Singapore — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made some remarks on June 26, Wednesday, about the LGBT+ community and Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sexual acts among males, which have left activists in disagreement with the country’s leader.
At the Smart Nation Summit, PM Lee said, “About inclusiveness, we are open. You know our rules in Singapore, whatever your sexuality orientation is, you’re welcome to come and work in Singapore. Some people have an issue with the 377A, which…remains legislation and it will for some time,” in response to a question from an audience member about inclusiveness for foreign workers.
Mr Lee also said, “But it has not inhibited people from living. It has not stopped Pink Dot from having a gathering every year. And it’s the way this society is. We’re not like San Francisco, neither are we like certain countries in the Middle East. It’s something in between. It’s the way our society is.”
The Prime Minister was also asked concerning his opinion on Pink Dot, the yearly pro LGBT+ rights demonstration, scheduled for tomorrow, June 19, at Hong Ling Park. His remarks obviously struck a chord with several activists, who took to social media to air their views, including the organisers of Pink Dot.
[An Open Invitation to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong]Our Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong was reported by TODAY to…
In a Facebook post late on Thursday night, June 27, the group quoted PM Lee’s comments from the day before, and then wrote, point blank,
“We disagree with PM Lee.”
The organisation took exception to being used by the Prime Minister as an example of inclusivity in Singapore when it comes to LGBT+ issues.
On the contrary, Pink Dot said, the LGBT+ community has to contend with discrimination, sometimes on a daily basis. This discrimination, Pink Dot believes, is a direct result of Section 377A.
“Pink Dot’s existence is not proof of Singapore’s inclusiveness to the LGBTQ community. Pink Dot exists precisely because members of the LGBTQ community in Singapore continue to face discrimination and inequality in a multitude of ways, on a daily basis. This discrimination that we face is borne from Section 377A, along with its trickle-down effects to other laws and policies that govern our society at large.”
The organisation invited PM Lee and other officials to attend the demonstration on June 29, that they might hear the stories of the community, in order to understand their situation better.
“Judging from PM Lee’s response, he might not have a full understanding of the discrimination that takes place in Singapore. This year, Pink Dot 11’s campaign tells stories of discrimination that the LGBTQ community experience in our country. We invite PM Lee and our leaders to come down to Hong Lim Park this Saturday and truly make an effort to understand what the LGBTQ community go through on a daily basis.”
The organizers invited everyone to attend the rally as well.
Taiwan-based Singaporean activist Roy Yi Ling Ngerng wrote on Twitter, “This is the quality of a leader who affirms discrimination and tells people to suck it up, while instead of tackling discrimination, is more concerned about attracting ‘talent’ to grow the economy. Very lacking of a moral framework, if you ask me.”
A few hours later, after being quoted in GayStar News, Mr Ngerng wrote of PM Lee’s remarks, “His position is actually a regression on the government’s view. It seems almost as if he’s telling the LGBT people he doesn’t care. It’s shocking the way he mentioned the Middle East. It’s like: we are bad, but we are not as bad.”
Fellow activist Kirsten Han also called out the Prime Minister on his remarks, writing, “@leehsienloong says #Singapore won’t be repealing anti-gay legislation. He cites @PinkDotSG as evidence LGBT people can live nicely here, even though Pink Dot is a *reaction* to the discrimination/marginalisation of LGBT people.”
Since the issue PM Lee was addressing at the Smart Nation Summit was LGBT expats, Ms Han pointed out the irony of the whole situation in a follow-up tweet.
“In any case, because of the rules that the authorities have slapped on to events at Hong Lim Park (and thus the @PinkDotSG organisers), only Singaporean citizens and Permanent Residents will be allowed to attend, so LGBT expats won’t be able to go anyway.”