstated. Singapore’s High Court granted the request last week.
The story of FK and BS, first reported in Quartz on June 14 last year, showed how laws in the city-state are out of step with one another, leaving the couple in legal limbo. Singapore’s laws on transgender and marriage rights also don’t fully reflect the gender and sexual orientation experiences people grapple with more openly now.
The couple last year detailed the stressful, convoluted process they had been through relating to their marriage over nearly two years. FK was asked to dress up as “obviously male” for the marriage proceeding, in keeping with her gender on her official Singapore-issued ID, and to sign a statutory declaration stating that she had not undergone surgery prior to marriage. Later, the couple was denied the four-bedroom public housing flat they were due to collect as a married couple after a four-year wait. The final blow was the revocation of their marriage.
“This application seeks a court ruling that the Registrar of Marriages, in deciding to void our clients’ marriage and then deleting the record of marriage from the state marriage register, acted beyond her legal powers. In our view, the Registrar’s decision and the action she took, raise rule of law issues,” the couple’s solicitors, Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss and Suang Wijaya of Eugene Thuraisingam LLP, told Quartz in a joint statement.
The case will be heard before a judge at the High Court, and could potentially proceed to the Court of Appeal, Singapore’s highest court, where it would be considered by a bench of three to five judges. A hearing date has not been set yet.
Singapore recognizes transgender people, but does not allow for same-sex marriage. When Quartz approached the Ministry of Social and Family Development, which oversees the Registry of Marriages, for comment last year, a representative stated: “Singapore law does not recognize a marriage where both parties are of the same sex. At the point of marriage, a couple must be man and woman, and must want to be and want to remain as man and woman in the marriage.”
However, the actual wording of the law governing marriages in Singapore states that “[a] marriage solemnized in Singapore or elsewhere between persons who, at the date of the marriage, are not respectively male and female shall be void.” At the time of the 2015 marriage, FK identity’s card still listed her sex as “male,” which continued until she changed it in 2016.
“I feel that the case was never really properly concluded, because the reason for revoking the marriage… it leaves open more questions than answers,” said FK. 
Issues related to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in Singapore can often be murky. Under Singaporean law, sex between men is still criminalized under Section 377A of the Penal Code, a holdover from the British colonial era, similar to statutes on the books of other former colonies. 
Although the government has stated that the law is not proactively enforced as a form of compromise between the LGBT community and conservative sectors of the populace, LGBT activists have long claimed that the retention of the law has ripple effects, such as when it comes to the representation of same-sex couples in the media, or formal recognition of LGBT organizations.
FK feels that their troubles have stemmed from bureaucratic indecision over how to handle their unusual case, and hopes the judicial review will provide some clarity: “It’s time the LGBT community [in Singapore] got a sense of direction of where the government is. There are some questions that do deserve answers, and we need to know what the government’s stance is with regard to LGBT rights.”

June 26, 2017

Singapore Resist While Vietnam is Become One of The Most LGBT Friendly Countries in Asia


 Vietnam Celebrates under the rain





LGBT rights in the global financial capital are murky at best, while Vietnam has been pegged as one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in Asia.

A global metropole, the small, tropical island of Singapore is the hub of crypto-capitalism: a country flanked by towering skyscrapers that boast of "progress" and "advancement," but where fighting for LGBT rights is still a tall order.
While queer marriages are prohibited, changing one’s gender is allowed — underscoring the country’s schizophrenic policies with regards to sexual rights, which palter about progressivism, but leave much to be desired. 

LGBT activists are gearing up for continued challenges after the government tightened rules this year for the upcoming Pride event, limiting the celebration that is already only allowed to take place once a year.
From ambiguity about their legal rights to facing censorship in the media, the terrain of LGBT equality in the global financial capital is nonexistent at worst, and murky at best.
Legal ambiguity and inequality for LGBT Singaporeans
For bisexual lawyer Indulekshmi Rajeswari, the country “does not recognize LGBT rights at all.”
“In fact, sex between mutually consenting men is still criminalized, through the infamous section 377A of the Penal Code,” she told teleSUR.
“There are no anti-discrimination laws in any sphere, including housing, employment, healthcare and so on. LGBT couples and families live in a legal limbo,” she continued.
According to Rajeswari, while queer and trans people pay the same taxes, they are not given the same access to government housing or tax breaks that “married, heterosexual couples take for granted.”
The “vocal but small religious right and the government’s interest in maintaining the status quo”, she explained, explains why LGBT Singaporeans continue to live in a state of legal ambiguity and inequality.
“Same but Different,” the new legal guide
In this arena of muddled rights, comes Rajeswari’s new guide titled, “Same but Different: A Singapore LGBT Legal Guide for Couples & Families.” Set to release July 8, the book will help LGBT Singaporeans navigate their legal rights.
"I knew my friends were asking me because they did not know other LGBT-friendly lawyers," Rajeswari told teleSUR of her inspiration to begin the guide in November 2015.
The crowd-funded project that has a team of 18 volunteers, delves into the "legal ambiguities" surrounding marriage and cohabitation contracts, property, wills and inheritance, medical decisions and children. 
The guidebook, to be published and distributed to LGBT organizations throughout the country, will also be made available for free online, filling a "much-needed resource gap" for social workers and other LGBT advocates alike.
"For example, we could not find any publicly available guidance on what is required to change one's gender legally," pressed Rajeswari.
"This is one of the many examples of the type of legal ambiguities that LGBT people in Singapore face. It is a type of ambiguity that is often hidden or rarely discussed," she said to teleSUR.
Parties versus policies
The guidebook is to come in handy as the community faces ongoing assaults on their rights.
For the past 8 years, LGBT Singaporeans have congregated in Hong Lim Park, “the only venue in Singapore where public protests are allowed," for Pink Dot, the annual Pride rally.
But this year’s event has been mired in controversy — with recent changes to the country’s Public Order Act barring foreigners from attending.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam told Parliament last month that the changes were made to prevent foreigners from “advancing political causes in Singapore.”
“As a government, we don’t take a position for or against Pink Dot, but we do take a position against foreign involvement,” he had added. “The point is this is a matter for Singaporeans, Singapore companies, Singapore entities to discuss.” 
For Rajeswari, Pink Dot and other public displays of LGBT pride illuminate only a tiny reality.
“How gay-friendly or trans-friendly Singapore is, depends on who you are and what you want out of life. There are gay parties, there is a relatively vibrant scene and most people are not afraid of being arrested for being gay. If you just want to party and have a good time, Singapore might seem great to you,” she said.
“However, we are not allowed to have Pride parades (except the annual Pink Dot gathering). Freedom of speech and freedom of association is in general very curtailed, so that applies to the LGBT community too. If you want any kind of rights, then Singapore starts looking less attractive,” she added.
Vietnam, one of the most LGBT-friendly places in Asia
In contrast, elsewhere on the continent, Vietnam has emerged as one of the most LGBT-friendly country advancing on a number of fronts in the last decade, leading NBC News to say in January 2015, “On gay rights, Vietnam is now more progressive than America."
That year, its ruling Communist Party of Vietnam removed a ban on same-sex marriage and also allowed those that undergo gender reassignment surgery to register under their preferred gender. At a hearing leading up to the legalization, Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Viet Tien proposed that same-sex marriage be made legal immediately, "As human beings, homosexuals have the same rights as everyone else to live, eat, love, and be loved," according to the Atlantic.
It was a decade prior to these achievements that Nguyen Hai Yen, searching for community and acceptance in a place still mired by homophobia and transphobia, turned to the internet.
“I became the administrator of a lesbian online forum,” Yen told NBC OUT. “The internet community was a safe space for us to meet, so we met each other and discussed things like dating or coming out.”
The year was 2004, and while there was an emerging network of online forums and websites for lesbians, gay men, gay teens and transgender women that had a large following, they remained separate and disconnected.
“The issue of rights for the broader LGBTQ community was never mentioned,” said Yen.
But things changed in 2008, when the Institute for Studies of Society, Economics and Environment, a civil society organization in Hanoi, invited Yen and other online forum administrators to discuss the idea of building a more focused community.
“iSEE decided it should be the community’s voice that brought up their own issues,” Yen explained. 
March for marriage equality in 2015.
Just a few, short years later, Vietnam is set to celebrate its fifth year of pride celebrations in 36 provinces across the country.
“The first generation of leaders is now in their late 20s or 30s,” iSEE Chairman Le Quang Binh said. “They are (now) building the second generation of leaders … (who) are young, passionate, committed and daring.”
Still, despite the progress, the LGBTQ community still has its fair share of challenges that stem from deep-seated prejudices against them. But the movement fighting that has left even those involved with it for years, stunned. 
“The LGBTQ movement in Vietnam has had this really strange and unprecedented opportunity to grow so fast — it is head spinning,” Nga L.H. Nguyen, who joined the movement four years ago and is now on the organizing board of Viet Pride, told NBC OUT.
LGBT Singapore resists
Back in Singapore, Rajeswari is hopeful, recounting victories elsewhere in the region. Despite the battles, she notes the resilience of her communities.
“We have an LGBT-affirming counseling agency, Oogachaga, who do the very important work of helping LGBT people with their mental health and also work related to safe sex. We have organizations such as Sayoni, a queer women’s group, which does a lot of advocacy and welfare work,” she said. “This is not an exhaustive list, but we do indeed have a vibrant scene with lots of group working on their individual concerns.”
“(Our) community continues to be resilient by creating resources to help empower the community,” she told teleSUR.

