Editor-in-chief of Southeast Asian affairs platform New Naratif Kirsten Han took to her Facebook on Tuesday (11 June) to call out Singapore’s Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam for taking a cheap shot at the LGBT issue.
She was referring to the Minister’s Facebook post where he commented on an incident in the UK where a gay couple got beaten up as they stood up against bullying.
Mr Shanmugam wrote, “Everyone, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, must feel safe in society. And in Singapore, I have said that Government has a duty to ensure that.”
As such, Ms Han said that although she agrees with the Minister that everyone should feel safe in the society, but highlighted that his party, People’s Action Party (PAP), is still somewhat controlling the treatment and view that the LGBT community receives in Singapore.
“Shanmugam’s party’s government is resolutely retraining a law that, while not actively enforced, sets the tone for mainstream responses and treatment of LGBT people in Singapore,” she wrote.
For those who are unaware, the law that Ms Han is citing is Section 377A of the Penal Code that says “Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years.”
As such, in Ms Han’s post, she brought up a few examples of when the LGBT community in Singapore was unfairly treated.
The first article was by Sayoni, an organisation for queer women including lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, where it “published their report on discrimination and violence against lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people in SG which presents evidence of physical and emotional violence committed against LBTQ women in private and public spheres”.
The article also quoted veteran civil society activist Constance Singam who said, “This is a call to action, one which I hope the authorities in particular will heed. Individually, we all have a role to play in bringing forward the day when LGBTQ persons, everywhere, are accepted and treated as equals. The time really has come.”
In addition, Ms Han also said that “research has documented the ways in which policies and practices in Singapore discriminate against gay men” which is focused in New Naratif’s article.
The article talked about the different aspects of discrimination that happens to gay men which include the law, military, housing, education and health. It said that these men were forced to resign or deemed to have a problem, solely due to their sexual orientation.
If that is not all, Ms Han also provided another example of how “a transgender Singaporean and her partner lost their HDB flat when they found their marriage suddenly unilaterally voided” only because the city-state does not recognise same-sex marriages.
Although the matter has been somewhat sorted as the couple were given a smaller housing board flat, and they were allowed to buy it by only using the Singles Scheme which costs a lot more, but “the entire ordeal has taken a toll on the couple”.
Besides that, Ms Han also noted that even schools are also not full supporting LGBT students in Singapore. This is because a teacher told her that “in a gender and sexuality workshop run by the only full-time school counsellor attached to my school, it was impressed upon participating teachers that, should a student come to us and confess LGBT identities or relationships, it was our responsibility to report it to the school, their parents, and possibly the police.”
Therefore, even though the editor feels that it’s good that ministers condemn on violence against LGBT people, but she said that people should not “set the bar so damn low” as they are mainly worried only on physical violence that this community encounter while overlooking other kinds of discrimination that they face.
“And if the government doesn’t take action to repeal laws and change policies/practices that discriminate LGBT people in Singapore, then FB posts like this (Mr Shanmugam’s post) are little more than opportunistic political BS and should be read and received as such,” she expressed.