Brian Tofte-Schumacher of IGLHRC sat down with Raksha Mahtani of Sayoni, a Singapore-based group that organizes and advocates for lesbian, bisexual and transgender women’s issues. Mahtani is a volunteer coordinating a human rights documentation project on violence and discrimination. The interview took place in NYC, during her visit for the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women conference in March. Mahtani, 26, has represented Sayoni at the newly formed Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression (SOGIE) Caucus, the ASEAN People's Forum and the ASEAN Youth Forum. Before volunteering for Sayoni, Mahtani worked with AWARE, a gender equality organization in Singapore.
Q: What would you say are the biggest challenges for LGBT people in Singapore?
A: I think some of the biggest challenges are quite personal. I think that's a big narrative in Singapore because the society is already multi-religious, multi-ethnic, and generally conservative in that many don't see being LGBT as “natural” or “normal” or “acceptable.” So often because of this, LGBT people are demonized, vilified, and seen as “things” to be corrected. People come out to their families and risk being subjected to corrective therapy or reparative counseling, often involving religious leaders. These can happen in the private sphere, and go unnoticed by most.
Read the full interview here. Sayoni's research project is ongoing and scheduled to be released next year. Thank you to all who have generously shared their stories.