SINGAPORE: Gay Rights Activist Seeks Police Permit TO Host Public Forum.
BBC London (English), The World Today, 0830 hours, 8.5.00, Item 13. —— Take a stroll down Singapore’s Bugis Street and you might not be convinced that the gay community is under pressure. Transvestites and transsexuals have claimed the former red-light district as their own and they’re not shy about flaunting themselves. But the fact is that homosexual acts are outlawed in the city-state and if convicted of what’s termed “unnatural sex”, one can face life imprisonment. Now a gay rights activist, Alex Au, says he hopes that the Government will issue a permit allowing him to host a public forum on the 28th on where homosexuals stand in Singapore society. So, I asked Alex what life is like for gay people there:
Mr Au: “It isn’t as bad as one might imagine. Although the law exists, we aren’t prosecuted as often as one might think. The authorities don’t use the law very rigorously unless somebody complains. Then, of course, they find themselves duty-bound to act on the complaint. But other than that, we do what we can. There is still gay life here. Nonetheless. the law reinforces the social climate of homophobia and discrimination and that’s why we’re not too happy with it.”
Q: “Now, the idea behind the forum is to examine where gay and lesbian Singaporeans stand in the Government’s Singapore 21 Programme. Let me ask you what do you think about the Singapore 21 programme and, indeed, to tell us what it is?”
Mr Au: “The Singapore 21 Programme came out last year. It’s an attempt to put down some ideals, some visionary idelas for Singapore society to progress towards. Among the visions for Singapore would be to keep the family as the foundation for social stability, to develop some sense of belonging to Singapore, the Singapore heartbeat, as they call it; opportunities for all and the fact that every SIngaporean matters, even in the new economy and globalisation and so forth. Well, these are fine sentiments and I cannot agree with them more, but how does one translate these ideas into new reality, especially vis-a-vis gay people in the society and I think this forum is really needed for us to begin to examine this.”
Q: “These is a real fear of persecution because of that law that you were describing if one comes out as a gay person. So, will people attend a forum like this?”
Mr Au: “Oh, I’m confident that there will be lots of people wanting to attend the forum, both gay and straight. There are people in Singapore who have been educated abroad, who have lived abroad and who feel, as I do, that this is an issue that really needs to be addressed if we are to move Singapore society forward.”
Q: “You were refused once before when you tried to register your group as a society. Do you think that you will get your permit that’s needed to hold this forum?”
Mr Au: “I am optimistic that I will get this permit because this is quite a different situation. This is for a seminar, a little conference and these are different regulations in this situation. These regulations pertain to public order and so long as the police are satisfied that this event will not, in any way, threaten public order, they should grant the permit, and I don’t think this event will, in any way, disturb public peace.
Q: “What future do you hope, then for gay and lesbian people in Singapore?”
Mr Au: “Accepted by our peers here. Nothing special, just to be treated as an ordinary Singaporean.”
This transcript was first archived on SiGNeL by Alex Au: