September 10, 2021

The Singapore government announced last week that it would be passing new workplace anti-discrimination laws, that will give existing Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) guidelines more teeth. This TAFEP law will beef up protections for minorities from unequal treatment in the workplace, and is underpinned by a desire for a fairer and more inclusive Singapore.

Pink Dot SG welcomes this announcement. Discrimination against disadvantaged groups has no place in our multicultural and pluralistic society.

As an equality movement that has been raising awareness about LGBTQ+ discrimination in Singapore, we are no stranger to the stories of people who have been subject to unfair treatment in the workplace because of their gender identity or their sexual orientation. LGBTQ+ people often feel the need to hide who they are, for fear of losing their jobs or scholarships, or being denied opportunities for career progression. Many individuals are subject to hostile work environments where homophobic or transphobic behaviour is left unchecked. Some are even fired or denied employment entirely, solely on the basis of being LGBTQ+. 

The government has long maintained that every Singaporean will be protected from discrimination of all forms. Minister Shanmugam, when speaking about the recent amendments to the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act, has also given all Singaporeans assurances that they will be kept safe, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. 

Pink Dot SG is thus hopeful that this new law will specifically include Singaporeans who face discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE) within its protections. After all, for this proposed law to meaningfully foster a more equal Singapore, it cannot at the same time exclude one of its marginalised communities yet again. 

“Minister Wong has positioned this proposed anti-discrimination law as part of broader measures to build a fairer and more just future for Singapore,” says Clement Tan, Pink Dot SG Spokesperson. “ The LGBTQ+ community has an important stake in that future. We would welcome any opportunity to participate in the consultation process for this proposed law. We urge the government not to leave us behind this time.”

The Government has promised legislation against discrimination in the workplace –based on gender, race, nationality, age, religion and disability — and a new racial harmony law.

We welcome these moves. Outright racism and discrimination against disadvantaged minority groups have no place in our multicultural and pluralistic society.

There remains however, one glaring omission in the list of disadvantaged minorities that these moves seek to help. A group that is often treated as second class citizens in their own country: LGBTQ+ Singaporeans.

How can we aspire — in Minister Lawrence Wong’s words — for “every Singaporean to have a share in the nation’s progress, as well as be treated with dignity and respect and have a place in society” while one sizable minority group is left out?

Discriminatory practices are prevalent at the workplace and education system when it comes to one’s sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTQ+ persons often feel the need to hide who they are for fear of losing their job placements and scholarships. There have been countless examples of transgender individuals being turned away when applying for jobs simply for being who they are. (Examples?) 

It should be evident that we will never truly be a “fairer, more equal and more just society” until all marginalized groups are protected.

We call on the Government to recognize the discrimination that LGBTQ+ people in Singapore face – in housing, at the workplace, in schools – and include all of us in the efforts to eradicate unfair practices in our society.

It is indeed harder to belong in a minority than to the majority, and this is true in every society. But in PM Lee’s words, “it does not mean we need to accept this state of affairs in Singapore.”