Singapore Ban on Gay Groups May be Lifted
Advocate, January 8, 2004
Amid an increasingly tolerant environment for gay and
lesbian groups in Singapore, Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday
indicated that a ban on gay activist groups may soon be lifted. In a speech to
the Harvard Club, Lee said the emergence of gay rights organizations, along
with other interest groups, would be tolerated as the government moves to ease
curbs on political and social freedoms, Agence France-Presse reports. “There
will be other groups formed, I’m quite sure, to campaign for specific
issues—gay rights for example, and that is a sensitive one,” Lee said
after the speech, according to the Straits Times.
Gay sex is still outlawed in Singapore, but the
government’s greater tolerance of gay people was evidenced last year when
Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said that gays would be allowed to work in public
service. Singapore’s first-ever gay community center also opened last month,
offering phone counseling services and medical and legal advice. And the
city-state is gaining a reputation as a gay entertainment hub with several
gay-friendly clubs, karaoke pubs, saunas, restaurants, and fashion outlets,
according to AFP. People Like Us, one of the earliest gay groups formed in
Singapore, in 1992, tried unsuccessfully to register as a society under the
Societies Act in 1997.
Goh said in July that although the government intends to
relax its attitude regarding homosexuality, gay sex will not be decriminalized
because of opposition from Muslims and the majority of other Singaporeans.
“The heartlanders are still conservative,” Goh said. “You can call it
double-standard, but sometimes it is double-standard. They are conservative.
And for the Muslims, it’s religion, it’s not the law. Islam openly says
the religion is against gay practice.”
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