Singapore not to allow all-gay public parties

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Singapore not to allow all-gay public parties

December 21, 2004

Singapore's government is not prepared to allow all-gay public parties despite greater acceptance of homosexuals in society, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in remarks published.

Revellers at Singapore's Nation Party in August 2004, billed as Asia's largest gay and lesbian festival. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said his government was not prepared to allow all-gay public parties despite greater acceptance of homosexuals in society. [AFP]

Authorities had to turn down an application by, said to be Asia's largest website for gays, to hold an all-night "Snowball.04 party" on December 25 because "the event is likely to be organised as a gay party which is contrary to public interest," Lee was quoted as saying in the Straits Times. Previous Snowball parties held in 2003 and 2002 were targeted at gays even though the government, when it gave the go-ahead, sought assurances from organisers that the wider community would be included, Lee said. "We allowed it and we made it quite clear that it had to be a party which was not targeted at gays alone...

As the party turned out, our sense of it was that it was beyond what we were prepared to accept. "So we said no." An annual all-night dance party on the resort island Sentosa every August coinciding with Singapore's National Day, organised also by, draws thousands of gays from the region but is open to everyone. The Sentosa parties have led to Singapore being recognised as one of Asia's premier gay tourism hubs and the government has also taken a more tolerant approach to the gay community, even though homosexual acts are still outlawed.

Under laws dating back to British colonial days and never applied in modern times, anyone found guilty of voluntarily engaging in "unnatural" sexual acts such as sodomy can be sentenced to life imprisonment in Singapore. "I think it's a matter of balance... of how we can have space for this group of people who are gays, whom we accept as Singaporeans," Lee said. "But at the same time, it's about respecting the outlook, values and perspective of the majority of Singaporeans, who know Singapore to be a certain way and do not want to see it changing suddenly, and I think they have a point," he said.

Asian Economic News: Gays appeal Singapore police ban on annual Christmas event (Dec 9)

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Gays appeal Singapore police ban on annual Christmas event

SINGAPORE, Dec. 9 Kyodo

Singapore's police have rejected an application for a gay and lesbian Christmas party at a nightclub in the city-state, prompting organizers Thursday to condemn the move as ''blatant discrimination.''

''We are in the process of appealing this decision, as we view it as blatant discrimination against the gay community,'' Hong Kong-based, an Asian gay and lesbian media company, said on its website in response to Wednesday's decision by the police.

Fridae had applied for a public entertainment license through its Singapore subsidiary Jungle Media to hold its third annual all-night Snowball party at a Singapore nightclub on Dec. 25.

But this year's application, for the first time, was rejected on grounds that it would be ''contrary to public interest in general,'' according to a police statement issued Wednesday.

''The police recognize that there are some Singaporeans with gay tendencies. While police do not discriminate against them on this basis, the police also recognize that Singapore is still, by and large, a conservative and traditional society,'' the statement said.

''Hence the police cannot approve any application for an event which goes against the moral values of a large majority of Singaporeans,'' it said.

The statement suggested that the same organizer had given false assurances to police in the past that its events, which are essentially dance parties with international DJs, were not organized as gay parties.

At one such event, a ball held earlier this year, ''patrons of the same gender were seen openly kissing and intimately touching each other'' and ''several letters of complaint were received from some patrons about the openly gay acts at the Ball,'' the statement said.

''Some of the revelers were cross-dressed, for example, males wearing skirts. Patrons were also seen using the toilets of the opposite sex. The behavior of these patrons suggested that most of them were probably gays/lesbians and this was thus an event almost exclusively for gays/lesbians,'' it said.

Furthermore, it said, ''a number of couples of the same sex were seen hugging and kissing in public after the event while waiting for taxis and checking into the nearby hotels after the party.''

Fridae's Chief Executive Officer Stuart Koe, in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said the rejection came as a surprise as Fridae has had a ''very congenial working relationship'' with police, while its events ''are known to be extremely professionally organized and have earned both domestic, as well as international acclaim.''

''Our events have created an invaluable buzz that Singapore is a hip and exciting city to visit,'' he said. ''We are absolutely certain that nothing about our events are illegal.''

