On Friday last week, the EU Centre in Singapore held a human rights seminar in conjunction with the upcoming human rights day on 10 December.
However, certain members of the public found it controversial to have invited Professor Thio Li-Ann, a former Nominated Member of Parliament to speak in the seminar on human rights issues.
Prof Thio created a storm in the LGBT community in 2007 for her speech to defend section 377A of the penal code.
““Anal-penetrative sex is inherently damaging to the body and a misuse of organs, like shoving a straw up your nose to drink. The anus is designed to expel waste; when something is forcibly inserted into it, the muscles contract and cause tearing; fecal waste, viruses carried by sperm and blood thus congregate, with adverse health implications like ‘gay bowel syndrome’, anal cancer. ‘Acts of gross indecency’ under 377A also covers unhygienic practices like “rimming” where the mouth comes into contact with the anus. Consent to harmful acts is no defence – otherwise, our strong anti-drug laws must fall as it cannot co-exist with letting in recreational drugs as a matter of personal lifestyle choice.” said Prof Thio in her 2007 parliamentary speech as Nominated Member of Parliament.
A group of activists had earlier wrote to the organisers of the seminar to express their disappointment and objection towards the invitation to have Prof Thio as a guest speaker.
In the statement of concern carried on The Online Citizen, the group wrote that It is a matter of public record that Prof Thio,
- believes the LGBT community is not entitled to the protections of human rights with respect to issues of sexuality, even between consenting homosexual adults.
- deliberately used graphic language to engender repugnance against homosexual adults in her 2007 speech:
- characterizes attempts by LGBT activists and their allies to promote non-discrimination on grounds of gender and sexuality as a conspiratorial attempts to subvert law, order, community and public morality.
- continues to speak of homosexuality as a “gender identity disorder” from which individuals can be “reoriented” and characterizes any scientific research which calls her perspective into question as “politicised pseudo science”.
In EU’s official website, it is stated that as part of its efforts to abolish any kind of discrimination against individuals, the EU works to uphold the human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons – who should be able to live free from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The EU’s diplomatic efforts in this area are focused on:
- eliminating discriminatory laws and policies, decriminalisation, and ending the death penalty for same-sex relations (currently applicable in 7 countries)
- promoting equality and non-discrimination at work, in healthcare and in education
- combating violence by the state or by individuals against LGBTI persons
- supporting and protecting human rights defenders
Although the EU Centre had earlier did live tweeting of the seminar on its official twitter account, all of the postings made have since been removed.
In the seminar, LGBT activitists held a silent protest while Prof Thio was making her speech on International Human Rights and International Courts in Asia.
According to Kirsten Han, a free-lance journalist and civil activist who wrote about the seminar, noted that Prof Thio defended her view on homosexuality and section 377A during the Q&A session, saying that the retention of 377A would prevent the “onslaught of the homosexual agenda”.
“It was a deliberate choice to have somebody who has the view of the status quo,” he said. “Thio Li Ann is one of few experts in Singapore, and we need someone to give the party line.”