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LGBTI groups lament the lack of progress on Section 377A

LGBTI groups, Pink Dot SG & Oogachaga has issued a joint statement in response to the comments made by the Singapore representative, Chan Heng Chee at the 24th session of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group on 27 January 2016.

In their statement, the groups expressed its disappointment towards the continued denial of Government on the existence of institutionalised discrimination perpetuated by the existence of Section 377A.

During the UPR session, 15 nations such as the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Sweden and United-States have recommended Singapore to cease discrimination against LGBTI community, and also to repeal section 377A of the penal code, the legislation that criminalises sex between mutually consenting adult men.

In response, Ms Chan Heng Chee maintained that Singapore is a largely conservative society and that Section 377A is not proactively enforced.  She also pointed out that the ability for the LGBTI groups to hold an event such as Pink Dot as an example of the LGBTI's freedom and stated that they are given the space to rally, demonstrate freely and free to stage plays about LGBTI issues. She goes on to state that LGBTIs are free to live their life in Singapore and that civil service holds no discrimination against any LGBTIs employed.

Pink Dot SG & Oogachaga have stated in their statement that the report findings run contrary to the Government’s view of the LGBTI landscape in Singapore, and it is greatly worrying that there was no adequate response provided by Singapore’s representatives at the UPR to the points raised in the report by the two groups.



Below is the statement by the two groups in full

At the 24th session of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group, held this January in Geneva, Singapore was one of the States scheduled to have their human rights policies examined and evaluated.

During Singapore’s review, a total of 15 countries - Austria, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States & Uruguay - submitted advance questions and/or made recommendations on LGBTI-specific issues, including ensuring protection of LGBTI human rights, enacting anti-discrimination laws, removing censorship of LGBTI portrayal in the media, and allowing the registration of LGBTI groups.

This is an unprecedented increase from the 2 countries that made LGBTI-specific recommendations during Singapore’s last UPR in 2011.

However, Singapore’s representative, Ambassador-at-Large Chan Heng Chee, has maintained that Singapore is a largely conservative society and that Section 377A is not proactively enforced. She further stated that LGBTI citizens in Singapore are free to lead their lives in Singapore, and that they face no discrimination in the areas of employment in the civil service and the creative arts. She also cited the existence of Pink Dot as an example of the LGBTI community’s freedom and stated that they are given the space to rally and demonstrate freely.

In a joint report submitted last year by Pink Dot Sg and Oogachaga on the state of LGBTI human rights in Singapore, 5 key areas of concern were highlighted:

  1. Discriminatory media guidelines and censorship
  2. Refusal to allow registration for LGBT organisations
  3. Lack of support and education for youth in LGBT-related issues
  4. Healthcare and social services for LGBT persons
  5. Workplace discrimination towards LGBT persons

These were all supported by evidence collected, reported cases and comprehensive community research. The report findings run contrary to the Government’s view of the LGBTI landscape in our nation, and it is greatly worrying that there was no adequate response provided by Singapore’s representatives at the UPR to the points raised in the report.

It is deeply disappointing that the Government continues to deny the existence of institutionalised discrimination perpetuated by the existence of Section 377A. The Government appears to disregard the current realities and struggles faced by the LGBTI community, as highlighted in our report.

It is inconsistent for the Government to claim that discrimination does not exist when the situation on the ground is quite different. Examples include: a lack of a comprehensive policy that addresses sexuality education in schools, LGBT organisations being denied registration under the Registrar of Societies in Singapore, essentially making access to legal protection and advocacy non-existent in the eyes of the law, and regulations that caution against and restrict all LGBT- centric media.

Leow Yangfa, 41, Executive Director, Oogachaga said, “Oogachaga is greatly heartened to note that the collective advocacy efforts by various NGOs over the years.

As a UN member state and developed nation, Singapore has its legal responsibilities towards all its citizens. We at Oogachaga strongly urge the Government to carefully consider and adopt all the LGBTI recommendations made, and we pledge our fullest support to work with you to ensure this.”

The annual Pink Dot rally is more than a simple show of solidarity or an example to say that our country allows for free demonstration and speech; its purpose has always been to highlight that LGBTI discrimination still exists, and to forward the message that we believe that Singapore can someday be a place where diversity is accepted and where there is equality for all Singaporeans.

As a community, we are seeking understanding, dialogue and collaboration from our Government to address the issues raised, and hopefully, one day, there will be no need for any rally to highlight the discrimination of any one group of individuals.