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LGBTI activist banned from giving TEDx talk in Singapore

LGBTI activist banned from giving TEDx talk in Singapore

iLights Marina Bay, Singapore

The night before Rachel Yeo was due to deliver a TEDx talk, organizers told her she’d been taken off the schedule.

TEDTalks and their various offshoots are a worldwide phenomenon. People from different background deliver short speeches on their areas of expertise or life experience.

Friday’s session was a TEDxYouth at St Joseph’s Instititute (SJI) – a Catholic school in Singapore. The theme of [email protected] 2018 was ‘Chrysalis’.

‘Through [email protected] 2018, we are bringing the intimate experience of sharing a love for learning more about the world we live in to a smaller community,’ organizers said ahead of the event.

Yeo is the Research and Advocacy Director at Singapore’s Inter-University LGBT Network (IULN). SJI had invited her to speak about her interest in LGBTI issues.

But just hours before she was due to hit the stage SJI told her she would no longer be speaking. SJI cited Ministry of Education’s (MOE) ‘regulations’ for taking her off the speakers’ list. SJI said the decision ‘beyond our control’.

Homosexual sex is illegal in Singapore and LGBTI people do not have the same legal protections as straight people. Singapore’s annual LGBTI rally Pink Dot has been under increasing pressure from the government and anti-LGBTI groups. The government has banned foreign companies from donating to Pink Dot. It also banned foreigners from attending the event. But that did not stop thousands of Singaporeans and Permanent Residents from turning up to this year’s event.

Ministry of Education

It is not clear which MOE regulations the SJI was referring to, but the MOE has denied any involvement.

‘We would like to clarify that MOE was neither involved in nor informed about SJI’s deliberations on the [email protected] programme and selection of speakers. The school has full authority to make such decisions on its own,’ an MOE spokesperson told Today Online.

The IULN released a statement in support of Yeo and condemning the SJI’s decision.

‘The erasure of LGBTQ+ issues from our schools has a serious negative impact on the well-being of young LGBTQ+ people,’ it said.

‘Ultimately, this incident reminds us that there remains much work to be done to foster a truly inclusive society for all Singaporeans, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.’