Three individuals were arrested outside of the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) building at Buona Vista at about 5.30 pm on Tuesday (26 January) for holding and participating in a public assembly without a permit.
They were led away by female police officers and placed in a police van before being ferried away from the location. The individuals were not handcuffed by police at the time of their arrest.
Hong Lim Park or Speakers’ Corner — the only venue in Singapore where citizens are allowed to hold public assemblies often of a political nature without applying for a police permit beforehand — is currently closed due to safety measures taken as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Journalist Kirsten Han noted that according to sources close to the individuals, the three arrested individuals — two of whom are students while one is not — are being held in “lock-up” at the police headquarters at Cantonment Complex now.
CLARIFICATION: This is according to supporters/friends of the protesters who say they have been told they can bail out the three later tonight.https://t.co/1eK8hvaXa7
— Kirsten Han 韩俐颖 (@kixes) January 26, 2021
She added that the other two individuals who had left the assembly earlier have been called in by police for questioning for their participation earlier.
The placards held by the individuals, some of which read “#FIX SCHOOLS NOT STUDENTS” and “trans students will not be erased”, are made in connection to the recent saga involving the MOE, in which a transgender student alleged that the Ministry had interfered with her hormone replacement therapy.
MOE subsequently denied the allegations made by the student and issued a follow-up statement on the matter, saying that it is “not in a position to interfere with any medical treatment, which is a matter for the family to decide on”.
Clinicians at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), said MOE in a joint statement with IMH last week, will often consult “a wide range of stakeholders” in the process of treating individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
The final decisions on the use of HRT “rest with clinicians and their patients”, said MOE and IMH, adding that in cases where patients are minors, such treatments will require their parents’ written consent.
The students and supporters who assembled outside MOE today said in a statement that discrimination and harassment against LGBT students “is a long-standing issue in our schools which damages their wellbeing and denies access to safe and supportive education”.
“Students themselves, human rights and civil society groups, as well as educators, counsellors and other professionals working with young people, have raised concerns about discriminatory and intrusive practices by schools, which hurt both LGBTQ+ students, as well as heterosexual and cisgender students, by undermining privacy, bodily autonomy and well-being,” they said.
The students and supporters also urged MOE to acknowledge and apologise for the harm done by schools to LGBT students through their schools’ discriminatory practices, and to clearly and explicitly commit to end such discrimination in the education environment.
“This must include working closely with students themselves and LGBTQ+ groups to understand their concerns, and to draw on and implement their existing concrete ideas and expertise,” they said.
Below is the full footage of what transpired for the event from a bystander point of view.