Ground-breaking survey shows Singaporeans accept homosexuality
by Lara Parpan
05/22/2000 Agence France-Presse
SINGAPORE, May 22 (AFP) – A majority of Singaporeans can accept a gay member of the family, agree that oral sex between adults in private should not be prohibited, and feel that employers should not discriminate against homosexuals, according to a ground-breaking survey.
These are among the results of what is believed to be the first community-based opinion poll on homosexuality and gay-related issues in tightly ruled Singapore, where oral sex is punishable by life imprisonment and open displays of homosexuality are often frowned upon.
“A large number of Singaporeans would be able to accept a gay brother, sister, son or daughter,” according to the summary of a survey conducted in April and May by volunteers from an informal alliance known as “People Like Us.”
The gay and lesbian support group has tried in vain to get itself registered as an official society in Singapore, but maintains a presence in cyberspace.
The survey was carried out in several districts in Singapore and through the Internet, resulting in 251 responses from street interviews and 240 responses online, all from Singaporean citizens and permanent residents 16-years-old and above.
“It is an important threshold providing a sense of where Singaporeans stand with respect to such issues,” the survey said.
“The findings here can be seen as ‘leading indicators’ to the way Singapore social opinion is likely to evolve in the years ahead,” it added.
People Like Us estimated that there are “some 150,000 to 300,000 Singaporeans who feel alienated from the state” on the issue of sexuality.
Forty-six percent of respondents interviewed on the street and 74 percent of those online “felt that they would be able to accept a gay brother or sister, if not immediately, then after a while,” the survey said.
The figures “far outnumbered” the 26 percent among those interviewed on the street, and nine percent online, who said they could not accept gay siblings.
Acceptance rates for gay sons and daughters were also higher than rejection, with 41 percent of streetside respondents and 66 percent of those polled over the Internet saying “they would be able to accept the fact that their child was gay.”
This was higher than the 35 percent and 13 percent respectively who said they would not be able to do so.
“Singaporeans appear to be pragmatic about the issue. These findings suggest that they value family ties highly enough to accommodate gay siblings and children within the fold,” the survey said.
On the issue of gay discrimination in the workplace, 73 percent of the street interviewees and 83 percent of those online believed employers should not discriminate against gays.
Singaporeans also challenged an archaic law which outlaws oral sex and makes it punishable with up to life imprisonment. The majority of those interviewed on the street — 53 percent, and online 85 percent – - agreed that oral sex between adults in private should not be restricted.
When asked if oral sex between homosexual adults in private should not be restricted, 39 percent of street interviewees and 78 percent online agreed, compared to 29 percent on the street and 16 percent on Internet who disagreed.
The group’s survey comes ahead of a planned public forum on gays and lesbians in Singapore scheduled for May 28.
Gay rights activist Alex Au, who is among the more outspoken members of People Like Us, said an application with the police to hold the forum was still pending. Public gatherings in Singapore require a police permit.
Au said the forum was inspired by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s remarks on international television in December 1998 when he was asked for his stand on homosexuality in Singapore.
The elder statesman replied: “It’s not a matter which I can decide or any government can decide. It’s a question of what society considers acceptable.”
“How do we expect gay Singaporeans to feel passionate about Singapore if they perceive that they suffer discrimination, legal and social, in this country?” Au said.
Gays in Singapore keep a low profile compared to their counterparts in the United States or other parts of Asia.
The group gave their survey a margin of error of four to six percent, and said their interviewees matched Singapore’s ethnic profile, which is dominated by the Chinese, followed by the Malays and Indians.
It also noted that many of the volunteers who helped conduct the survey were “straight”, which was seen as “a harbinger of a more broad-minded society”.
This article was first archived on SiGNeL by Alex Au: