Last edited: April 18, 2004

Singapore May Lift Ban on Gay Activist Groups

Agence France-Presse, January 7, 2004

By Amir Hafizi

Singapore’s increasingly tolerant approach to gay rights has gained momentum with Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong indicating a ban on gay activist groups may soon be lifted.

In a speech on Tuesday to the Harvard Club, Lee said the emergence of gay rights organisations, along with other interest groups, would be tolerated as the government moved to ease curbs on political and social freedoms.

“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 yesterday.

Homosexual acts are still outlawed in Singapore but the Government’s greater tolerance for gays was highlighted last year when Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said they were allowed to work in the public service.

Singapore’s first ever help centre catered specifically for gays also opened last month, offering phone counselling 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.

People Like Us, one of the earliest gay groups formed here in 1992, tried unsuccessfully to register as a society under the Societies Act in 1997.

Goh said in July 2003 that although the Government intended to relax its attitude to homosexuality, it would not be decriminalised because of opposition from the Muslim community and the majority of other Singaporeans.

“The heartlanders are still conservative. You can call it double-standard but sometimes it is double-standard. They are conservative,” he said.

“And for the Muslims, it’s religion, it’s not the law. Islam openly says the religion is against gay practice.”

[Home] [World] [Singapore]