A coalition of LGBTI rights groups in Singapore have written an open letter, calling for greater LGBTI equality, to the country’s prime minister.
The collective, made up of LGBTI community groups, human rights organisations and NGOs, posted the to letter to the office of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday.
Building on 10 declarations recently made at the 10th iteration of annual LGBTI rally Pink Dot, the letter makes recommendations to the government to ensure progress towards more LGBTI equality in the city-state.
Among the 10 declarations made at Pink Dot are calls to repeal Section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men, as well as end censorship of portrayals of LGBTI relationships in the mainstream media.
‘Engaging in an open and transparent way’
‘The reason we are making this public is because we believe in engaging in an open and transparent way with our elected officials, and letting them know that this is what we believe in, and invite them to join with us. Hence the last line in the letter to ‘invite you to help us create avenues for dialogue’,’ Leow Yangfa, the executive director of LGBTI-friendly counselling organisation Oogachaga, told GSN. Oogachaga is one of the signatories to the open letter, alongside groups like the human rights group Maruah, sex workers’ rights group Project X, and the LGBTI-friendly Free Community Church.
‘We hope that our fellow Singaporeans will read this letter and be aware that this is about equality for all Singaporeans, as we are not equal if some of us are not yet equal,’ he added.
The open letter comes as an effort to amplify the explicit demands made at Pink Dot – the first time the LGBTI rally has done so. Previous rallies have firmly positioned themselves as celebrations of the ‘freedom to love’, with little mention of demands to or protests against the government or national policies.
An eventful time
Although the government claims that there is no discrimination against LGBTI people in schools or in the workplace, members of the LGBTI community still face many problems on a legal and societal levels.
Male homosexual sex is illegal under the country’s penal code; while this law is rarely enforced, it essentially criminalises gay men. LGBTI advocacy groups have also highlighted the lack of access to competent, affirming support for LGBTI youth in schools, as well as the censorship of positive portrayal of the LGBTI community in the mainstream media. Late last month, the representative of a university LGBTI group was not permitted to speak at a TEDxYouth event organised by a Singaporean high school.
One section of the letter reads: ‘Over the years, the Singapore Government has taken the position that Singapore is ultimately a ‘conservative country,’ and therefore ‘not ready’ for the repeal of S377A or achieving legal equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.
‘As a Singaporean community of parents, volunteers, professionals, artists and citizens, we are acutely aware that there are people who are uncomfortable with or disapprove of sexual orientations or gender identities different from their own. However, their discomfort should not be a reason for or lead to discrimination of our minority community.’
The open letter to the prime minister was sent on the opening day of Singapore’s annual pride season, IndigNation.