December 2, 2015

Anti Gay Petition in Singapore to Stop Adam Lambert



                                                                   


A petition to prevent Adam Lambert from performing in Singapore on New Year’s Eve has reached its goal of 20,000 supporters who object to Lambert’s sexuality.
The petition calls on the government as well as the concert’s organizers to remove Lambert from the line-up of the annual televised event.

Adam Lambert Talks About Sleeping With Closeted Stars.. .And Women!
The language of the petition is wildly homophobic, even though its backers now dispute the nature of their ‘concern.’

Singaporeans can enjoy a good show without their consciences being affronted by lewd acts in the name of entertainment.

Yes, but couldn’t most female pop singers who aren’t Adele be accused of “lewdness” in their stage acts? Beyonce, Miley, J-Lo, Britney, Rihanna, Taylor, hello??

The petition goes on:
In addition, a simple online search would reveal that he is well-known for his active promotion of a highly sexualized lifestyle and LGTBT rights, of which are contrary to mainstream Singaporean values.
LGBT rights are still a divisive issue in Singapore, where sex between men is a criminal act.
Adam Lambert Reads From 50 Shades Of Grey—Mmmmm
But a rival petition, supported by Lambert and his legion of ever loyal Glamberts, has now reached its goal of 24,000 signatures.  Lambert posted a link to the petition on his Facebook page, where he wrote:
My performance at Celebrate 2016 will not only be a spectacular one, it will celebrate the entire human family in all its diversity. I am a uniter, not a divider, and I believe in celebrating the human heart and spirit. I have put together an entirely new show experience for my fans that is kicking off in Singapore. The Original High tour is based primarily on new material, and it promises to be a thoughtful and sophisticated insight into the pursuit of happiness and self-worth. There is no better time for celebration than at the moment one year changes into another, so I hope you will join me to celebrate the future and 2016.

The group behind the original petition have construed Lambert’s statement as a concession to their concern about lewdness. Here is their latest statement:
Thankfully, the performer himself has responded that he will be putting on a different show which is hopefully in better taste and shows greater restraint.

Well. One can only hope that Adam Lambert shows Singapore and homophobes around the world that music and sexuality are joys to be celebrated by everyone everywhere, on New Year’s Eve and every day thereafter.

A spokesperson for Stonewall told The Independent:
While there has been great progress for LGBT equality around the world, huge challenges still remain. Sex with some of the same sex is illegal in 76 countries and punishable by death in 10. It’s great, therefore, to see that so many spoke out in support of Adam Lambert and against discrimination.

November 3, 2014

Singapore’s Court Rules With Government Vs. the Constitution


                                                                        
                                                                           
A FOUR-YEAR battle ended yesterday, when Singapore's highest court upheld the constitutionality of Section 377(a) of the country's penal code, which renders any man convicted of committing "or abet[ting] the commission of...any act of gross indecency" with another man liable to two years in prison. Tan Eng Hong first challenged the law in September 2010, after he was charged under 377(a) for having oral sex with another man in a public-toilet stall. Two years later a second challenge was raised by Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, a gay couple who have been together for 17 years. They argued that the law contravened two articles in Singapore's constitution: Article 9, which guarantees that "no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with the law", and Article 12, the first section of which states, "All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law."
The result was not entirely surprising. Singapore's government tends to do well before Singaporean courts: it has, for instance, never lost a defamation suit. The court itself, both in oral arguments last summer and in this ruling, repeatedly expresses unwillingness to consider "extra-legal" and "emotional" arguments, which have their place in the legislative rather than the judicial process. The court's role, the ruling said, was to be "independent, neutral and objective", though in the early, throat-clearing section of this ruling, the court noted that it grants the government a "presumption of constitutionality", because "our legislature is presumed not to enact legislation which is inconsistent with the Singapore Constitution." In other words, the court will neutrally and objectively weigh the arguments presented by each side, though one side (the government's) enters with the wind at its back.
Attorneys for Messrs Lim and Chee argued that inherent to Article 9's guarantees of life and liberty are "a limited right to privacy and personal autonomy allowing a person to express affection and love toward another human being." The court swiftly shot down that argument: in Singaporean jurisprudence, Article 9 only guards against unlawful detention. Mr Tan's attorney argued that 377(a) criminalises a group of people for an innate attribute; the court concluced here that "there is, at present, no definitive conclusion" on the "supposed immutability" of homosexuality (Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore's prime minister, takes a different view). M. Ravi, a human-rights lawyer representing the challengers, had argued that Section 377(a) arbitrarily distinguished between gay men and women, leaving the former open to incarceration and the latter untouched, but his argument also held no weight for the court. It cited an earlier ruling that validated that distinction because female homosexual acts "were either less prevalent or perceived to be less repugnant than male homosexual conduct". As for appeals to Article 12(1), the court pointed to the article immediately following, which states, "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," but does not mention sex, gender or sexual orientation.
It reviewed historical documents on Section 377(a)'s adoption, which precedes Singapore's independence, and held that the legislature has the right to pass laws that express and enforce popular morality. As for fears that this permits a tyranny of the majority, the court warns against a "tyranny of the minority", and says that in this case the appellants have failed to provide a "legal basis for claiming that their rights should trump those of the majority." As for the rather sensible argument that what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home neither harms anybody nor impinges on anyone else's rights to disapprove of what they do (only to have that disapproval codified into law), the court held that it was a question for the legislature.
The question now, of course, is whether Singapore's legislature will take up the debate. The last time it did so was 2007, when laws criminalising heterosexual anal and oral sex were removed. On a daily level, Singapore is hardly hostile to gay people: Pink Dot, its gay-pride event (pictured), drew a record crowd of 26,000 this year. Singapore told a United Nations anti-discrimination committee that "homosexuals are free to lead their lives and pursue their social activities. Gay groups have held public discussions and published websites, and there are films and plays on gay themes and gay bars and clubs in Singapore."
But if every sexually active gay man who attends one of those plays or bars or clubs has the threat of imprisonment hanging over his head, simply for who he chooses to love in the privacy of his own home, that tolerance is conditional. Between 2007 and 2013, nine people were convicted under 377(a), according to a spokesman for Singapore's State Courts.
And leaving aside arguments over whether the government has any place in the bedroom (this newspaper has long believed it does not), Singapore's laws make it an outlier, particularly in the developed world. Gay sex is now legal in 113 countries; gay marriage or civil unions in dozens more. Singapore is rightfully proud of its ability to attract talent from all over the world. Yet how long will that ability last? Section 377(a) turns men who are legally married in countries around the world into unindicted criminals in Singapore; why would they come here if they could go anywhere else?

October 30, 2014

Singapore Court Rejects Appeal of Anti Gay Law


                                                                         

SINGAPORE — The nation’s highest court on Wednesday Oct 29 ruled that a law that criminalises sex between men is constitutional.

The ruling covers both cases contesting the law, one brought by two graphic designers who have been in a relationship for 16 years, and the other by an artistic therapist who had been arrested for a sexual act committed in a toilet. …

The judges found that Section 377A of the Penal Code [which provides for up to two years in prison for physical intimacy between men] did not infringe on the rights of Lim Meng Suang and Kenneth Chee Mun-Leon [Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee], who in 2012 argued that the statute was inconsistent with Article 12 of the Constitution, or 51-year-old artistic therapist and social volunteer Tan Eng Hong, who had been arrested for engaging in oral sex with another man in a public toilet in 2010. …

“While we understand the deeply held personal feelings of the appellants, there is nothing that this court can do to assist them. Their remedy lies, if at all, in the legislative sphere,” the Court of Appeal said in its judgment.

Human rights lawyer M Ravi, representing Tan, said, “Today’s decision has legitimised discrimination against gay men and approved the criminalisation of the conduct of their private lives by statute.” It is “huge step backwards for human rights in Singapore,” he added.

Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch, said, “Singapore likes to advertise itself as a modern Asian country and business destination, but this discriminatory anti-LGBT law is wholly out of step with international rights standards that guarantee protections, including for sexual orientation and gender identity.” 

Channel NewsAsia 

July 20, 2014

Singapore’s Highest Court Hears Challenge to 76 yr old ban on gay sex


                                                                          

Singapore’s highest court heard challenges to a 76-year-old ban on gay sex, a divisive issue afterIndia reversed a decision to strike down a similar law and same-sex marriage was allowed in New Zealand last year.
“Just because a matter is controversial does not mean the judiciary should shy away from upholding its constitutional mandate,” Deborah Barker, a lawyer for Kenneth Chee and Gary Lim, said today while arguing that the 1938 law violates rights to equal protection and should be declared void. Parliament, not the courts, is the right forum, a government lawyer argued.
Singapore lawmakers in 2007 agreed to keep the law, known as Section 377A, when they repealed related provisions that made heterosexual oral and anal sex a crime. Gay-rights activists and church groups advocated last year against and for the ban, which the government says it hasn’t actively enforced since the mid-1990s. That prompted the Attorney General’s Chamber to warn that comment on the case could be in contempt if calculated to affect the court’s decision.
“The majority of the population still favors the current legal framework,” Law Minister K. Shanmugam told Bloomberg News last month when asked about the case and its background. While society is evolving and social mores are changing, “the government has taken the position that this is a situation where it is best to agree to disagree.”
Source: Courtesy Gary Lim
Gary Lim, left, and Kenneth Chee at the Pink Dot event in Singapore on May 15, 2010.

‘Moral Future’

Police issued an advisory asking attendees at this year’s annual gay-pride rally Pink Dot on June 28 to “keep the peace” and avoid comments on race and religion. The warning followed Muslim and Christian groups calling on their followers to wear white on the day to signify “purity” and to oppose the event.
Gay activists early last year started an online petition for abolition ahead of a lower court hearing on the law’s constitutionality, and a group of pastors met Shanmugam to present their views on defending the nation’s “moral future.”
The Singapore Court of Appeal hearing today comes as battles over gay rights gained prominence in the past two years. India in December overturned a 2009 verdict legalizing consensual gay sex. Russia enacted anti-gay laws, stoking international ire, and New Zealand became the first Asia-Pacific nation to legalize gay marriages.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling triggered uncertainty in the country, where states have a patchwork of laws and court rulings allowing gay marriage in some and banning it in others.

