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An Afternoon of Self-Care

Written by sayoni on . Posted in Events

self care afternoon1


On 3rd March 2019, Sayoni held a one-day symposium, or “feel tank”, on emotional well-being and self-care for LBTQ persons at The Moon, in collaboration with ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, Brave Spaces, Inter-Uni LGBT Network and Queer Zinefest SG. The symposium comprised a panel discussion and two workshops.

The panel discussion, titled “Why Self-care isn’t Selfish - A Dialogue Session", aimed to uncover how our emotional well-being might be affected by the current social climate, as well as how LBTQ persons can support themselves and each other in periods of stress or vulnerability. The panelists involved were Rosie, a counsellor, Shan, a social worker, Rachel, Executive Director of Inter-Uni LGBT Network, and Alina, a volunteer from Sayoni.

1.    The Importance of Self-Care

All of the panelists agreed that self-care is crucial to our survival. Alina explained that due to the societal pressures faced by LBTQ persons, self-care is imperative and rooted in who we are, as we have to learn to cope and take care of ourselves.

Notably, panelists shared that we have to be aware that self-care is something that constantly evolves - while doing something on a particular day can make you feel better, it may be possible that doing the same thing may not have the same positive effects on you on another day. As Rosie said, “Self-care is a journey and process that continuously changes.”

Statement of the Asian LBTQ Caucus – 8 December 2017 – Phnom Penh

Written by jean on . Posted in Advocacy

asian lbtq caucus statement

Sayoni was pleased to announce the successful Asian LBTQ Caucus consultation on 8 December 2017 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Along with ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, Justice for Sisters, UN Women Asia Pacific, we facilitated a 2 day session on lesbian, bisexual and queer women’s issues from 4-5 December 2017, ahead of the ILGA Asia 2017 conference.

 

An estimated 60 participants joined in the discussions, personal story sharing, queer movement history mappings, and the distillation of key issues and concerns for lesbian, bisexual, trans women, trans men and queer (LBTQ) persons. Activists came from across Asia, including from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Lebanon, Nepal, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. The LBTQ Caucus was a first of its kind in Asia and took place due to the demands of LBTQ activists to address the consistent marginalization of LBQ women’s visibility and leadership within the wider movements for LGBTIQ+ human rights.

 

A collaborative statement was written to highlight core concerns and eleven recommendations on how to move forward towards strengthening movements for LBTQ rights across the region.

 

Statement of the Asian LBTQ CAUCUS*

 

8 December 2017 | Phnom Penh, Cambodia

 

Lesbian, bisexual, trans women, trans men, and queer persons (LBTQ) exist in all of human diversity. Our issues and concerns cut across diverse groups and communities, including other marginalized groups such as people with disabilities, refugees, migrant workers, and indigenous peoples.

 

LBTQ persons experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence in multiple spaces based on our assigned, actual, or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC). We face arbitrary persecution, socio-economic marginalization, and violation of our self-determination, sexual autonomy, and bodily integrity because of our SOGIESC. Our experiences are often invisible, silenced, and unaddressed.

 

Keeping Singapore's LBQ Spaces Alive

Written by editor on . Posted in Events

Panelists speaking at Sayoni's event at independent bookstore The Moon.
By Natasha Sadiq

On 28th October, almost 60 women turned up to attend a panel discussion organised by Sayoni titled "Where Are All the LBQ Spaces?". The event was held at The Moon, an almost ethereal café-bookstore initially conceived of by its owner as a space for women, by women.

The panel comprised four speakers: Kim from Two Queens Asia, Norah from She+Pride, Tiffany from The Bi+ Collective and Alina from Sayoni, and the session was moderated by Leanna, a Sayoni volunteer. Here are three highlights from the discussion:

1. There is no one way to define and construct LBQ spaces

When the speakers were asked about why their groups were formed, a common reason was echoed: to create safe spaces for LBQ women. However, their motivations differed.

Sayoni was formed just as online communities appeared. Its online forums allowed LBQ women to communicate in relative anonymity, which then provided a platform for women to safely take their interactions offline.

For Tiffany, The Bi+ Collective was initially a way for her to make friends. She built a community where she could meet individuals who were like her, without having to feel like she was not gay or straight enough. Two Queens was formed simply for women to have fun through parties, and not necessarily discuss cerebral or existential issues.

It was not just the reasons behind the creation of these spaces which differed. During the Q&A session, an audience member suggested that LBQ spaces do not necessarily have to be rigid in form. She introduced the concept of collaborating with adjacent spaces, somewhere that is physically near to an LBQ space but not exactly like it. It may be more sustainable to go beyond creating exclusive LBQ spaces and look into how conventional spaces can accommodate LBQ women, she said.

2. The only way that LBQ spaces can be kept alive is for people to occupy those spaces

A considerable segment of the event revolved around understanding why LBQ spaces are so limited, and why they were disappearing. Norah said that people in the United States were open with their sexuality, and may not need a physical safe space. She also suggested considering the possibility that women do not spend as much as men. Indeed, spaces devoted exclusively to LBQ women have to maintain a balance between restricting their patronage and being economically viable.

Kim added that although Two Queens is a commercial entity, it does not make a lot of money. As the "scene" changes and LBQ women express different tastes and preferences, the financial viability of LBQ spaces is also affected. Tiffany expressed similar concerns, saying that The Bi+ Collective relies on limited contributions. One solution presented by Alina is to ensure that temporary spaces like the Internet thrive, despite limited permanent physical spaces.

Whatever its form, a space can only serve its purpose if an occupant engages and negotiates with it. For this to happen, we need to show up. Kim talked about her experience having organised an all-girls’ party at a club, which was eventually attended by only 50 ladies. It was not the most encouraging experience. In this case, two is not company, and three sure isn’t a crowd (neither is 50!).

An LBQ space does not exist in and of itself. LBQ women’s experiences also help to define the space. Participating in dialogues and indicating our interest on Facebook is important, but what is critical to the survival of LBQ spaces is for us to actually be present.
keeping lbq spaces alive 2
3. Visibility is not just about being out, loud and proud

Norah emphasised the importance of visibility. For example, She+Pride’s events are held in public spaces. She said, “People cannot see us as scared… we cannot be hiding.”

Indeed, some of us are more comfortable with our sexuality. But others may not be. LBQ spaces are important not just as political acts of protest but also as spaces for affirmation and healing. As one audience member mentioned, LBQ women do not have to say anything in these spaces, they can just “soak in the atmosphere”.

Norah’s notion of visibility still applies. Visibility isn’t just about coming out and staying out. Visibility is also about easing into yourself as an LBQ woman. It is primarily about seeing yourself, and not necessarily being seen by others. LBQ spaces would fail to serve their function if we are not visible to ourselves.

However, visibility is important not just for the community but also those outside of it. Though a painful process, visibility helps to develop acceptance in society. Visibility is also important because without it, there is no way to catch the attention of those who need LBQ spaces most. Kim spoke about how Two Queens has had to tread carefully when it comes to marketing its all-girls events. From her experience, there are people bent on ensuring that public spaces are free of the “gay agenda”.

At the core of it, a space is only what we make it out to be. As Norah said during the discussion, it is not fair for the community to rely on the same people to maintain LBQ spaces. Hence, it is important for us to strengthen the existing spaces that we have. It is not just a question of how many LBQ spaces we have, but more importantly, the degree of our interactions with these spaces.

Successful Advocacy for Protection of LBTQ Rights in Singapore at CEDAW Session

Written by sayoni on . Posted in Advocacy

CEDAW Committee having an exchange with Singapore officials.

In October 2017, Singapore government officials who were in Geneva, Switzerland, to report on gender equality in the nation met an unexpected barrage of questions on the situation of lesbian, bisexual, transgender and other queer (LBTQ) women. In response, the officials evaded the questions, denied that there was discrimination, and insisted that LBTQ women were not discriminated against. But the women’s rights experts who asked the questions had clearly heard the voices of Sayoni and our civil society allies. Among their list of recommendations for Singapore, published a month later, was a section devoted to LBTQ and intersex women, recommending that the Singapore government put in place laws and policies to protect this group, including its media policies.

This was a landmark move from the group of independent experts, who are elected to serve four-year terms and convene to review the progress of states that have signed the treaty. The Singapore government ratified CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), a United Nations treaty, in 1995 and has regularly submitted reports on measures it has taken to implement gender equality within the country according to the CEDAW framework. 

However, LBTQ issues are not always included in Concluding Observations, and when they are, they are seldom given wide, overarching treatment. Hence, Sayoni is pleased that the experts were able to recognise our point that LBTQ women are subject to intersecting forms of discrimination and efforts must be made to specifically ensure protections for this minority group. We hope that the government is similarly able to acknowledge the discrepancies that need to be redressed and takes steps to equalise laws and policies for all women.

Sayoni engaged in a host of advocacy efforts leading up to the fifth review of Singapore in 2017. Five years ago, we documented evidence of violence and discrimination among LBTQ women in a multi-year project that we plan to release in report format. This evidence informed the shadow report that we submitted to the CEDAW Committee to supplement information from the government report. We were also proud to be part of a coalition of civil society groups (“Many Voices, One Movement”) that submitted a comprehensive coalition shadow report highlighting important issues to the CEDAW Committee, including the concerns of migrant workers, sex workers, and Muslim women.

In October 2017, representatives from Sayoni travelled to Geneva to personally lobby the CEDAW Committee, as we had done during the last cycle in 2011. Members of the committee were very receptive to our points and brought up most of them during the session with Singapore state representatives. These questions were further condensed for the final document in the form of recommendations for Singapore.

The following recommendations on LBTQ women are excerpted from the Concluding Observations:

Education

27.    The Committee recommends that the State party:

(c)    Address negative stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes with regard to the sexuality of adolescents.

Lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women

40.    The Committee expresses concern that lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women face discrimination in various areas of life, and that their situation is often exacerbated by the policies of the State party, including its media policy.

41.    The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women are effectively protected against all forms of discrimination in law and in practice, including by undertaking educational and awareness-raising campaigns to combat discriminatory stereotypes, including in its media policies.

Links

Media Advisory on 2017 CEDAW Report

Written by sayoni on . Posted in Advocacy

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Media Advisory

23 October 2017

Sayoni’s 2017 CEDAW Shadow Report on Singapore shows recommendations not heeded, obligations not fulfilled in ending discrimination against LBTQ women

Geneva, Switzerland − Despite its claims that it has advanced women’s causes in the country, Singapore has fallen short, especially in supporting lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (LBTQ) individuals, says Singapore-based LBTQ women’s group Sayoni.

Sayoni has submitted a Shadow Report to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee for the 68th CEDAW Session in 2017. It highlights pertinent issues concerning institutional discrimination against LBTQ women and transgender men in Singapore.

Silence on LBTQ women’s plight in the fifth state report and the lack of concrete action and substantive measures following the 49th Session in 2011 reveal significant gaps in Singapore’s fulfillment of its obligations to the Convention.

Submitted to the CEDAW Committee at the United Nations, the evidence-based report’s recommendations include:

  • Concrete action in implementing anti-discrimination legislation,
  • Rectifying media codes and censorship,
  • Improving capacity among state and non-state actors to end violence,
  • Equalising marriage rights, access to residency for same-sex spouses, and protection of rights of children from same-sex households,
  • Equalising access to information on LGBTQ sexual and reproductive health.

Singapore ratified CEDAW in 1995 and periodically submits a compliance report to the Committee. Local civil society organisations independently submit shadow reports to supplement the government’s report.

At the 49th session in New York (2011), the CEDAW Committee, in its Concluding Observations under “Stereotypes and harmful practices” (points 21-22), called upon the State party to: “Put in place, without delay, a comprehensive strategy to modify or eliminate patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes that discriminate against women, including those based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in conformity with the provisions of the Convention. Such measures should include efforts, in collaboration with civil society, to educate and raise awareness of this subject, targeting women and men at all levels of society.”

The State responded at the CEDAW pre-session in 2011 (point 31.1) that: “The principle of equality of all persons before the law is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, regardless of gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.”

After this 68th CEDAW session in Geneva, Sayoni hopes the Singapore government will:

  1. Pay close attention to and take into serious consideration all the Committee’s recommendations pertaining to discrimination of women based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  2. Move beyond broad rhetoric and take concrete action to effect substantive and material changes towards eliminating institutional discrimination against LBTQ women.
  3. Sincerely collaborate with non-state organisations to raise awareness and protection of LBTQ women from discrimination and abuse.

About Sayoni
Established in Singapore in 2006, Sayoni is a community committed to empowering queer women.

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Contact
For enquiries and interviews, please email Jean Chong at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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