To empower queer women towards greater involvement and presence in the community
Advocacy for LBTQ women's rights at CEDAW
Sayoni was at the United Nations in Geneva in October 2017 to bring Singapore LBTQ women's issues to the forefront. The CEDAW Committee heard our concerns and raised recommendations related to LBTQ women in their Concluding Observations for the Singapore government.
Sayoni is a Singapore-based feminist, volunteer-run organisation that works to uphold human rights protections for queer women, including lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. We organise and advocate for equality in well-being and dignity regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression and sex characteristics.

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Women are not difficult creatures, making their relationships harder to work out. It’s external factors that are aggravating what is already an amazing feat- making relationships work. I can see some of you wondering “Are you sure it is difficult to make relationships work? My parents and grandparents have been married for gazillion years!”

That pushes us to the next question: What does it mean when we say “making a relationship work”? Someone popped this question at the forum: what is the average duration of a lesbian relationship? This is a legitimate question and the answer given was about 7 years (according to my memory).
Now i am extremely curious- what are we using “duration of the average lesbian relationship” as a measure of? Does quantity imply quality? But first of all, let’s examine this implicit claim that long-lasting lesbian relationships are close to extinction.

Few KNOWN relationships hit the decade and beyond. We know that older lesbians, as compared to younger lesbians, have a greater probability of staying together. I think we need to keep in mind that older lesbians are not particularly prominent in our English-driven, internet-facilitated community. Thus, long-lasting lesbian relationships are effaced from our sight. Just because we don’t see them does not mean they don’t exist. [And yes, someone did talk about bringing these hokkien-speaking or cantonese-speaking women back into the community. Anyone wanna start this effort off?]

Back to my first question: Quantity = Quality? And this is what i mean when i say “making relationships work”- Quality is the key. Without quality, quantity is meaningless. Now, i am not saying that the length of a relationship is not important. I am saying that the quality of a relationship is far more important than the length of it. Just because two persons are legally married (i.e. the government says they are having a relationship) doesn’t mean they are having a relationship. The length of a relationship, alone, is an extremely poor and misleading indicator of relationship quality. In the past, divorce rates are very low. It doesn’t mean that most couples of yester-years were in mutually supportive, respectful, loving healthy relationships. In fact, we know that till today, many women were abused one way or another (e.g. verbal abuse, infidelity). Why do they remain with their partners? They were disempowered, without access to alternative routes (or persons).

That of two persons remaining together is only truly glorious when both parties are able to step out of the relationship and yet choose to be together. That’s love that binds… not because “I don’t have the money to support myself”, “I may not be able to find someone else better” or “The separation procedures are a hassle” etc and hence two persons stay together. Think of the “3 year separation before divorce” thing and you get what i mean.

I guess what i am really trying to say is: lesbians in the circle are generally mobile and independent. Without the encumbrance of law, it is not surprising that we observe what we see today. [Recall again that the older generation lesbians are not part of this known circle.] Leave the straight, independent people out of law, and you will see similar patterns- this i am quite certain.

So, when we talk about lesbian relationships, let’s not disempower ourselves further. Let’s keep in mind the various factors that contribute to what we see. Are hindrances inherent or externally imposed upon lesbian couples? From what sample do we derive our conclusion on the longevity of lesbian relationships? In knowing these, we can dedicate efforts towards combatting problems (recall from above identity-conflict and fear of societal pressure).

I am not saying the problem is trivial… I am saying the problem isn’t as big as we make it out to be. What’s your say?


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