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Review: Are We There Yet?
Articles - Events
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 00:00

I attended a Sayoni forum last Saturday entitled “Are We There Yet?”*

The forum covered the many inequalities that queer women suffer in comparison to heterosexuals, with reference to the 2008 Sayoni Survey Report. The AWARE saga was mentioned fairly frequently and prompted many from the floor to speak up to buttress or disagree with the panellists’ ideas. There were words of encouragement, a discussion on what action we can and should take, the injunction to come out as gay; just to mention some issues that struck me most. The floor was very opinionated and passionate, with not a few male voices, including Alex Au’s.

At one juncture, there was a split between the pragmatic and the idealistic approach to gay activism (using the latter term in a broad sense). Someone opined that we need to teach teenagers how to differentiate real feelings of attraction from puppy love; that is, how to tell that her same-sex attraction is just a phase or not. Alex Au disagreed, saying that we should not need to discriminate in the first place, that there should be nothing wrong with experimentation. Another member of the floor argued that we need to be realistic about this.

After the forum, some of us got together. In the conversation that ensued, I had a strong sense of the difficulties that we face in our everyday lives. I think that each one of us, if we really go out and about, getting in touch with ground sentiment, are going to meet with a lot of resistance. That resistance is going to be hurtful. The environment we are in isn’t very kind or forgiving. (I believe that many will beg to differ on this point, and yes, it is relative.)

However, the impact others can have really depends on the individual’s tolerance level, and, secondarily, how we choose to react to an action. I’m not saying I need to be able to take abuse. The way sensitivity works, if we understand the root causes of an emotion and are able to step back sufficiently from our trapped, subjective selves and have an underlying source of security, I think we can achieve a certain amount of freedom from the worst of hurts.

I think we need to be clear of where we stand, that it is perfectly okay to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered: anything but heterosexual and cisgendered. Sure, the science is fuzzy, the religious texts are difficult, and most of the time, there is very little certainty. But that’s okay. We are not meant to understand life thoroughly and pin it down to basic principles. Science, too, cannot illuminate everything. We need to build rafts for ourselves and one another and create that connectedness and rationality.

Frankly, I may just be building bunkers against assaults or trying to erect a bridge in my head between the different approaches to advancement of the cause. In truth, different ways of regarding the topic are necessary and even fundamental to any kind of change, either top-down or bottom-up.

 
Indignation: United We Fall, Divided We Stand
Articles - Events
Written by sayoni   
Monday, 24 August 2009 00:00

Date: Saturday, August 29, 2009
Time: 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Location: 72-13 Theatreworks, Muhamad Sultan Road.

View map

RSVP on Facebook

LGBTQ � an umbrella term that seemingly unites us, in our diversity. We automatically assume that our non-heterosexuality means we are one community, with common goals and a common space. But are we really? Can men and women really work together in the gay rights movement? Are our differences too great, or are our common goals sufficient to keep us united?

A panel of men and women experienced in working with the community take on this question in a debate format, exploring the questions from different angles and perspectives. Expect a night where we confront the dust bunnies under our carpet, and hopefully emerge with a better understanding of where we can head.

 
Twittereport: “Are We There Yet?”
Articles - Events
Written by sayoni   
Sunday, 23 August 2009 00:00

Yesterday Sayoni organised a forum titled “Are We There Yet?” for Indignation. For those who could not make it, the event was covered live on our twitter. We reproduce the report here for you. We also would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who made this event possible – photo/videographers, ushers, receptionists, logistics, voluntweers (ie the volunteer tweeters), and just anyone who helped out.

Time

Update

Sat Aug 22 19:32:54

Things are being set up for “Are We There
Yet”. This event is going to be reported live on twitter! #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 19:40:40

People are filing into the room rapidly #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 19:54:24

We haven’t started yet, but the crowd is 60 people
and counting! There look to be more coming. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:00:55

The panellists are taking their seats. We are about
to start “Are we there yet?” Kelly is welcoming everyone to the
Sayoni forum. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:03:07

The speakers are Alexandra Serrenti, Raqvind, Hui
Yee, Swee Jean, and Jean. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:04:32

Kelly: The first issue for the night is about the
AWARE saga. Many queer women voted against the new exco and rallied others.
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:06:44

