SINGAPORE, Saturday, June 6, 2015 – It is very disappointing to hear Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s response to the query on same-sex marriage at a recent interview with regional journalists.
Firstly, we respectfully differ with PM’s views that ‘we do not harass them (LGBT Singaporeans) or discriminate against them’. LGBT people in Singapore continue to be discriminated against through the existence of Section 377a of the Penal Code.
While it is claimed that Section 377a is not enforced, its presence alone encourages discrimination and reinforces prejudice, leading to censorship in the media and the aggravation of negative stereotypes, impacting the health and wellbeing of a significant segment of society. Young LGBT people grow up in fear of being bullied by schoolmates, and cast out by family members. Working adults hide their true selves because they fear being ‘outed’ would affect their chances at promotion, or even cost them their jobs and their means to survive. Transgender individuals are often called names on the streets, labelled as deviants, denied many mainstream jobs, and are sometimes assaulted.
In a recent study – Singapore’s first and currently only – of 450 LGBT respondents¹, a staggering 60% had said that they had faced discrimination or abuse in their lifetime. A significant majority of these individuals also reported an increase incidence of suicidal thoughts and behavioural issues.
Compounding this issue, is the dearth of information and resources available for community and social groups to provide proper assistance to those in real need of help – an added effect resulting from Section 377a and censorship regulations.
We hope Mr Lee can empathise with the LGBT community, who – despite the challenges they face: ridicule, verbal and at times even physical abuse from their own kin – continue to contribute faithfully to the Singapore dream, to the only home that they know.
We acknowledge the concerns raised by PM – given Singapore’s unique position as a multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-religious society, there will be a plurality of viewpoints, some deeply entrenched. However, we disagree that this is something that should not be discussed – it is not a topic that can be swept under the carpet and allowed to fester.
We firmly believe that dialogue is our best way forward. As such, we would like to invite Prime Minister Lee to join us in celebrating the Freedom to Love, this Saturday, June 13, at Hong Lim Park, and meet with the individuals, families, and loving couples who form a vibrant part of Singapore’s social fabric.
In Singapore, racial and religious minorities are protected under the constitution. It is our hope that sexual minorities will one day be afforded the same protections, in order for us to live our lives without fear of being seen as less-than-equal in the eyes of the law.
Whether Singapore will eventually abolish Section 377a and create a society truly based on justice and equality, that values all contributing citizens regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity; a lot will depend on fostering goodwill and encouraging respect among groups and individuals.
It is also our hope that Singaporeans will one day all come together to celebrate inclusivity and diversity – for it is through this, and love for one another, that we show our true strength as a nation.
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¹Homophobia and Transphobia Survey by OogaChaga: http://www.oogachaga.com/congregaytion/news/detail/204/Homophobia-and-Transphobia-Survey-Summary
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