Koe warned that it would be ''unconscionable and a grave mistake to allow intolerance and discrimination to sidetrack and derail our vision of a Singapore that embraces ALL Singaporeans regardless of creed.''

Noting that Singapore is home to hundreds of thousands of gay men and women, he said, ''We form one of the most dynamic, creative and economically productive segments of Singapore's diverse society.''

''We want to live in a country that accepts us as who we are, allowing us the social and civil liberties of conducting our lives in a normal way, just like any other citizen of Singapore.''

COPYRIGHT 2004 Kyodo News International, Inc.

Asian Gay and Lesbian Network Slams Singapore's Gay Sex Prohibition

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Singapore's law prohibiting gay sex is hampering HIV prevention efforts among homosexual men, an AIDS education group said Sunday. Stuart Koe, head of the Fridae Asian gay and lesbian network, rejected recent remarks by Minister of State for Health Balaji Sadasivan, who said advocacy groups like Action for AIDS were "not doing enough" to fight the disease. "Since gay sex is illegal, how then can any agency or organization in Singapore promote safe sex among men ... without being complicit in abetting illegal activity?" said a statement on Fridae's Web site.

Singapore defines gay sex as "an act of gross indecency" punishable by a maximum of two years in jail. Prosecutions, however, are rare.

Koe said the government's AIDS awareness campaign has neglected the threat to gay men. "Singapore's public health service has systematically ignored and left [gay men] out of all of its public health messages," he said. Previously, health ministry officials have said the AIDS campaign does not promote condoms out of respect for residents who hold conservative views on sex.

Singapore AIDS activists called on authorities to fight an "alarming" rise in HIV infections among gay men. Ministry statistics show HIV infections among men who have sex with men rose from 12 cases in 2000 to 40 cases in 2003. Seventy-seven new HIV cases were reported among gay men in the first 10 months of 2004.

ABC: Singapore's first transsexual beauty pageant a sell-out success

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Singapore's first transsexual beauty pageant a sell-out success

Singapore's first major transsexual beauty pageant was held over the weekend to raise money for the poor, with the event's organisers hailing it as a ground-breaking, sell-out success. An audience of 1,350 people watched 13 finalists compete for the title of Miss Tiffany Singapore, based on the famous Thai contest of the same name, at the city-state's biggest in-house restaurant.

Thirty-three Singaporean transsexuals originally entered the contest, including one national serviceman, according to the organiser, Mogan Aruban. Mogan, who is the chairman of non-profit charity organisation Singapore Amalgamated Services Cooperative, told AFP the contest reflected an increasing tolerance in famously conservative Singapore. "This was a ground-breaking event considering the whole family values thing (of Singaporean society)," Mogan said.

"I think it's acceptable now because the Prime Minister has said we have to liberalise and among the younger generation there are so many gays." Former prime minister Goh Chok Tong said last year that gays would be allowed to work in the civil service as part of the Government's loosening of social controls, however homosexual acts are still illegal. Mogan said he had been staging more traditional fund-raising events, such as dance competitions and functions featuring international celebrities, over the past 15 years but Miss Tiffany was the most successful.

AFP: Singapore's first transsexual beauty pageant a sell-out success (Sep 26)

Singapore's first transsexual beauty pageant a sell-out success

Posted Sun Sep 26, 2004 6:17pm AEST

Singapore's first major transsexual beauty pageant was held over the weekend to raise money for the poor, with the event's organisers hailing it as a ground-breaking, sell-out success.

An audience of 1,350 people watched 13 finalists compete for the title of Miss Tiffany Singapore, based on the famous Thai contest of the same name, at the city-state's biggest in-house restaurant.

Thirty-three Singaporean transsexuals originally entered the contest, including one national serviceman, according to the organiser, Mogan Aruban.

Mogan, who is the chairman of non-profit charity organisation Singapore Amalgamated Services Cooperative, told AFP the contest reflected an increasing tolerance in famously conservative Singapore.

"This was a ground-breaking event considering the whole family values thing (of Singaporean society)," Mogan said.

"I think it's acceptable now because the Prime Minister has said we have to liberalise and among the younger generation there are so many gays."

Former prime minister Goh Chok Tong said last year that gays would be allowed to work in the civil service as part of the Government's loosening of social controls, however homosexual acts are still illegal.

Mogan said he had been staging more traditional fund-raising events, such as dance competitions and functions featuring international celebrities, over the past 15 years but Miss Tiffany was the most successful.

The Advocate: HIV infections climbing among Singapore's gay men

Thursday, September 23, 2004

HIV infections climbing among Singapore's gay men

Government statistics on HIV infections in Singapore show that the number of gay men affected by HIV is rising, Agence France-Presse reports. In 2000, 12 new HIV cases were reported among gay men, but by 2003 that number had jumped to 40 cases. In the first six months of this year, 31 new HIV infections were reported among gay men.

Heterosexual sex still accounts for about 65% of all new HIV infections in Singapore, according to the government statistics. Gay men account for about 23% of new infections, and bisexual men account for about 8%.

AP: Singapore signs German TV deal, bans Taiwanese gay movie

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Singapore signs German TV deal, bans Taiwanese gay movie

Singapore said last week it has stepped closer to its goal of becoming an Asian media and arts hub by signing a TV deal with a German company — but on the same day, said it banned a Taiwanese hit film for its gay content. Authorities nixed “Formula 17,” a Taiwanese movie about two teenage boys falling in love, after the Media Development Authority objected, saying it showed homosexuality as “normal, and a natural progression of society.”

The authority announced July 22 that Singapore’s Oak3films signed a $4.07 million deal with Germany’s FFP media to jointly produce the TV romance drama “House of Harmony.” It will be broadcast in Singapore and on Germany’s ZDF television network, the Media Development Authority said. But the authority, which is sponsoring part of the deal, said Singaporeans weren’t ready for “Formula 17,” and claimed that more than 70 percent of the city-state’s 4 million people reject homosexuality. Singapore law bans gay sex, but gays are seldom prosecuted.

ST: Magazine to tighten access

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Magazine to tighten access

by M. Nirmala
The publisher of Manazine, a men's lifestyle magazine, has moved to limit access to the publication following complaints by concerned parents over its content and easy availability. The decision to issue subscribers with cards, which must be shown at selected outlets where the magazine can be picked up, follows talks with the Media Development Authority (MDA), the regulating authority. This 'controlled distribution' approach adopted by the publisher will also see copies of the magazine sent by post to subscribers, who pay $25 a year for six issues.

Mr Arjan Nijen Twilhaar, 32, the publisher and chief editor of Manazine, said that previously, the 10,000 printed copies of the magazine were distributed free at a number of locations. These included theatres, bars, art galleries and restaurants. But that changed after an Aug 11 meeting called by the MDA. At the meeting, Mr Arjan was informed that the MDA had received complaints from concerned parents about the magazine's homosexual content and its easy accessibility at outlets patronised by the general public. The MDA also highlighted some pages and 'we were also told to be sensitive to society's reactions to the gay issue. We listened to the advice and made sure that we do not cross the line,' he told The Straits Times.

Ms Casey Chang, the MDA's assistant director for corporate and marketing communications, confirmed the meeting and said yesterday that the authority also remindeded Mr Arjan that local magazines should not promote homosexuality as a lifestyle. This is not the first time the magazine, first published last October, has run into problems. It withdrew most of the 10,000 copies of its third issue in March following a public complaint.

But the light touch used by the media regulator appears to be in line with last year's recommendations by the Censorship Review Committee. In suggesting that a calibrated approach be taken so as to ensure that changes do not move ahead of society's mainstream values, it recommended that approved adult publications could be sold through controlled channels.

But sexually explicit magazines, such as Playboy, should stay banned, it added. Associate Professor Ang Peng Hwa, dean of the Nanyang Technological University's School of Communication and Information, noted the light touch taken by the MDA in dealing with the publisher. In this case, instead of having access to the magazine denied altogether, the publisher has been left to 'self-manage' access to the publication, he said.