Alex is speaking on her concerns with the ex-new
exco. It only began an issue on sexuality later, after TSM appeared. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:08:02

Alex: Would like to thank TSM for getting her
involved in the community again. We as queer women need to speak up for
ourselves #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:08:52

Would like to encourage everyone to think abt their role
as gay people and their involvement in the community. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:10:01

Someone from the floor is saying that she identifies
as a woman first and then as a lesbian, therefore wld speak up #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:11:05

Jean: First impression was familiar names in AWARE
from letter-writing #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:11:51

Raqvind: The EGM was important in bringing up the
gay issue, in everyday life as well. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:14:30

Kelly has changed to a new PPT slide. New Exco’s
stand vs Old Guard.CSE,SpiderLilies/Old Guard included queer women direct
svcs etc #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:15:53

Floor: AWARE is neutral, simply tries to include all
aspects of ‘woman’. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:16:37

Kelly: Have your expectations shifted after the EGM?
Several hands raised.#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:17:24

Hui Yee: More about people, not just gay people, in
Singapore making their voices heard. AWARE not explicitly gay-friendly. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:18:33

Swee Jean (SJ): Should not downplay it; there were
in fact many gay women in grp, played a significant part in the reaction
& votes #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:19:29

SJ: Standing up for self as lesbian and as women. Deeply
disturbed that grp of unknowns wld do this. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:21:21

Jean (JC): How many were here at Constance Singam’s
talk? (Many hands raised) angry crowd of gay women etc. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:21:34

About 70 people in the room, including the speakers.
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:23:22

Floor: Question abt whether it is a problem to
conflate sexuality and women’s issues #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:24:46

Floor: Abortion is never a lesbian issue? Sorry, but
we are a subgroup within women. There are still lesbians who are dealg
w/issue #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:25:26

Kelly (KT): In Constance’s talk, she felt that Aware
was doing enough by includg queer women. Not identity-based advocacy #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:26:03

KT: …but issues-based advocacy. Don’t queer women
have it pretty good already? some people ask. Will introduce the survey 2008
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:28:07

KT: … also doing a report related to CEDAW. Survey
findgs: (1) Education. Women experience attraction mostly in teenage yrs
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:29:45

KT: How did you relate to that (i.e. lesbianism
excluded from official sex education) in growing yrs? #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:31:07

JC: No role models in youth-seen as deviance. Coping
w/shame,religion. Had wished for female role models. Instead, she had Alex Au
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:32:32

JC: Constance’s book abt history of women in Sg, did
not mention queer women. Does not blame her… Cannot wait for pple to do
this #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:33:35

Alex Au: First met her in Sept 1997 (around there),
when he was invited to give a talk at Substation. Constance was present.
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:34:11

AA: …talk on basic sexual orientation. After the
talk, she approached him and said she didn’t know who to ask abt these
things. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:35:46

SJ: Comments on CSE – heartened to hear abt CSE,
difficult to hear that it has been withdrawn. Wld hv been wonderful in sec
sch. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:36:54

SJ: … to have been treated normally at that age if
u talked to a teacher/dressed tomboyishly. Hope tt it’ll become more
inclusive #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:39:00

HY: Had a qn once abt how 2 women have sex. We shld
forgive them for not knowing. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:40:36

HY: At Women’s Night, we focus on learning fr each
other. Focus on sharing. Be brave enough to share that bit of us. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:42:20

Floor: Heard a talk once where it was said that it
was immoral & unnatural.

#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:42:40

Floor: Tried to take a neutral stand in health edn.
Saddened for young pple in Sg. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:44:11

Floor: As someone who’s bisexual, told mother she
was attracted 2 women, was told it was a phase. At 22 realised cld not be
phase #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:44:30

Floor: …impt to teach women how to identify if the
attraction is real #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:44:54

Floor: Heterosexuals have support grps while gay
people do not. She got to know Sayoni by chance on FB. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:45:31

AA: (desperately needs to respond) The problem of knowing
when puppy love is phase or the real thing. But why is that impt? #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:46:20

AA: …so what if it is a phase? Trying to
distinguish btw phasic love and non-phasic love (laughter)… #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:46:43

AA: …it means that if it is a phase, we will get
told it can’t be real & we need to change! So what if it is a phase?
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:48:05

Floor: They say it is a phase because no one wants
their kids to be gay! Even in
countries where gay rights r advanced, same prob #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:48:39

Floor: …Long way to go. Shld be positive and say
it’s okay. Not the most impt thing #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:49:34

AA: Why do we talk down experimentation? #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:50:37

Floor: People can’t accept it now, need to push
people slowly along. We’re not there yet. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:51:39

KT: Topic (2) Identity and Media Representation.
Respondents thought sexuality was most impt aspect of identity, followed by gender
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:52:38

[Slide: fines and censorship by MDA for portrayal of
same-sex activity or rships as normal] #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:53:26

Alex (AS): Within any self, there are multiple
identities. At some time, diff identities come to the fore due to
circumstances. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:56:09

AS: Impt we don’t lose sight of multiple
id–multiple racial id was similar to being gay, developd rsources fr being
racially mixed #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:57:04

AS: Many people have never seen a gay relationship.
Would be gd for more people to know #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 20:57:42

JC: Karen has just published an autobiography about
her life #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:00:00

KT: Maybe we can start by asking broadcasters to
stop censorship. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:02:05

Floor: Normal to have two mummies in certain parts.
Can’t censor whole world. I see
an earthquake buildg. At what pt will Sg stop? #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:04:28

SJ: Mediacorp has limitations, limited budgets. Hard
to say when it will stop, but there are many more channels now. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:05:32

SJ: Just boycott any media outlets that seem
homophobic. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:06:26

[Slide: Workplace: 96% perceive some amt of
discrimination at work. Lack of recourse in event of discr. Only MNCs.]
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:07:30

Floor: Reveals to interviewer that she is gay. Your own
perception becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Depends on yr own ability.
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:08:15

Floor: Can bring it up to MOM #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:08:30

KT: No dispute mechanism here #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:09:02

Floor: Over $1500, not covered by Employment Act
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:09:32

[Slide: 38% in monogamous rship, 10% dating, 44%
single] #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:10:17

KT: How many of you would want to get married?
[About 50% raises hands.]

Sat Aug 22 21:12:12

[Slide: Marriage privileges -- Right to share family
name, property ownership. HDB subsidy. Medical rights, next of kin rights.]
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:14:39

[Slide: Employment benefits. Spousal or family violence.
Divorce or death of spouse. Travel. Parenting and adoption. Income tax.]
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:15:41

[Slide: Worrying signs from survey. Almost 1 in 4
had income < $20 000] #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:16:08

KT: What is to be done? #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:17:41

Raqvind (RK): The more you normalise it, the less
fearful they are. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:20:01

HY: Don’t be limited by yr imagination 2 wat exists presently.
Many types feminism out there. Only 1 feminist org, can form more. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:20:31

Floor: Form sexual minorities org? #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:21:57

HY: Find it within yourself to start new movements,
causes. New feminist orgs don’t even hv to be formerly affliated w/AWARE
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:24:22

Floor: Been with AWARE 4 many years. Never felt
discriminated against. EGM brought out +ve things. Totally for forming new
grps #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:25:58

Floor: …No real conflict between AWARE and
lesbians. Was amazed by EGM, J and K. Act of doing somethg is itself
empowering. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:26:52

Floor: …Many new women have come forward.
Sometimes more strategic to form a separate grp. Keep EGM spirit alive.
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:29:10

AA: Once every 10 years, government sets censorship
guidelines. Censorship Review Committee has been set up. Media rep impt.
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:30:32

Floor: Started 1st gay org in India. They never
thought change wld happen. July 2nd, verdict validated hard work 4 past 15
yrs. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:31:41

Floor: Stem cell technology — tech will become
mainstream. Once gay pple can reproduce, it becomes normative. Use economy,
etc. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:33:04

AS: One other type of censorship we don’t normally
talk abt–shld we tell our colleagues, parents? Diff when someone u know…
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:33:47

AS: …tells you. Not little perverts who are
sexually broken, diff in a fundamental way. Esp in Sg. “Conservative
Asian society”. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:34:07

AS: …need to show that homosexuality is at least
as much a part of our conservative Asian society #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:34:29

KT: Coming out had single largest impact on whether
they wld agree to same sex marriage. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:37:24

Floor: Visibility, period. Don’t hv to join grps for
that. Be visible as individuals. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:39:11

SJ: In answering qn what’s next, need 2 look at qn on diff lvls. Grassroots
lvl can’t be emphasised enough, comes bk 2 comng out. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:39:37

SJ: need to work on every front. All need to take more
resp. Participate in something you believe in. As simple as that. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:41:44

Floor:
One thing gay pple shld always rem. Be very gd in what you do. Work v
hard, be the boss if yr boss discriminates against u. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:42:48

Floor: …have to work on financial side. Coming
out, hv to take one more step. Don’t forget the burden u place on parents…
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:43:15

Floor: …when coming out to them. Work with
parents. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:44:39

AS: Other forms of coming out. Not event but
process. Sometimes took chances on cming out to ppl where they were
distraught… #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:45:20

AS: …slow consistent work.Extending the
hospitality of our rship to these people as well. Act of resp to the people u
come out to #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:45:32

AS: …take a chance on the hard cases. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:48:28

Floor: Very important to show people that we are out
there. When we forge ahead, we have to leave some history behind, next gen.
#indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:54:45

New youth grp for gay teens! Between ages of 16 and
21 — Young Out Here. #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:55:29

Sayoni will be conducting another event on 29th Aug.
United We Fall, Divided We Stand.

Common grd between gay men and women? #indigsg

Sat Aug 22 21:55:51

KT is thanking the panellists. Thank you for
reading! #indigsg

 
Launch of Coming Out Guide (Preliminary Version)
Articles - Coming Out
Written by sayoni   
Saturday, 22 August 2009 03:44

Coming Out Guide by Sayoni

Sayoni presents the first ever Coming Out Guide in Singapore. Please provide your feedback on the guide through this link [DO NOT CLICK: WINDOW FOR FEEDBACK HAS PASSED]

(Update: You can download the word document version of the guide here)

This preliminary version of the guide was launched on 1 August, at the opening of IndigNation 2009, Singapore’s pride season. Anj Ho, the leader of the team who put together the Guide, gave a short address, reproduced here:

When I first saw the design of cover for the guide, I laughed.

It reflects the question of someone wondering apprehensively. 'What if', and then tapers off to a whisper, 'I'm gay?' Half-hidden, almost as if one is afraid to ask, and even more afraid to say the words 'I'm gay'.

Then the words in small print: 'a coming out guide', small enough to embolden the cautious questioning person to pick up the guide and walk away with it; clear enough so that those seeking will not miss it.

It speaks to those whom we hope to reach:
questioning,
struggling,
fearful...
essentially, anyone who finds difficulty in communicating about her or his sexual orientation.

The first memory I had of experiencing great injustice was an article in TODAY, written by one of our infamous law professors. [I shall refrain from speaking the name, but you know we only have 2, so it's not hard to guess.]

She quoted a study in which Exodus ex-gays reported being free from homosexuality, reinforcing homosexuality as a mental illness and the possibility of a 'cure'. She conveniently left out numerous other studies that spoke of reparative therapy as harmful and ineffective. Spitzer, the researcher whose study she quoted, was up in arms against anti-gay groups who misused his study.

This is the problem. There is a massive amount of information, but sometimes, we hear some parts more often than others. At other times, information is not readily available or digestible. How do we ascertain that what we received is accurate or not?

We need to critique the information we have, or else we will fall into the trap of whoever speaks the loudest or seems the most credible, is seen as 'right'.

Another incident took place in a small forum. A group of gay people, who were attached for some years, sat on the panel. Someone from the audience asked, 'How long do gay relationships last?'

One by one, the panelists shared, that for some reason, most gay relationships dissolve by the 7th year. Someone added, that since lesbian relationships are so intense, you have to multiply the duration by a few times to match the duration equivalence of straight relationships. The forum ended on that note.

If gay relationships cannot last, I have nothing to say, but this is not true. It is one thing for an anti-gay person to think so; it is quite another for a gay person to internalize all these.

What I have shared are some of the common myths of gay people. In Sayoni's coming out guide, we address common myths and point out how to spot myths.

Having such knowledge before coming out is critical to a gay person's sense of self and esteem. It enables one to weather the possibly arduous coming out process better. The guide is certainly not exhaustive, but it's a start.

Following these, we also looked at the pros and cons of coming out, to oneself, at work/school, to friends and family. We rounded off the book with a few coming out stories. We are still waiting for more stories to come in.

I am grateful to Sayoni for this opportunity to be part of the coming out guide and to the Global Fund for Women for supporting this project. I would love to acknowledge the writers and the designer in this 7-person team for their time and effort. Thank you also, to everyone who contributed stories. Without all of you, this guide would not have been possible.

Please feel free to give your feedback and comments on the guide over the next three months. This guide will later be published and made available at various locations around Singapore.

With this, I thank you for listening.

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 February 2010 19:29
 
Indignation 2008: What’s inside the head of homophobes
Articles - LGBT Rights, Politics & World News
Written by sayoni   
Sunday, 09 August 2009 00:00

'It's so disgusting to see two men getting intimate!'
'Lesbian sex is unfathomable.'
'Homosexuals shouldn't exist on this planet.'

Which of these statements is/are homophobic in nature?

AnJ Ho will take you inside homophobia, to find out from the perspective of research: What constitutes homophobia? What's the profile of a typical homophobe like, and what might make a difference?

AnJ undertakes research at a local tertiary institution. Her research interests revolve around social psychology.

Date: Tuesday, 12 August 2008
Time: 7:30 pm
Venue: 72-13

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 February 2010 18:12
 
Coming out stories I
Articles - Coming Out
Written by sayoni   
Saturday, 08 August 2009 03:47
In conjunction with the launch of Sayoni’s coming out guide, Sayoni presents Singaporean coming out stories.

——————————–

My earliest concrete memory of questioning my sexuality happened at Sec 2. I was developing feelings for a girl who seemed to have taken a liking towards me during this time.

What I remember was the rush of adrenaline whenever I saw her, the feeling of warmth whenever she smiled at me, and the crazy things I did in order to accidentally ‘bump’ into her. At that time, my dad (probably noticing my close friendship), spoke to me about how it was normal for adolescents to develop crushes on their same-sex peers during their development. This piece of information sustained and comforted me during early adolescence because it told me that I was okay and that those feelings would go away.

My next significant memory happened in late adolescence. A girl whom I liked (at this time, I convinced myself I only liked her as a friend) fell down and hurt herself. Upon physically helping her, I experienced such an overpowering, indescribable sensation in my body that I had to excuse myself to go to the ladies. Safe inside the toilet cubicle, I exclaimed to myself, ‘God you are screwed! You are so gay’’

I didn’t tell anyone during this time because I had no idea what was happening to me. I did not want to have these ‘special’ feelings towards any girl and I desperately clung onto my dad’s words years before that it was a natural part of my development and would go away. Even when I hit my 20s, I reassured myself that I was a late developer and my attraction to boys would come when I had ‘developed’. Even when I was with my first girlfriend in my 20s, I would question my gayness because a part of me felt that my relationship was ‘a friendship gone wrong’ and did not mean that I was gay. I resisted the concept so much that I kept this relationship a secret for so long, even among my closest friends, even among friends who were themselves gay.

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 February 2010 19:30
 
Indignation 09: Are We There Yet?
Articles - Events
Written by sayoni   
Saturday, 08 August 2009 00:00

Date: Saturday, August 22, 2009
Time: 7:45pm – 10:30pm
Location: 72-13 (View Map)

RSVP on Facebook.

The AWARE saga and proposed Penal Code amendments provoked discussion about gender, sexuality and equality. Where were queer women in the discussions? What is our agenda and how should we represent ourselves?

Findings from Sayoni’s bi-ennial national survey of queer women in Singapore are presented and a panel of eminent queer women start the discussion.

Sayoni’s annual Indignation forum is a much-anticipated highlight of the queer woman’s calendar and this year is no different. All are welcome. You wouldn’t want to miss this.

 
Launch: Coming Out Guide
Articles - Coming Out
Written by sayoni   
Thursday, 30 July 2009 03:48

It can be difficult, risky and yet rewarding for us to communicate honestly and openly about our attraction or relationship with someone of the same sex – to ‘come out'. This Coming Out guide by Sayoni seeks to provide basic information and support to persons who are considering coming out.

It describes commonly used terms about sexuality, often propagated myths and how to spot them. It covers frequent concerns of a person coming out to themselves, to parents, friends and peers, preparing them for possible scenarios and suggesting approaches. Real-life stories and a list of local resources are included to support readers in their individual journeys.

Sayoni will be launching a preview version of the booklet publicly at the Indignation Opening Reception on 1 August 2009.

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 February 2010 19:30
 
Launch: Coming Out Guide
Articles - Events
Written by sayoni   
Thursday, 30 July 2009 00:00

It can be difficult, risky and yet rewarding for us to communicate honestly and openly about our attraction or relationship with someone of the same sex – to ‘come out�. This Coming Out guide by Sayoni seeks to provide basic information and support to persons who are considering coming out.

It describes commonly used terms about sexuality, often propagated myths and how to spot them. It covers frequent concerns of a person coming out to themselves, to parents, friends and peers, preparing them for possible scenarios and suggesting approaches. Real-life stories and a list of local resources are included to support readers in their individual journeys.

Sayoni will be launching a preview version of the booklet publicly at the Indignation Opening Reception on 1 August 2009.

 
PLU: Indignation 2009!
Articles - Events
Written by sayoni   
Sunday, 26 July 2009 00:00


From PLU

Indignation is the LGBT Pride season in Singapore, reaffirming our participation in the intellectual and cultural life of this country, reminding all that we are as much a part of Singapore as anyone else. The organisers are motivated by a belief that however difficult, progress is possible. We are not passive victims of ignorance and prejudice in an unchanging landscape. We are active citizens playing our part in making Singapore a better place.

The first season was in 2005. This year, 2009, will be our fifth annual season.

Each event is separately organised by by different people, who as a gesture of solidarity, are contributing their events to the joint calendar.

It is never easy organising gay-related events in Singapore. Many kinds of events require licences from various government departments, which tend to react with suspicion towards anything that is gay-themed. Even when licences are given, past experience has shown that intimidatory tactics from the police can still be expected.

Outdoor events such as parades, a common feature of pride festivals in other countries, are virtually impossible since the authorities have a habit of refusing to issue licences.

Funding is another area affected by the political climate; hence the organisers are particularly grateful to those who have bravely stepped forward with sponsorships.

Join us this August 2009 in our annual celebration of Pride. Support our fundraising events that make it all possible.

Click here for the calendar.

Sayoni is an active supporter of Indignation. Look forward to our events on the 22nd August and 29th August!

Last Updated on Sunday, 31 January 2010 19:28
 
Singapore says no. And maybe
Articles - LGBT Rights, Politics & World News
Written by Indu   
Wednesday, 08 July 2009 00:00

Singapore has ruled out the possibility of following the Indian High Court’s lead, but leaves it open for the judiciary to interpret the law.

Law Minister says Govt careful of being ahead of public opinion

by Teo Xuanwei
05:55 AM Jul 06, 2009
TodayOnline

FOLLOWING an Indian high court’s recent landmark decision last week which overturned a 150-year-old British colonial era law criminalising homosexuality, is it time for Singapore – whose laws are “copied” from India – to repeal Section 377A?

The answer is no, says Law Minister K Shanmugam, because Singapore society is “not ready” for that. “There is a group that is actively committed to saying that homosexuality is okay,” said Mr Shanmugam, who is also the Second Minister for Home Affairs.

“But probably a majority of Singaporeans are still very conservative and say that this is totally not acceptable. So, the Government has to respect both sides.”

He was responding to a question posed by a resident, Ms Khartini Abdul Khalid during a dialogue session when he visited Punggol Central Division yesterday.

While the Government has to “set the standards” on many issues, it must “be careful about being ahead of public opinion,” he said.

“If the majority of our population is against homosexuality, then it’s not for the Government to say we are going to force something against the wishes of the people,” he said, reiterating the Government’s stance when a motion to repeal the law banning homosexual acts in Singapore was intensely debated in Parliament in 2007.

Section 377A – which makes those convicted liable to imprisonment up to two years – was not repealed eventually, even though the Government said it would not actively enforce it.

Mr Shanmugam explained that India’s laws on homosexuality have not changed. Instead, it was the New Delhi High Court’s interpretation that “with the current evidence available and the current social situations in many parts of the world … you can no longer consider homosexuality to be a wrongful sexual activity”, he said.

Mr Shanmugam stressed that Singapore’s courts are likewise free to interpret the law the same way.

“Whether the courts will take the same interpretations, I don’t know, but it’s up to the courts.”

The problem with the government’s reasoning of not wanting to “be ahead” of public opinion is two-fold.

i) Rights should not depend on majoritarian notions – if that were to be the case, then rights for minorities would likely not exist, for surely, the majority profits from oppressing the minorities.

ii) The government’s claim that they cannot be ahead of the people is disingenous – they have taken unpopular action in the past, such as legalising casinos.

To step shy of an action repealing s377A is simply to send the signal that their queer citizens are second-class citizens not worthy of legal protection. It also sends that the religious sensitivities of people can be used to discriminate against people who do not share that view – which is a dangerous path to tread.

s377A is a highly discriminatory piece of legislation which criminalises even consensual sex between men. Its effects go far beyond simply making queer men criminals – it stigmatises homosexuality, adding a layer of non-apprehended criminality to their lives. It greatly impedes work in the HIV/AIDS sector, as the threat of criminal sanction drives the community underground. Criminalising the conduct itself does nothing to curb its practice, but has many other adverse effects.

All of this was acknowledged in the landmark judgment of Naz Foundation v Government of NCT of Delhi WP(C) No.7455/2001 decided last week. The court ruled decisively that there was no rational nexus between the law and its use against homosexual men, hence violating the fundamental right of being equal before the law.

For those unversed with the general doctrinal approaches to equality litigation – equality does not mean actually everyone is treated alike. Equality means treating like alike, and unlike unlike. If there is to be a differential treatment of people, it has to be based on a rational nexus. Different jurisdictions take different approaches to how this rational nexus is evaluated. Hence, for a law to be held as constitutional even thought it treats people differently, the differential treatment has to be based on a reason that makes some sense. For example, one cannot discriminate against red-headed girls for a job, because the colour of her hair has no bearing on how she does her job.

There has also been a certain amount of eye-rolling in certain circles at the fact that India, a country which is supposed to be more socially and economically backwards, a country which can be said to be more conservative than Singapore, has decriminalised homosexuality, throwing the “asian values” argument right out the window. While the sentiment is understandable and quite justified, the reality is that Singapore and India are in different constitutional environments. Rights litigation is active and vibrant in India, and anyone who has studied public law in Singapore realises that local courts often reject precedents on constitutional cases that originate from India (for various reasons too complicated to cover here).

I also find it curious that the law minister seems to be abdicating the decision to the judiciary – an attitude which did not exist in the past. Never has in Singapore history a law been struck down for being unconstitutional – Public Prosecutor v Taw Cheng Kong (High Court) was the closest one got to striking down a law, and that was promptly reversed by the Court of Appeal. Are they leaving it to the courts, confident that the judiciary will not strike down a law made by the legislature (or that a case would ever even come to the court), or are they hoping it will happen and they will not have to be accountable to the people for the courts (staffed by judges who are not democratically elected nor accountable to any electorate, hence immune from their pressure) exercising their inherent jurisdiction and judicial power?

Now that the legislature has official washed their hands off the matter (at least for the time being), should we look to the courts for salvation? This is a tricky question, and can be the subject-matter of an entire thesis, analysing the history of the Singapore rights jurisprudence and how far the courts are willing to push. Constitutional litigation in general has had a very poor track record, as I explained earlier. However, things are changing – we now have a very wise, very learned bench (Chan Sek Keong CJ, Andrew Phang JA, VK Rajah JA) which prizes legality and are slowly but surely opening up to the notion that the courts are indeed the ultimate arbiter of law in the state, even on constitutional issues.

Whether or not now is the time to make this constitutional challenge, it is safe to say that in a few years, it will be (if it is not repealed quietly by the legislature by then).

 
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