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Local inter-university LGBT network expresses disappointment in MOE’s continuous “censorship and erasure” of LGBTQ+ issues

The Inter-University LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] Network has expressed its disappointment over the Ministry of Education (MOE)'s choice "to censor and erase LGBTQ+ issues from young people in our schools".

In a press release titled "Statement on the Censorship & Erasure of LGBTQ+ Issues by the Ministry of Education at TedxYouth SJI", the alliance stated that its Research & Advocacy Director, Ms Rachel Yeo, received an email invitation earlier this month to speak at a [email protected] event that will be held today on 20 July.

However, just yesterday, the Inter-Uni LGBT network was "abruptly informed that due to MOE regulations", Ms Yeo, who is also a news producer, "would not be permitted to speak at the event".

According to the alliance's statement: "It is unclear what specific MOE regulation prohibits the discussion of LGBTQ+ issues."

The network insisted that MOE's decision "is contrary to what the Government stated in its National Report at the 2016 Universal Periodic Review that “members of the LGBT community are also not discriminated against in schools”.

Citing Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education A/P Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim’s speech, which was made in response to the recent Parliamentary Motion “Education For Our Future”, the Inter-University LGBT Network said that it is unfortunate that the Government would act in a manner that contradicts their own ideals of an inclusive society.

Quoting Mr Muhammad Faishal: “We must be sensitive to the needs of every Singaporean… welcome and support them, regardless of their background. Only then can we call ourselves a truly inclusive nation.”

The network said that "it is disappointing that LGBTQ+ Singaporeans continue to be excluded and erased from the Government’s notion of a truly inclusive society", particularly in the wake of the statement made by Mr Muhammad Faishal.

Citing a local 2012 study, the alliance also argued that the ongoing censorship and erasure of LGBTQ+ issues by the Government is detrimental to the mental wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth in Singapore.

The network stated that "a majority of LGBTQ+ respondents have experienced school-based abuse and discrimination from their teachers and classmates."

It added that "Some of these students have also publicly shared their negative experiences in schools, which have resulted in damaging emotional trauma and mental illness."

The Inter-University LGBT Network added that they found it "ironic" that Ms Yeo was barred from speaking at an event which places “Chrysalis” as its theme, which, in their view, symbolises "a transitional state of affairs".

The network said that they have found MOE's decision to be "disappointing", as Ms Yeo "had intended to share with the audience the power of listening and constructive conversation in effecting change, so that we can avoid villainising those who do not agree with us".

"In line with Pink Dot’s campaign this year, “We Are Ready” and [activist] Thasha [Monique Dharmendra]’s petition to lower the rating of "Love, Simon", this incident reveals that we are at a time of change," it added.

While the Inter-University LGBT Network expressed its appreciation and gratitude towards "the student organisers at SJI for their efforts in negotiating with their school administration on this matter, it is regrettable however that our institutions continue to adopt obsolete policies that fail Singapore’s young people", which, the network believes, stems out of "fear and ignorance of the LGBTQ+ community".

The alliance said that MOE's decision to bar Ms Yeo from speaking on issues that plague the LGBTQ+ community is a sobering reminder of the fact that there is still "much work to be done to foster a truly inclusive society for all Singaporeans, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity".

The Inter-University LGBT Network concluded their statement by urging MOE "to review its policies regarding LGBTQ+ people to live up to the spirit of the recent parliamentary motion" to “build an education system that brings our young together, to build an inclusive and united Singapore”.

At the Adoption of the Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Singapore in 2016, Ambassador Foo Kok Jwee, Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations Office said to the council members, "On the issue of foreign sponsorships for Pink Dot, our Ministry of Home Affairs has explained in its press statement of 7 June 2016 that our Government’s position has been that foreign entities should not interfere in our domestic issues, especially political issues or controversial social issues with political overtones. In the context of LGBT issues, this applies to events that advocate, as well as those that oppose, LGBT causes. These are political, social or moral choices for Singaporeans to decide for ourselves."

Martin Piper wrote:

If they cannot cite the regulation, ignore them. Don't see how they can demand anybody has to comply with them anyway.

Bernard Lim suggested:

make the enquiry about the exact nature of the opposition, ask if the organizers want to make a stand, and include the speech anyway.

Gerald Poh Jixian commented:

I’ll tell you how MOE works. They’ll cite a regulation. It will not be a regulation in direct relation to what presentation is about, but it’ll be a regulation that prevents the presentation from happening.

The whole god damn world will know the real reason behind it, but they can’t do shit because MOE will cite some minuscule and vague regulation that gives them blanket powers to decide what is and is not canon.

And the problem is that organizers can’t very well go ahead, because then MOE will blackmark them.

Daniel Casper Lim Yakult wrote:

what sort of authority does MOE have over inter-uni network? how are they able to restrict you?

Mayukha Chihnitha wrote:

Just restraining someone from speaking about an issue will not make the issue go away. [That] Which exists, just exists. You cannot disprove it by asking someone not to speak about it.