Singapore—Sayoni, which describes itself as a “community-oriented organisation committed to making the lives of lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender women better,” has released a “Rainbow Scorecard,” wherein the group rated the positions of leaders regarding LGBTQ issues.
On Wednesday (June 24),Sayoni published its list of the top five leaders who have “undertaken positive action and/or made inclusive and affirmative statements, regarding LGBTQ issues” in the last 10 years.
These leaders have been given an “A” by Sayoni: Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, Parliamentary Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin, Reform Party Secretary-General Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Worker’s Party’s Daniel Goh, and Singapore Democratic Party Chairman Dr Paul Ananth Tambyah.
Mr Shanmugam has seven entries for his contributions to the LGBTQ community, while Mr Tan has two. Mr Jeyaretnam, Professor Goh and Dr Tambyah have one each.
Sayoni wrote, “We are heartened by their efforts in advocating against violence and discrimination towards LGBTQ persons, and we hope that more politicians will follow their lead by meaningfully addressing the concerns of LGBTQ Singaporeans.”
The group emphasised the need for changes to occur in Singapore’s institutions, laws and policies in order to ensure equality for everyone. “We believe that our politicians should lead the way, in tandem with citizens and civil society organisations.” ⠀
Mr Shanumgam gets the highest marks of all the leaders, being the only political leader who got checkmarks for all of the criteria the group set, which are:
- Engagement with LGBT groups
- Affirmative inclusion of LGBTQ issues (both Consistency and Frequency)
- Advocate for non-discrimination/non-violence towards LGBTQ
- Demonstrate awareness of LGBTQ-specific challenges
Noteworthy are his comments in October 2019 that “everyone should feel safe in Singapore. We will not tolerate any threats made to physical safety. No one should threaten someone because they were LGBTQ; and likewise, no one should threaten someone else, because of religious affiliation”.
In 2018, the Minister admitted that the country is “deeply split” on Section 377A, and while a “growing minority” wants to have it repealed, “the government is in the middle…society has got to decide which direction it wants to go. And the laws will have to keep pace with changes in society and how society sees these issues”.
As for Mr Tan, he almost got the same marks as Mr Shanmugam, although he did not get a checkmark when it comes to “Frequency” of “Affirmative inclusion of LGBTQ issues.”
Sayoni cites that the Speaker said last year, with regards to the HIV registry data leak, “Whether you are for or against LGBT is irrelevant. For that matter, heterosexuals do contract HIV too. So please don’t drag these issues into the fray. Treat our fellow humans as fellow humans, with dignity and respect, care, and compassion.”
And just as there are the top five ranking leaders, Sayoni has its bottom five, which includes People’s Power Party Secretary-General Goh Meng Seng, People’s Power Party Chairman Syafarin Sarif, PAP’s Vivian Balakrishnan and Lee Bee Wah, and Workers’ Party’s Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap.
Of these politicians, Sayoni wrote that they are “the bottom 5 politicians who have taken negative action and/or made negative statements, regarding LGBTQ issues, in the past decade.⠀
The words and actions of politicians hold power, regardless of whether they were made in Parliament or other avenues like social media. We are disappointed with the actions and statements made by these politicians, which perpetuate stigma and prejudice towards LGBTQ individuals.”