Singapore Denies Rights to Gay Group
Advocate, April 7, 2004
The Singapore government has denied freedom of
association to a gay rights group and warned it to halt all activities, group
officials said Tuesday.
The organization, People Like Us, has demanded that the
government explain why it considers a support and advocacy group for gay
people “unlawful, prejudicial to the public peace,” and “contrary to the
national interest,” cofounder Alex Au said. “The world can rightly
perceive Singapore to be an intolerant place that’s refusing to move with
the times,” Au said.
The government warned in its formal rejection notice that
the group must cease all activities, warning that members of unregistered
societies face heavy punishments under the law, Au said. However, the notice
did not specify the penalties. No representatives of the home affairs ministry
were immediately available for comment.
People Like Us first tried to register as a society in
1997 and was refused then as well, Au said. The group would follow the
government’s instructions and not hold further meetings, but as individuals
they will continue to argue for equal rights, he added, noting that the group
will also appeal the decision to the home affairs minister.
People Like Us, which claims a membership of more than
1,000, has been using the Internet to push for equal rights in the tightly
controlled city-state. Singapore bans gay sex, including it in its broad
definition of “any act of gross indecency”—punishable by a maximum of
two years in jail—but there have been few prosecutions of gay men and
lesbians, and Singaporeans are largely tolerant of gays.
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