Amnesty International has called on the Singapore government to take immediate steps to end systematic discrimination and stigmatising attitudes and policies that limit the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, as well as to immediately end its investigation and intimidation of those defending their rights.
In a statement on Monday (8 Feb), the organisation said that it views the shutdown of the peaceful protest outside Ministry of Education (MOE) building — and the subsequent arrest and investigation of those participating — as a violation of the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
Amnesty International also expressed deep concern over the questioning of people who did not participate in the protest, including independent journalist Kirsten Han, which is seemingly an effort to harass and intimidate the press and the public, to deter others from speaking out on the issue of LGBT rights.
“While everyone has the right to meet or assemble peacefully, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders has stressed that states must ensure the protection of defenders who may challenge perceptions, including those about sexual orientation and gender identity,” said the organisation.
“Discussion that may seek to expand peoples understanding of these issues should be allowed as an important provision for the ongoing development of human rights,” it added.
Amnesty International also criticised the use of oppressive laws, as well as harassment and intimidation to curtail free speech — which is well documented in Singapore — adding that numerous activists and human rights defenders have been charged and prosecuted under the Act, resulting in a further chilling effect on an already stifling environment for free speech in the country.
In its statement, the organisation also denounced Education Minister Lawrence Wong’s statement regarding this issue, calling it harmful as it silences the experiences of LGBT people, erases the varied lived histories of LGBT people in these countries and regions over decades, and puts them further at risk of attack, harassment, and discrimination.
In his parliamentary speech on 1 February, Mr Wong asserted that Singaporeans should not import the “culture wars” of countries in the West into Singapore or allow gender identity to divide the city-state’s society.
Amnesty International went on to reiterate the responsibility of the Government to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights — free from discrimination, including in the education system and in their access to appropriate and adequate health care — for individuals of all sexual and gender identities.
Hence, the organisation urged the Government to provide access to gender-affirming support and treatment and the same privileges for transgender students.
“In addition to protecting the human rights of LGBT students, the government should immediately cease its investigations into the group of MOE protesters defending LGBT rights and end its intimidation and harassment of journalists and others who had no participation in the protest itself,” it added.
Many activists and groups have also voiced out against the matter
On 26 January, a group of students and supporters assembled outside the Singapore MOE building to protest discrimination against LGBT students, particularly in light of the case of an 18-year-old junior college student who claimed that the Ministry had interfered with her hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Three individuals were subsequently arrested at Buona Vista at about 5.30pm on the same day – for holding and participating in a public assembly without a permit.
Pink Dot SG, Prout, Ready4Repeal, Sayoni, TransBeFrienders, and TransgenderSG in a joint statement on 26 January said that the individuals involved “are youths who believe they have exhausted formal communication channels, and will not be heard unless they take drastic action that puts themselves at risk”.
Alternative political party Red Dot United (RDU) on 28 January expressed its grave concerns about the police case involving the three individuals who were arrested in the protest.
Additionally, on 29 January, a couple of Singaporean activists brought the issue to social media as they continue to call for the MOE to implement change to its discriminative policies relating to LGBT students.