By Helen Scida
I am writing to protest the action taken by you in banning two children’s books, ‘And Tango Makes Three’ and ‘The White Swan Express’ on the recommendation of the Facebook group ‘We are against PinkDot in Singapore’. I am appalled that an organisation tasked with the safekeeping of information that should first and foremost be unbiased and available to all should take action to censor what books can be made accessible to the public.
If the aforementioned group takes offence at the content of these books they should then shoulder the responsibility themselves to monitor their own children’s reading materials and/or put out information on these books for like-minded individuals to avoid; I cannot understand how completely removing access to these books for the whole population of Singapore can be seen as a reasonable or fair decision. What next? A Facebook group of three thousand people can have the power to remove books from a library – books, I have to stress, that are about the acceptance of adoption and adopted children – because they interpret these books as being pro-homosexuality. I ask again, what next? Removing books that have homosexual characters and depict homosexual relationships?
Removing books written by homosexual authors? It is not the place of the library board or private groups to decide for its entire customer base what it can and cannot read based on the subjective opinions of a few. It is the place of Singaporeans to exercise proper discernment in what they choose to read. This decision is shameful and not worthy of a society that prizes critical thinking and independence among its citizens because this amounts to state censorship, pure and simple. Furthermore, if these books passed the initial selection tests of the library organisation in the first place why is it a Facebook group, of all things, has enough clout to demand their removal?
These books are about inclusion – acceptance of adopted children and the plurality of families. I believe I am right to say that they are not exclusively promoting homosexuality. While it is the group’s right to interpret these books however they choose, it is not their right to dictate then that other people must think this way also. ‘Pro-family’, as the group uses it, is merely a smokescreen for a political agenda which has at its core the discrimination of a section of the population of Singapore.
Importantly, I believe it is clear that the libraries are full of all kinds of books that can be protested for not being ‘pro-family’ – as well as other books that are explicitly against our ‘core values’, as the Facebook group mentions. For example – the board’s public libraries carry religious texts that we can protest as promoting a religious agenda. Should we ban them? What about biographies of celebrities who have committed adultery? Or of high-profile criminals? There will be no closing of these floodgates once opened if we allow private groups to dictate what books can and cannot be available to the public, and the result is that our society will be all the poorer for it.
Coming back to the books in question, no matter what you believe, if the library chooses to censor access to books promoting inclusion then it follows that the library is promoting exclusion. It is limiting perspectives and viewpoints in the books it carries. This cannot, and must not, be. A library must not be subject to censorship.
I sincerely hope that this decision will be recanted as soon as possible and the books returned. I also request that I, and Singaporeans, be kept updated on the board’s decisions regarding this. Thank you very much for your time.
By Helen Scida