Mandatory Jail

Recent survey results on gay acceptance in Singapore “shows the controversy in society,” the country’s Chief Prosecutor Aedit Abdullah said today.
“These are arguments that should lie with the legislature,” Aedit told the three-judge panel led by Andrew Phang. “We’re concerned about the knock-on effects and the effects on other statutes and laws,” he said.
M. Ravi, a lawyer for Tan Eng Hong who has a parallel appeal against the ban, said Section 377A was biased against homosexual men.
He said it would be almost impossible for a sexually-active gay man to remain on the right side of the law, which bans acts of “gross indecency” between males. Offenders face mandatory jail terms of as long as two years.
The law should either be declared void or modified to exclude acts between consenting adults in private, Barker said.
High Court Judge Quentin Loh had agreed with government lawyers when he heard both cases last year, saying the courts should be slow in overturning parliament’s decision.

Sting Operations

There were a total of 185 people convicted under section 377A over a 10-year period from 1997 to 2006, according to figures from the Home Affairs Ministry. Seven people were convicted in 2006, with 1999 having the highest at 31.
In the early 1990s, undercover police arrested several men in sting operations, charging them with molestation and public solicitation, according to reports in The Straits Times. A magazine with advertisements targeting homosexuals had its publishing license suspended and some theater plays deemed as promoting homosexual lifestyles were censored.
Even so, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told parliament in 2007 that “the government does not act as moral policemen.” Singapore is a conservative society with space for homosexuals, he said then. Lee said in January 2013 it was best for Singaporeans to “agree to disagree” on the issue of gay rights.

Prosecutorial Discretion

About 47 percent of 4,000 Singaporeans in a survey commissioned by the government rejected “gay lifestyles,” according to the results released in August. Twenty six percent were receptive and 27 percent neutral.
Then-Chief Justice Yong Pung How wrote in a 1995 ruling that he was “confident that the judicious exercise of prosecutorial discretion will prevail” in applying the law.
In 2003, then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said homosexuals were allowed to work in the civil service. Singaporean media published stories at the time touting the so-called pink dollar of affluent gay tourists. The following year, police banned a planned year-end celebration by a gay events group for being “contrary to public interest.”
While authorities have allowed a separate gay-pride event, Pink Dot, to be held since 2009, three children’s titles were withdrawn from national libraries recently -- including one based on a real-life story of two male penguins that hatched an egg at the New York Zoo -- after complaints that they weren’t “pro-family.” Books in the adult section do contain titles with homosexual themes, the National Library Board said.

Diversity, Inclusiveness

A record 26,000 pink-clad people turned up last month at Pink Dot, sponsored by companies including Google Inc. since 2010, Barclays Plc since 2012, and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which became a sponsor this year.
Edward Naylor of Goldman Sachs and John McGuinness of Barclays said their banks supported events like Pink Dot as part of their commitment to diversity and inclusive workplaces.
“Attracting, retaining and motivating people from diverse backgrounds, including people of all sexual orientations, is essential to our success,” Naylor said.
“Barclays is committed to a culture of meritocracy, where people are judged on professional performance rather than their personal lives,” McGuinness said.
Robin Moroney, a spokesman for Google, referred to the company’s comment in a May Pink Dotannouncement that encouraging diversity “can lead to brilliant and inspiring ideas.”
The cases are Lim Meng Suang v Attorney-General, CA54/2013. Tan Eng Hong v Attorney-General, CA125/2013. Singapore Court of Appeal.
To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Tan in Singapore at atan17@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.netTerje Langeland

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