Advocate: SIngapore to Host Asia's Biggest Gay Festival, August 7-9

Saturday, August 7, 2004

Advocate, August 7, 2004

This weekend the conservative city-state of Singapore will play host to what is being promoted as Asia’s biggest gay and lesbian festival, according to a report by Agence France-Presse. A record 8,000 revelers are estimated to attend the fourth annual party in what is expected to be a lively boost to Singapore’s emerging reputation as one of Asia’s premier gay tourism and entertainment hubs. Stuart Koe, the chief executive of regional gay Web site, which is organizing the event, said the three-day festival beginning Saturday, August 7, was projected to generate $5.8 million in tourism revenue. “We have large numbers of people coming from Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States,” Koe told AFP, adding that the numbers of partygoers had grown from 1,500 in the event’s first year in 2001. “There’s nothing else like this in Asia. It’s really the only event on this scale.”

The festival is expected to increase tensions between Singapore and Thailand over which country can lay claim to the title of Asia’s gay tourism capital after a Bangkok-based lobby group was formed last week to win back the pink dollar from the city-state, AFP reports. However, Koe stressed the event, which coincides with Singapore’s National Day celebrations on Monday and boasts some of the region’s best DJs at its beach and nightclub parties, is not targeted solely at the gay and lesbian community. “This is an event that welcomes gays, lesbians, bisexuals, heterosexuals. It’s an event that does not discriminate against anybody,” he said. “We are trying to create an event that puts prejudices aside and really empowers people to be who they are.”

But many gay activists question whether the Singapore government is cynically chasing gay tourism dollars rather than genuinely trying to encourage a more tolerant and open society. Indeed, gay sex is still outlawed in the nation, and authorities are maintaining a ban on gay groups registering as societies. “All [the government leaders] are interested in is the entertainment dollar, not rights and freedoms and liberalization of the mind,” local gay rights activist Alex Au told AFP. Au’s People Like Us group, which represents Singapore’s gay and lesbian community, has been trying to become registered as a society since 1996, with its most recent effort failing in March this year.

The government restrictions reflect a self-confessed double standard on the part of the nation’s leaders toward gays. Singapore prime minister Goh Chok Tong said in July last year that gays would be allowed to work in civil service, while a first-ever help center catering specifically to gays opened a few months later offering phone counseling services and medical and legal advice. The city-state has also seen many gay-friendly clubs, karaoke pubs, saunas, restaurants, and fashion outlets open in recent years. Yet Goh insisted last year that gay sex acts would not be decriminalized because of opposition from Singapore’s conservative majority Chinese population as well as the Muslim community. “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.”

AFP: Thai group launches bid to stop Singapore from snatching its pink dollars

Friday, July 30, 2004

Thai group launches bid to stop Singapore from snatching its pink dollars

Bangkok– Thailand's gay community has launched a political lobby group to try and stop the kingdom's title as Asia's pink tourism capital being snatched by Singapore. Thailand boasts Asia's largest annual Mardi-Gras festival, as well as the most vibrant and open gay club scene and annual gay beauty pageant.

However, wedged between conservative Malaysia and Indonesia, Singapore has been forging a reputation as the new Asian hot spot for gay holiday-makers. The island state has experienced a boom in gay clubs following a change in attitude towards the pink dollar in the late 1990s.

Ms Munthana Adisayathepkul, the head of Thailand's leading lesbian group and a key member of the Homosexual Political Group of Thailand (HPGT), said Singapore had become a dangerous competitor to Thailand. "Singapore is trying to make itself the centre of gays and lesbians in Asia … and we are trying to get the government to support us fight this shift," she said.
Prominent Thai gay activist, Mr Natee Teerarojjanapongs – the first openly gay Thai to run for a senate seat – said government support would be crucial if Thailand is to remain as Asia's key holiday destination for homosexuals.

"If we want to be a gay paradise, the government has to support gay groups as it will draw a lot of tourists and income to the country," he said. Mr Natee also said it is the kingdom's fundamental atmosphere of tolerance, not just mega-events, which still sets it apart from other Asian destinations. "Even though they (Singapore) have strong laws they want to trade on the success that comes with staging a famous gay parade," he said.

The bars and cafes in Bangkok's bustling and neon-lit gay entertainment area are packed with tourists enjoying the city's unbridled gay night life, but operators say they are far from complacent."It is possible that Singapore will be the next gay capital as it is more open to gays," said Mr Panuwat Jaykong, the manager of Telephone, one of Bangkok's best known bars.
"The number of Singaporean and Hong Kong visitors has fallen by 20 to 30 per cent over the past few months after the Thai government said it did not support gays' activities," he said.

A spokesman for Asia's largest and oldest gay holiday firm, Utopia Tours, also said it was the lack of government support rather than the allure of Singapore that is the main threat to the industry. But the head of Bangkok's gay festival, Mr Pakorn Pimton, rejected the need for official support. "They do not have to support us – just don't ban us," he said. "Singapore as Asia's gay capital? Forget it. Their parade and other activities are still far behind Thailand," he said.

Taipei Times: Singapore: Socially conservative Singapore bans popular gay-oriented Taiwanese film (Jul 23)

Friday, July 23, 2004

Singapore's stringent movie screening body rejected Taiwan's highest-grossing film this year because it 'creates the illusion of a homosexual utopia'

Taipei Times
Friday, July 23, 2004

Sex and the City may be suitable for audiences in Singapore, but censors have drawn the line at Taiwan's highest-grossing film this year, banning the teenage romantic comedy because of its gay theme.

Formula 17, which has grossed double the US$100,000 it cost to make, was banned, because it encouraged homosexuality, Singapore's Films Appeals Committee said yesterday.

It said panel members thought the film "creates an illusion of a homosexual utopia, where everyone, including passersby, is homosexual and no ills or problems are reflected."

"It conveys the message that homosexuality is normal, and a natural progression of society," the panel said.

Singapore has loosened some of its stuffy social controls in recent years, partially relaxing a ban on chewing gum in January, allowing some bars to stay open for 24 hours and ending a ban on the US sitcom Sex and the City last week. But many tough rules remain. Playboy magazine is still banned, while oral sex remains technically illegal under a law that says "whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animals" can be fined and jailed up to 10 years, or even for life.

The government said in January it plans to review its sex laws, and oral sex would most probably be decriminalized -- but only between men and women. The panel said it took into account the findings of a recent survey that more than 70 percent of Singaporeans are not receptive to homosexual lifestyles.

Formula 17, directed by a 23-year-old, has been a sensation in Taiwan, its box-office earnings making it the most successful homegrown film this year, media reports said.

TNP: Homosexuality against biblical teachings (Jul 14)

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Homosexuality against biblical teachings

LOVE the sinner but not the sin - this seems to be the official stand of the Christian community on homosexuality.
14 July 2004

LOVE the sinner but not the sin - this seems to be the official stand of the Christian community on homosexuality.

The New Paper yesterday approached the mainstream National Council of Churches of Singapore to comment on the Free Community Church.

Its response was to fax across a statement issued last year which said that homosexual acts are clearly against the teachings of the Bible.

But the council - which represents Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians, among others - added that Christians shouldn't reject gay people or be homophobic and despise them.

Gays should be treated 'no less as persons of worth and dignity'.

The council, however, remained firmly against any action that might promote a gay lifestyle.

It urged the Government to continue to outlaw homosexual acts, and to retain the policy of not allowing the registration of gay societies and clubs, and the policy of not allowing the promotion of a homosexual lifestyle.

This statement was issued following some unhappiness in the community after Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong revealed last year that the Government no longer had qualms about recruiting gays into the civil service.

For Catholics, the Vatican website says the Bible condemns homosexual acts as a 'serious depravity'. But it adds gays 'must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity'.

Dr John Hui, Master of the Catholic Medical Guild, told The New Paper in an e-mail reply yesterday: '...while homosexual acts are intrinsically wrong and not to be condoned, those with homosexual tendencies must be treated with respect, love, compassion and sensitivity, like any other human being.'

He added that as far as he knew no-one has been expelled from the Catholic Church for being gay.

Reuters: Gay Culture in Singapore

Saturday, July 3, 2004

Sun Mar 7, 2004 12:07 AM ET
By Sophie Hares

In the dark studio at Singapore's spiky-roofed Esplanade theatre, 200 people packed tightly on to benches to watch a witty and poignant tale of gay life, love and loss being played out on a minimalist stage.

The content would barely raise an eyebrow in New York, London or Sydney, but the sell-out play featuring nudity and kissing signals the tentative start to a more liberalised era in strait-laced

With its soaring skyline and high-tech living, Singapore has claimed a place among the world's most modern cities, but government policy and social mores in the wealthy, multi-cultural island state are famously conservative.

There are signs, however, of low-key policy changes and budding tolerance for a thriving gay community in a country whose censorship laws are so strict that even brief glimpses of nudity are routinely cut from commercial movie releases.

"The scene has blossomed over the past five or six years, as the government has chosen to close one eye to the development of an entertainment industry catering to the gay crowd," said Alex Au from gay group People Like Us, which Singapore refuses to register as a society.

Podium dancers, pumping music and muscular boys stripping off their tops on packed dancefloors have long been a feature of busy gay clubs around Singapore's Chinatown.

But now gay-oriented karaoke lounges, saunas, cafes and bars are opening, and businesses are fast realising the so-called "pink dollar" is a lucrative market waiting to be tapped.

Airlines, car and credit card firms, and property developers promoting upmarket apartments have launched subtle marketing strategies to court gays and lesbians, who are often perceived as
high-earners with plenty of disposable income.

Among the bolder signs of change are a growing calendar of plays with themes of alternative lifestyles played out in mainstream venues such as the new Esplanade theatre, nicknamed the "durian" for its resemblance to the pungent, spiky fruit.

"The audiences do see in these plays the dilemma of what it means to be gay in straight Singapore," said Ivan Heng, director of "Landmarks: Asian Boys Vol.2", which opened at the theatre in early February.

"There seems to be much more freedom than there used to be, but as long as laws criminalise consensual acts between adults, it's still got some way to go."

Some now talk of Singapore usurping hedonistic Bangkok as Asia's gay capital after the wealthy island hosted a dance party known as "Nation" in August that drew nearly 5,000 people from around the world, an event unimaginable just a few years ago.

"Singapore's a very functionalist society. I don't think it has anything to do with issues of morality or anything like that," said Charmaine Tan, 27.

"In the end, the issue of economics will always override everything else."

Singapore quietly admitted last year that gay people could now be employed in the civil service without fear of discrimination -- another move almost unthinkable in the past.

But while there may be encouraging signs of change, the gay community in Singapore enjoys few of the freedoms of cities such as Sydney, with its huge Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade, or Amsterdam, where same-sex couples may marry and adopt children.

And there are no signs it will remove controversial section 377A from its Penal Code which says acts of "gross indecency" between two men are punishable by up to two years in jail.

There are no laws specifically targeted at lesbians.

"I think the government could do a lot more in terms of being courageous enough at least to invite debate on the issue," said one gay man who declined to be identified.

"Saying things like it's too sensitive, or we are an Asian society, are really euphemisms for intolerance."


Hiding their sexuality from friends and work colleagues for fear of recrimination is still par for the course for many gays and lesbians in Singapore.

"Because Singapore is primarily Chinese, there's the issue of filial piety, there's always the pressure to get married and perhaps it's even more so in an Asian country," said Tan.

Resistance by gay organisations to the government's policies is surprisingly passive as some fear outspoken protests could spark a crackdown on the small concessions already won.

"Singaporeans as a whole are not a very vocal, politically inclined bunch of people. Because they're not outspoken, there isn't the same kind of backlash," said Stuart Koe, head of, which runs Singapore's main gay and lesbian website.

"People aren't going to march on the streets. I don't think there's ever going to be a gay pride march here in Singapore."

Despite the slow pace of change, many remain optimistic the government will eventually be forced to make more concessions to the gay community to bring Singapore into line with other modern states.

Although how long that takes, will be anyone's guess.

"When we see 50 percent of people under 30 have a gay friendly attitude, we know that time is on our side. The biggest problem is that this government doesn't answer to the people," said Au of People Like Us. It’s a Crime to Be Gay but Singapore Wants Our Money

Sunday, May 16, 2004

By Peter Hacker, Asia Bureau Chief

Singapore—Homosexuality in Singapore is punishable by up to two years in prison, but, a government run bank says it is going after the pink buck.

The DBS Bank announced this week it is looking into issuing a special credit card targeting the gay market. The bank points to studies showing that gays are “affluent” and that they support brands that touch them personally.

“If the market is big enough, we will consider it,” said Edmund Koh, head of consumer banking at DBS.

The Singapore government’s investment arm, Temasek Holdings, owns 28.8% of DBS.

Singapore’s government has recently refused to let the country’s largest gay rights group register as a society. Last month the government ordered Singapore’s only gay rights organization to disband.

Nevertheless, several mainstream Singapore businesses have begun chasing gay market and are pitching their services and products to homosexual customers.

The island’s Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong said that despite the official line, his administration would hire openly gay people.

AP: Singapore denies association rights to gay support group, orders to cease activities

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Singapore denies association rights to gay support group, orders to cease activities

by Gillian Wong
Singapore - The Singapore government has denied freedom of association to a gay advocacy group and warned it to halt all activities, the group 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," co-founder 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, it did not specify the penalties. The Home Affairs Ministry was not immediately available for comment.

The group tried to register as a society in 1997 and was also refused, 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 said. The group will also appeal the decision to the home affairs minister, he said. People Like Us - which claims a membership of more than 1,000 - has been using the Internet to push for gay rights in the tightly controlled city-state. Singapore bans gay sex, defining it as "any act of gross indecency" - that is punishable by a maximum two years in jail - but there have been few prosecutions of homosexuals and Singaporeans are largely tolerant of gays.

ST: Finding love on the pink map--Gay Play 'Landmarks'

Monday, February 2, 2004

Finding love on the pink map--Gay Play 'Landmarks'

by Clarissa Oon
'Vampiric' is an unusual choice of word to describe the profession of a writer, but it suits Alfian Sa'at, who says he had been carrying around the skeleton of his latest play long before he actually wrote it. The heartfelt gay-themed stories in Landmarks, which opens on Wednesday, were drawn from 'a bit of me, a bit of my friends - men, women, gay, straight as well as asexual people'.

The 25-year-old National University of Singapore undergraduate adds with a grin: 'I do offer a consoling shoulder to friends who confide in me, but there are also the naughty moments when I do some note-taking at home later.' Landmarks' director Ivan Heng thinks far more people than just Alfian's mates will recognise themselves in the production, billed as a more poignant sequel to the playwright's burlesque hit from 2000, Asian Boys Vol 1.

Sure, the stories in the upcoming work will take audiences on a journey across Singapore's pink map, from the gay saunas of Ann Siang Hill to the cruising spots of Raffles City and Fort Road. But Heng, 40, thinks the play 'will reach out not only to the gay community but to anyone who has been in love, longed for it or got hurt by it'. The artistic director of Wild Rice theatre company had been a fan of Alfian's work since picking up his maiden poetry collection, One Fierce Hour (1998).

Heng approached the writer two years ago to create a new work together, and the outcome was Landmarks, which first appeared on the director's table in Feb last year. If Vol 1 attempted to rewrite Singapore history from a gay perspective in camp, tongue-in-cheek fashion, the sequel was inspired by geography, or what Alfian calls 'private and public spaces charged with encounters'.

Hopes, heartbreak and humiliation emerge from these eight stories, each lasting between eight to 18 minutes. They include the tantalising encounter of a 50-something uncle and a haughty young stud in a bathhouse, and the reflections of a man and woman whose lives are changed by the actual 1993 arrests of 12 gay men cruising off Fort Road.

Veteran actress Nora Samosir, who starred in Vol 1 as the fantasy goddess Agnes, joins the 17-member all-Singaporean cast of the sequel playing a mother trying to come to terms with her son's sexuality. Another highlight of the production is the use of stills of different locations in Singapore, taken by photographer Chris Yap. Despite ongoing gay-related controversies such as whether Section 377 of the Penal Code and its criminal prohibition of oral sex should be repealed, Alfian says Landmarks is driven by its characters, 'and if there are issues, they are inextricably a part of the character's lives'.

Topicality aside, Heng believes there is a universal quality to Alfian's writing. He says: 'It's very easy to say our plays must be 'global', but what exactly is that? 'As the playwright George Bernard Shaw said, 'The man who writes about himself and his own time, is the only man who writes about all people and all time'.' . Landmarks is on from Wednesday to Feb 15 at 8pm at the Esplanade's Theatre Studio. Tickets at $38 each available from Sistic (tel: 6348-5555).

ST: Gays' letter on oral sex fails to convince MPs, Legislators advise: Drop emotional approach

Monday, January 26, 2004

Gays' letter on oral sex fails to convince MPs, Legislators advise: Drop emotional approach

by Soh Wen Lin and Sue-Ann Chia
An emotionally charged appeal by a gay-rights group to decriminalise homosexual oral sex, made in an open letter to all MPs, has not swayed the legislators into changing their stance.

Several among the nine MPs contacted about last week's letter from the People Like Us activist group said society may not be ready for the group's agenda to be pushed, and that using tactics that played on emotions could dilute the issue. 'Such appeals from special interest groups are no surprise, but... these groups cannot push ahead of what wider society is able to support,' said Mr Sin Boon Ann (Tampines GRC).

Mr Arthur Fong (West Coast GRC) said that as the Government opens up, individuals and groups may try to raise particular issues. But he added: 'Those who use this avenue must respect the space of others as well.'

The group sent letters on Jan 21 to all MPs using Parliament as the mailing address. So most of those contacted yesterday had yet to read the mail. But copies were sent to the media and the letter was also posted on the group's website. In it, the group noted that changes being considered to the law banning oral sex between men and women appear likely to 'leave oral sex between two persons of the same sex as a criminal offence'.

In appealing for decriminalising oral sex between gays, the group took the approach of asking MPs to consider gays who might, it suggested, be family members. 'This does not apply to me or my family - we are all apt to say. We know our children are not gay - parents are apt to say. But the law of probability tells us some of you are going to be proven wrong,' said the letter.

'Supporting the continued criminalisation of homosexual sex between consenting adults is a violation of your love for your own children,' it concluded.

Dr Teo Ho Pin (Holland-Bukit Panjang GRC) said he would regard the letter as feedback which, if constructive, would be discussed. 'From there, the Government will have to take a position, in the interest of the whole community. As society progresses, new norms will develop. But we will still need to strike a balance and know where to draw the lines.'

But he did not think the reference to children of MPs, even if meant as an illustration, was 'the right way to do it'. 'Should we ask for 20 lifeguards for a swimming pool, because children drown and MPs also have children?' he asked. Said Mr Gan Kim Yong (Holland-Bukit Panjang GRC), who has two daughters, aged 12 and nine: 'Its main argument is there will be some homosexuals among us and our children, given statistical averages.

'However, I think the mere statistical presence of homosexuals among us does not make it the right thing to do and certainly does not imply fundamental shifts in societal norms.' Added Mr S. Iswaran (West Coast GRC): 'Using statistical probability, why stop at homosexuality? If there is a statistical probability that a certain percentage of people will be pick-pockets, that will include MPs' children and relatives as well. So then what?' Mr Gan also said the writers' personal approach showed they were 'trying to appeal to the paternal instinct of the reader rather than rational reasoning'. Mr Alex Au, one of the letter's three signatories, said they adopted the approach as a foil to what he described as the 'calculative, esoteric and clinical' arguments usually used in such debates.

'There are going to be gays in our circle. How do we face these loved ones, and justify ourselves?' he said. The MPs acknowledged that as social norms evolve, such appeals should be taken in stride. As Minister of State (Community Development and Sports) Chan Soo Sen put it: 'MPs are quite use to receiving such emotionally charged letters, it is part of democracy. As a policymaker, it is beneficial to listen to all views. It is our aim to cultivate an open political culture. But we cannot rule by consensus.'