How has homosexuality impacted Singapore?


These are the major Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) developments in Singapore in the past decade:Q24

  • AUG 2003: Goh Chok Tong, then Prime Minister, does “not encourage or endorse a gay lifestyle” but asserts that “gays, too, need to make a living”. He warns against backlash from the “conservative mainstream” should gays lobby for greater public space.1
  • OCT 2007: The original Section 377 of the Penal Code against unnatural sex is replaced with a law that criminalizes sex with corpses.It is then debated if Section 377A, which criminalizes sexual acts between men, should be repealed as well.2
  • MAY 2009: The new leadership at AWARE (which stands for Association of Women for Action and Research, a local non-profit organisation that advocates for women’s rights) seeks to address its Comprehensive Sexuality Education curriculum for schools, which carried some “explicit and inappropriate” content, including “messages which could promote homosexuality or suggest approval of pre-marital sex”.3 This matter receivesheavy media coverage and is polarisedalong religious lines. The Ministry of Education later suspends all sexuality education by external service providers. 4
  • In the same month, Pink Dot is launched to promote “Freedom to Love”, diversity and acceptance of people of all sexual orientations. It garners the support of several high-profile individuals and celebrities, and has since become a highly publicized annual event5
  • JUL 2012: Google publicly identifies Singapore as one of the countries targeted in the new phase of its campaign to oppose laws under which homosexuals are not accorded equal rights as heterosexuals, and to promote gay rights.6
  • JAN 2013: The pro-family “silent majority” and more Christians and churches speak up on the cases challenging the constitutionality of Section 377A.7 Statements affirming the importance of the traditional family unit are made in the Singapore courts and at ministerial level.8
  • AUG 2013:Yale University, popularly known as the “Gay Ivy” for its activism and emphasis on LGBT matters, collaborates with NUS to establish Singapore’s first liberal arts college9/10 with various LGBTQA campus initiatives.11/12
  • FEB 2014: Several public figures weigh in on the discussion  about the Singapore Health Promotion Board’s “FAQs on Sexuality”, with religious groups expressing their disappointment at the FAQs’ seemingly pro-LGBT view that contradicts the government’s stance on family.13/14
  • JUL 2014: The National Library Board receives criticism after removing 2 children’s books with pro-homosexuality themes following a parent’s feedback. The matter draws heated public discourse with mixed views, petitions and public displays of disapproval with the NLB decision.15/16
3. MOE Statement on Sexuality Education Programme (Ministry of Education, Singapore, 6 May 2009)
5. Wikipedia, Pink Dot SG
6. Stacy Cowley, Google Pushes for Gay Rights with “Legalize Love” Campaign (CNN Money, 8 July 2012)
8. Teo Xuanwei, Judgment Reserved on Challenge to Section 377A (TODAY, 15 February 2013)
9. Channel News Asia, Yale-NUS College Holds Inauguration Ceremony (XinMSN News, 27 August 2013)
10. Aleksandra Gjorgievska, Yale Profs to Teach at Yale-NUS (Yale Daily News, 14 February 2013)
11. Facebook page for Tri-Uni LGBTIQ Pride Day
13. Siau Ming En, More Parties Wade Into Debate Over HPB Sexuality FAQ (Today, 6 February 2014)
14. Charissa Yong, FAQ List Does Not Promote Same-Sex Lifestyles (The Straits Times, 19 February 2014)
15. Pearl Lee, NLB Defends Move to Remove Books (The Straits Times, 11 July 2014)
16. Pearl Lee, Yaacob Tells NLB to Put Barred Titles Back on Shelves (The Straits Times, 19 July 2014)

How widespread is gay activism in Singapore?

Pro-LGBT or homosexual activist groups in Singapore which champion gay rights and promote acceptance of peoples of all kinds of sexual orientations often have strong global affiliations and support.

Pink Dot is considered Singapore’s high-profile, landmark homosexual initiative. Held at Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park, this annual, free-for-all event started in 2009 in support of the LGBT community in Singapore. Attendees gather to form a giant pink dot in a show of support for inclusiveness, diversity and the freedom to love. The latest Pink Dot event in June 2015 was purported to be attended by more than 28,000 people1, backed by large local and global corporate supporters and local celebrities.

Sayoni is “a community of queer women, including lesbian, bisexual and transgender women” that “organizes and advocates for equality in well-being and dignity regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity”.

People Like Us (PLU) is one of the first local gay and lesbian groups formed for the purpose of advocacy and public education. It has been refused formal registration as an organization twice (in 1997 and 2004), but boasts a following of over 2,300 members in its email discussion list SiGNeL.

Pelangi Pride Centre is a Singapore-based LGBTQ (+ Queer) community space and resource centre located at Geylang in a venue sponsored by the Free Community Church, which “affirms that same-sex and transgender relationships, when lived out in accord with the love commandments of Jesus, are consistent with Christian faith and teachings.” The Free Community Church initially took the form of Safehaven, a support group for homosexual Christians. (Qn.19)

Oogachaga (OC) offers gay affirmative counselling and personal development for LGBTQ individuals under the umbrella of SPACES, a registered local charity.

Action for Aids (AfA) is a registered charity under the Ministry of Health that supports and advocates for persons living with HIV/ AIDS, of which MSM (men who have sex with men) constitute an increasing segment.

Inter-University LGBT Network is a collection of LGBT university student groups in Singapore. It presently comprises tFreedom (National University of Singapore [NUS], Tembusu College), Gender Collective (NUS, University Scholars Programme), Kaleidoscope (National Technological University), Out to Care (Singapore Management University), and The G Spot (Yale-NUS College).

At the 2012 Global LGBT Workplace Summit, Google launched a new phase of its “Legalize Love” campaign, with plans to specifically target Singapore. A spokesperson for the campaign said that the campaign aims to “promote safer conditions for gay and lesbian people inside and outside the office in countries with anti-gay laws on the books”. He added that “Singapore wants to be a global financial centre and world leader and we can push them on the fact that being a global centre and a world leader means you have to treat all people the same, irrespective of their sexual orientation.”2

On 31 January 2014, the Straits Times published an article titled “Students’ passions come alive in varsity clubs”. The writer reported, “Another group [at Yale-NUS College] is The G Spot…interested not only in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, but also other topics such as race or body image.” This student group took part in Pink Dot and hosted a sharing session by the parents of gay college student Matthew Shepard, an American hate-crime victim.”3

3. Amelia Teng, Students’ Passions Come Alive in Varsity Clubs (The Straits Times, 31 January 2014)