By Andrew Loh
The FAQ on sexuality published by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) “drives home a key STI and HIV prevention message to ‘Be faithful’ to one’s partner, rather than to have multiple partners.” Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said in a written reply to MP Lim Biow Chuan on Monday.
Mr Lim had asked the minister to “explain why the Health Promotion Board promotes a same-sex relationship as not being different from a heterosexual relationship.”
Mr Lim had earlier said to the media that he was “disappointed” with the FAQ, and highlighted the part of the FAQ which said that a “same-sex relationship is not too different from a heterosexual relationship”.
In his explanation on Monday, Mr Gan said that the sentence should be read in context, along with what followed it – that “both require the commitment of two people.”
Mr Gan said, “They highlight that relationships require commitment, and it is possible to remain faithful to one’s partner, regardless of one’s sexual orientation.”
“This drives home a key STI and HIV prevention message to ‘Be faithful’ to one’s partner, rather than to have multiple partners. This helps to protect individuals from STIs and HIV, minimise transmission risks, and thereby safeguarding public health.”
As with the reply by the HPB on its Facebook page following the public reaction to the FAQ, Mr Gan emphasised that the Government’s policy is that the family is the basic building block of Singapore society and that it continues to encourage heterosexual married couples to have healthy relationships.
“The FAQs do not encourage same-sex relationships,” the Health minister said, “but rather provide advice to young persons and their parents on mental and physical health issues from a public health perspective.”
The FAQ, which was published about a week ago, attracted both praises and criticisms from different quarters. In particular, the LGBT community lauded it for being progressive and forward looking.
Some, however, see it as a backward step which they say will lead to the state legitimising homosexuality and eventually gay marriage.
Pastor Lawrence Khong, who once referred to the LGBT rights movement as the ‘onslaught of the evil one’ and who also seem to be the loudest opponent of the FAQ, is reported to have issued a guide to church leaders on how to campaign against the FAQ.
Among its suggestions is for members to not “use church or religious rankings or titles” when writing to MPs or ministers about the FAQ. Also, they should not “forward emails as this will leave traces of the contact chain and the thread of conversation from previous writers.”
The government has so far not responded to Pastor Khong.
Here is the full reply from the Health Minister:
1 The Government’s policy is that the family is the basic building block of our society. This means encouraging heterosexual married couples to have healthy relationships and to build stable nuclear and extended family units. There has been no shift in the Government’s position on this. HPB takes reference from this consistent position in its health promotion activities.
2 The Health Promotion Board (HPB)’s mission is to promote healthy living for all Singaporeans. HPB thus conducts outreach and educational programmes to raise awareness among the public, including youths, on sexual health matters, such as the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV and AIDS.
3 HPB tailors its sexual health education initiatives to the health concerns of specific target groups. HPB has identified Young Men Who have Sex with Men (YMSM) as one target group for STI and HIV education. To reach out to this group, HPB works with NGOs, VWOs and professional counsellors to produce educational resources.
4 The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on sexuality and sexual health provide a one-stop resource of factual information from a public health perspective on sexuality, STI and HIV prevention. The FAQs were published on the HPB website in November 2013. The FAQs do not encourage same-sex relationships, but rather provide advice to young persons and their parents on mental and physical health issues from a public health perspective.
5 The FAQs also provide specific information to young people at risk of engaging in sexual behaviours which expose them to STI and HIV. The statement that “A same-sex relationship is not too different from a heterosexual relationship” and the statement that follows: “Both require the commitment of two people” should be taken together. They highlight that relationships require commitment, and it is possible to remain faithful to one’s partner, regardless of one’s sexual orientation. This drives home a key STI and HIV prevention message to “Be faithful” to one’s partner, rather than to have multiple partners. This helps to protect individuals from STIs and HIV, minimize transmission risks, and thereby safeguarding public health.
6 The HPB continually reviews its resources to keep them relevant, appropriate and effective in reaching out to target populations to help them make healthier choices. The Ministry of Health and HPB receive much valuable feedback from members of the public, expressing a diversity of views. HPB will take into consideration all relevant inputs in our reviews.
(Image from Mediacorp)