Singapore May Lift Ban on Gay Activist Groups
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
“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
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.”
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