Articles Tagged ‘singapore - Sayoni’

Hate Crime in Singapore

This news was reported in the Straits Times.

3 others in Orchard Towers brawl will be sentenced Nov 6
By Sujin Thomas

BIRTHDAY party celebrations at an Orchard Towers pub last November turned ugly when six men ended up beating another to death.

After he was assaulted in the early hours of Nov 23, Suhaimi Sulong, 37, was taken unconscious to the Singapore General Hospital.

He died an hour later from head and neck injuries.

Yesterday, three of his attackers – Muhammad Ridhwan Mohd Roslan, 20, Ho Ching Boon, 17, and Lai Chee Kuen, 17 – were sent to the reformative training centre.

Latest News of Bigotry (Singapore)

The National Council of Churches of Singapore is doing it again. In it’s latest attempt to uphold it’s medieval values of hypocrisy, homophobia and ignorant religious rant, the NCSS ‘encouraged’ the Singapore government to outlaw lesbian sex along with sex between men. Published in the monthly journal of the Methodist Church in Singapore, we
quote :

(c) We are aware that the proposed amendment to delete section 377 PC but on the other hand retaining section 377A PC may be controversial in some quarters. Nevertheless, we consider homosexual acts to be sinful, abhorrent and deviant, whether consensual or not. The NCCS commends the Government on taking a clear, unequivocal and bold stand of neither encouraging nor endorsing a homosexual lifestyle and opposing the presentation of the same as part of a mainstream way of life. At the same time, we do not condemn homosexuals as the Bible calls us to hate the sin but love the sinner. Given that section 377A PC criminalises homosexuality whether done private or publicly, we are of the view that a similar prohibition ought to be enacted in respect of lesbianism, considering that lesbianism (like homosexuality) is also abhorrent and deviant, whether consensual or not.’

Singapore is undergoing a major review of its Penal Code which the Ministry of Home Affairs is proposing to repeal Section 377 of the Penal Code which criminalises ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’ while retaining 377A which criminalises ‘gross indecency between two males.’ Section 377A of the Penal Code provides a 2-year jail term. In short, heterosexual anal or oral sex will be ok but not homosexual sex.

Taking note of NCSS’s statement that totally ignored the proposed repeal of Section 377, the question for NCSS is, why are heterosexual anal or oral sex ok now for your dust-filled holy book?

A quick note to the reader :

The comment above is institution and issue specific and not to be viewed as an offense to the religion.

Relevant links :

Methodist Message

Statement from PLU

Sayoni at Penal Code focus group

Sayoni at Penal Code focus group 2

An excellent article on proposed changes in the Penal Code by Yawning Bread

A detailed reading into the Consultation Paper on the proposed penal code amendments by the Ministry of Home Affairs

Liberty League… not really for liberty

SINGAPORE : Focus groups to help gays and lesbians understand their sexual identity are just one of the things that newly set up Liberty League plans to put in place.

The non-profit organisation has received a S$100,000 grant from the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre.

Liberty League says it is the first community service group of its kind in Singapore.

Its mission is to promote gender and sexual health for the individual, family and society.

Singapore Gay-Ready!

Let me refer to the article by Detenber et al (2007). The famous article used to support the retention of 377A.
Reference:
Detenber, B. H., Genite, M., Ku, M. K. Y., Ong, C. P. L., Tong, H. Y., & Yeow, M. L. H. (2007). Singaporeans’ attitudes towards lesbians and gay men and their tolerance of media portrayals of homosexuality. Internal journal of public opinion, 19(3), 367-379.

The anti-repeal camp jumped upon this statement made in opening statement of the conclusion segment: “Overall, this study found that most Singaporeans hold negative attitudes toward lesbians and gay men, and are rather intolerant towards media portrayals of homosexuality.” (Page 373).

What the researchers did: they called up Singaporean citizens over a period of 5 days and conducted interviews. They found that 68.6% of the participants expressed negative attitudes.

Here’s the break-down of predictors for negative attitudes:
1. Religion: Specifically Christians and Muslims were found to be least tolerant among Buddhists and free-thinkers.
2. Age: Older people are less tolerant.
3. Educational level: More educated people are more tolerant.

 

Singapore says no. And maybe

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.”

The Activist’s Dilemma

The recent hoo-haa surrounding MM Lee’s statements on homosexuality has ruffled my feathers and poked at the idealist in me. It was heartening to see so many others rise up and stand up for who they are, by writing into forums, newspapers to defend themselves and others.

It’s for the future, or so we say.

We spend our time and effort and our brain cells into mounting a suitable defense against the homophobes, against the naysayers. Furiously spending hours crafting that perfect rebuttal, hoping, with whatever slim chance there is’ that it’ll be published in the papers.

But is it enough?

The Old Man and the City-state (Singapore)

The wise old man has spoken, and pearls have come out of his mouth. One pearl had F1 race written boldly on it, and another had a rainbow sheen. Just a sheen, a trick of the light upon the smooth surface.

Minister Mentor Lee has, surprisingly, given his stamp of approval for the decriminalisation of homosexual sex in Singapore. Following this widely-publicised interview, Reuters questioned him further on his change of heart. As to the motivations of his statement, it is painfully clear that it is bourne out of economic sense than any amount of sympathy towards human rights.

 

Those who remember the furore over the penal code some months ago will understand the relevance of his comments. The bill has not gone through a parliamentary reading yet, and at this point, public debate is important if we are to change any minds. MM Lee's comments have indeed sparked a public debate. The Straits Times Forum page is evidence enough of this.

 

Update on Orchard Towers Homicide

In a further development of the story we published on the orchard towers “hate crime”, the remaining three assailants, the ones who started the assault on the victim Suhaimi, have been sentenced by a district judge.

Greater role, so trio get jail

Trio in the dock had each either punched or kicked victim on the head

Teo Xuanwei

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ALL six friends were involved in the brawl outside an Orchard Towers pub last November, but a district judge ruled yesterday that three of them had played greater roles in the fatal assault.

For that, a district judge sentenced Mr Muhammad Sufian Zainal, 21, and Mr Helmi Abdul Rahim, 20, each to four years' jail and six strokes of the cane. Mr Ahmad Nur Helmy Ahmad Hamdan, 20, was given four-and-a-half years in jail and eight strokes of the cane.

6 Men Charged under s377 and s377A for sex with teen (Singapore)

In breaking news of this week, 6 men have been charged under s377A and s377 of the Singapore Penal Code, for sex with a teen they met on the internet. We reproduce the AGC Media Briefing below.

PROCEEDINGS FOR UNNATURAL OFFENCES AGAINST NG GENG WHYE, QUEK HOCK SENG, SONG CHOONG CHEN THOMAS, BALASUNDARAM S/O SUPPIAH, MUHAMMAD HAFASHAH BIN MOHD ASLAM AND NG YONG YOU VICTOR

The abovenamed six accused persons have been charged for committing unnatural
offences with a 15 year old male student on occasions in 2006 and 2007. The six
accused persons met the victim while chatting on the internet. The accused
persons are charged as follows:-

A Conversation with K Shanmugam on LGBT in Singapore

Meeting with K Shanmugam

It all started on the 6th of October 2012 when, out of sheer frustration about the state of institutionalised discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in Singapore, I left a note on the Facebook Page of the Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs, K Shanmugam.

I wrote of friends leaving and the National Conversation making no effort to remember that we are Singaporeans too. I highlighted our trip to the United Nations last year to present our shadow report detailing the kind of discrimination that the government so often denies. As I wrote, I got a little bolder and said that if LGBT citizens are not wanted, please tell us, so that we can all forget this struggle and move on to wherever we need to be.

Minister Shanmugam kindly replied, “There can be no suggestion that LGBT citizens are not wanted.” The bigger question is, with the diverse viewpoints in our society and often held strongly by various groups, the government is often caught in the middle trying to decide what would be acceptable to the majority.

I replied by speaking about retaining laws like 377A, which in turn informs or influences policies, creating a cascading effect felt deeply by every LGBT person in Singapore. The exchange went on a few more times and Minister Shanmugam suggested that we meet for a proper chat for him to hear us more on the issues.

An Afternoon of Self-Care

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.”

An Honest Opinion (Singapore)

Image from Stonewallvets.org

Lee Hsien Loong has spoken, echoing both his predecessors in his views on homosexuality. It is interesting how the Father, the Holy Goh and the Spirit all seem to come down on the same side of the fence, willing to decriminalise but seeming to hold back for the fear of the “conservative majority”1

As of this moment, I will not deny that my morale is pretty low. It does not seem likely that the decriminalisation will take place in this penal code review. We neither have the time, nor the political climate, or rather, weather, on our side, given that the second reading is just 1 month away. In the first place, the announcement of the first reading took us by surprise, as it was originally slated to take place next year. By the time we learnt about it, it was too late.

AWARE Roundtable on SOGI Issues

AWAREposted a good overview of recent changes in the Asian LGBT landscape over the past few months. It included some info from a roundtable discussion held on Aug 16 where Sayoni's Jean Chong and Kelly Then spoke.

Here are some relevant parts, but I recommend reading the entire post.

From Beyond 377A:

Pressure from prevailing social attitudes are not countered by any significant State support. While there is no data for Singapore, the worldwide rates of depression, substance abuse and suicide are higher for LGBT youths; they are often teased and bullied in school because of their perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. There is no information on safe sex for gay teens in the current sex education syllabus, and no state-sponsored institutions that have expertise in providing counselling for those grappling with LGBT issues.

Jean also mentioned that a study that has shown that many gay people go back into the closet when they grow old, because old folks’ homes are not open to the idea of same-sex relationships.

In the absence of decriminalization and State recognition, it is therefore crucial to include LGBT perspectives in areas such as research, advocacy, and social services, said Kelly. These include the Convention On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), sex education, maternal and paternal leave, violence in relationships, singles, de facto relationships (where couples may cohabit for extended periods but not marry), ageing, poverty, and sexual harassment – all issues that impact the LGBT community.

How do you think our invisibility in the state mechanism affects you personally?

Breaking News: s377A appeal fails at High Court (Singapore)

This is breaking news: no other news media outlet has reported this at the time of publishing. Sayoni is able to report this based on our own sources closely involved in the case. At the time of writing, the judgment has not been published in Singapore Law Review, or been reported on Singapore Law Watch. The citation of the case, for those interested, is Tan Eng Hong v Attorney General, [2011] SGHC 56. However, Sayoni has obtained a scanned copy of the judgment, which we are glad to attach for the perusal of our readers. Once it has been reported on the Singapore Law Watch, we will be glad to provide that link for our readers.

 

The High Court of Singapore has dismissed the appeal against the decision of the Registrar to strike out the constitutional challenge to s377A, lodged by Mr Tan Eng Hong. The challenge to s377A arose out of the arrest of Mr Tan Eng Hong and another man in a public toilet months ago, as we reported then. He was initially charged under s377A.

Broken Promises – 377A and Non-enforcement (Singapore)

The following news story was spotted on the blog of a local gay blogger – the original newsletter that was sent out is not available for linking. Club 1-7 is a male-only sauna, and such saunas are popularly associated with cruising venues for queer men.

From 1-7 newsletter

Dear members,

Our water supply was turned off at 10pm on the 25th April 2008, Saturday. When we opened the back door to investigate and turn it back on, a few plain-clothed officers from the CID rushed in. Sam immediately tried to stop them and demanded to know what was going on. They told him that they were conducting a ’spot-check’. When asked what they were checking for, they simply repeated ’spot-check’. the officers refused to specify what they were checking for despite repeated demands. Sam also asked if they had a warrant to check the premises. They refused to reply.

At this point in time, we turned on all the lights upstairs and downstairs to alert the members that a check was going on. None of the members were stopped from dressing or leaving, nor were they searched or any particulars taken.

Fresh Challenge to S377A

Two men have filed a new challenge against Section 377A of the Penal Code. I'm sure most of us will be following the developments anxiously, to see if this law that signals that same-sex relationships are wrong will be overturned one day.

We reproduce the press release below.

--

30 Nov 2012 (Singapore) –A fresh challenge has been made today against s 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes physical relations between two men. Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, partners for 15 years, filed the challenge following a recent landmark ruling by the Court of Appeal in Tan Eng Hong v Attorney General (“Tan Eng Hong”) that clarifies that the very existence of an unconstitutional law in the statute books may suffice to show a violation of an applicant’s constitutional rights.

Singapore is the only one among thirty-five advanced economies [1] in the world that criminalises physical relations between men, and one of only four countries in East and South East Asia [2] to do so. Though the Prime Minister stated in parliament 5 years ago that s 377A would not be ‘pro-actively’ enforced, there have been cases since where individuals have been threatened and charged with s 377A by the police, which was remarked upon by the Court of Appeal.

“I don’t live in fear every day that I will get caught by the police because of my relationship with Gary but I know that s 377A labels me a criminal,” said Kenneth.

Gary adds: “While lawmakers have stated in Parliament that s 377A will not be ‘pro-actively’ enforced, this is not enough because it leaves the possibility of ‘passive enforcement’, should someone decided to make a complaint against us one day.”

Fridae’s Feeling Good party cancelled. Deja-vu anyone?

Feelin' Good, a party organised by gay and lesbian media and events company Fridae, has been cancelled after the venue, Ministry of Sound, received a telephone call from local police on Friday evening demanding that they cease venue provision for the event.

According to Mr. Clement Lee, executive director of Ministry of Sound's parent company LifeBrandz, Mr Kelvin Yeo, Compliance Management Officer from Tanglin Police called on Friday evening after office hours demanding that the club cancel the event, failing which enforcement officers would come to the club on Sunday to shut the party down. The reason given by the police to Mr. Lee over the telephone was that the party would 'promote gay activities'.

Whilst Singapore laws prohibit gay sex, there are no laws against being gay. As recently as 2003, then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong was interviewed in Time Magazine about the Singapore government's non-discrimination policy for employment in the civil service, and was quoted saying gays are 'just like you and me'.

Gay MP? 'Her private life is her private life': MM Lee (Singapore)

The article below was published by the Straits Times. Sayoni is proud of two of its actively contributing members, Irene and Olivia, for coming out publicly in mainstream media.

 

Gay MP? 'Her private life is her private life'

But society is not ready for such openness in Parliament: MM Lee

By Elgin Toh

 

Social mores at one time kept single women out of Parliament. The likes of Ms Penny Low and Ms Indranee Rajah, both sitting MPs and unmarried, prove that frontier has been breached.

 

Might gay people one day follow in their footsteps?

 

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has revealed that he has no problems with having homosexuals in Parliament.

 

The surprising comment came in an interview in which Mr Lee makes his most comprehensive statement on homosexuality to date. It was published in a new book about his beliefs, Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going. It is available at bookstores with DVD for $39.90.

Hiding Behind Rhetoric: A Rebuttal of Thio Li-Ann

Dear Ms Thio

I am not as learned as you in law. I am but a first-year law student. A law student who happens to identify as queer, and has spent the last two years working in the queer activism scene, who now loves a woman, who now wishes to rid this country of the blight known as section 377A.

Ms Thio, I am sure you know this section very well… in fact, you dedicated an entire speech to the impassioned defence of it, not even touching on things like marital rape immunity. I am surprised… I thought an educated, feminist woman like yourself would have some feelings on this section which effectively takes away the right of married women to their bodies…. but I digress. You expounded in detail upon the merits of retaining this law. You showed us all how much you hate us gay people – like we couldn’t tell from the letters to ST. When I read your speech, my first impulse was to laugh. Then as I read on, cringing at the leaps of logic, and wincing at the palpable hatred pouring out of the paper.

I will now proceed to rebutt you: point by point.

 

Keeping Singapore's LBQ Spaces Alive

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.
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