Reuters: Singapore tells spouses of patient's HIV status (Dec 6)

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Singapore tells spouses of patients' HIV status

Posted Tue Dec 6, 2005 8:22pm AEDT

Singapore's Health Ministry has started informing spouses of HIV-positive patients directly about their partners' disease in order to curb the spread of AIDS.

Senior Minister of State for Health Balaji Sadasivan says letters have been hand-delivered to 41 women since July informing them that their husbands are HIV-positive.

"Previously, some wives were not aware of their spouse's HIV status and so they were at risk of the HIV infection," said text of the speech posted on the website.

"Since July this year, we have informed the wife when the infected husband had not informed her of his positive HIV status.

"Marriage and the women's own fidelity are not enough to protect them against HIV infection. Most have been infected despite staying faithful to their partners."

The letters advise spouses to get screened for HIV and give them information about counselling services available at the Communicable Disease Centre.

The ministry says two of the women who received the notifications have since tested positive for the virus.

In July the Singapore Government scrapped a law that required the patient's consent to inform their spouse.

The move to sanction breaching patient confidentiality is part of a raft of measures introduced to fight the spread of AIDS.

Although the wealthy South-East Asian city-state has one of Asia's lowest levels of HIV infection, it has said it is tightening defences due to an increase in cases.

Singapore has recorded a total of 2,584 HIV infections to date, of whom 954 have died, 631 have full-blown AIDS and 999 show no symptoms.

From January to October this year, 198 people were diagnosed with HIV, less than 10 per cent of them women.

In July, the ministry introduced HIV testing as part of the antenatal screening routine for pregnant women.

A pilot project to distribute HIV self-test kits at locations where homosexuals socialise will be soon be launched.

Controversial legislative measures, such as compulsory HIV testing for couples about to marry and criminalising the act of spreading the HIV virus with or without intent, have also been considered but have not been implemented.

- Reuters

SMH: Thailand wins as Singapore's brief gay fling grinds to a halt

Friday, November 4, 2005

Thailand wins as Singapore's brief gay fling grinds to a halt

by Connie Levett Correspondent in Bangkok
When South-East Asia's largest gay party, Nation '05, kicks off today in Phuket, Thailand, it will officially mark the end of Singapore's flirtation with the pink dollar.

For four years, Singapore dallied with a more liberal policy towards gay lifestyles, warmed by the money that flowed from it and emboldened by research that showed cities with an active gay community were more creative, productive societies. However, the rise of the new Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, has been accompanied by a waning of government support for the gay population.

" The Prime Minister, in his own words, has said the gay community should not oppress others in Singapore," said Nation '05's organiser, Stuart Koe, a Singaporean who runs South-East Asia's largest gay web portal, " The Government decided it didn't want gay parties in Singapore. They said it was contrary to the conservative mainstream and there would be a number of people who would find something like that very offensive."

The Prime Minister made the comments to Singapore's Foreign Correspondents Association on October 6. "We were surprised they would take such a strong stand," Mr Koe said. "The party had been held without incident and has been an economic success." In the years after 2001, the Nation party on Singapore's Sentosa island grew from a small gathering to a dance party attracting up to 8000 guests and generating $A8 million for the Singapore economy.

The first inkling of change came when organisers were refused a licence to host a smaller Christmas party last December.
" It seems to be coming right from the top," Mr Koe said. " There seems to be a media gag order on any gay issues in the newspapers. Letters are no longer getting into the press. Before, it had been a topic of discussion."

Mr Koe said there would be strong negative repercussions for Singapore. "One very tangible consequence was Warwick University in the UK [which] was recently granted a licence to set up a campus in Singapore but the faculty and students voted not to," Mr Koe said. "One of the reasons cited was Singapore's stance against the gay community. They felt there was no freedom of speech.
" The Prime Minister said it was not homophobia, but they had to be sensitive to people who find gay people offensive." Singapore's loss has been Thailand's gain. "Singapore has a ways to go in maturing as a society, where Thailand has a long history culturally [of accepting gay lifestyles]," he said.

Phuket will host the three-day party, from today to Sunday, at eight venues with DJs and artists from the US, Thailand, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong. " It will be smaller, cozier - 1000 to 1500 people - because there is no domestic Singapore crowd," Mr Koe said. "Everyone is a tourist, but we are sold out."

Reuters: Singapore bans gay Web site, fines another

Friday, October 28, 2005

Singapore has banned an overseas-hosted gay Web site after receiving complaints it was recruiting underage boys for sex and nude pornography, and promoting a promiscuous homosexual lifestyle.

The city-state's media watchdog, the Media Development Authority (MDA), said on Friday that it had also slapped a S$5,000 fine on a local gay Web site, titled "Meet Gay Singapore Friends", and warned the operators to remove offensive content.

" The MDA has always adopted a light-touch approach and encourages the industry to practice self-regulation. But in this instance, we received several public complaints and we have to act on the feedback," MDA spokeswoman Casey Chang told Reuters. The banned overseas site -- which saw its membership jump over five times to 330,000 this year from 60,000 a year ago -- contained pornographic pictures and videos, as well as substantial homosexual content focusing on Singapore.

It flashed explicit advertisements recruiting underage boys for sex, facilitated the trading and exchange of nude photos of underage boys, listed places to meet others for casual sex and provided information about organized mass orgies, the MDA said. The local site had nude pictures and videos of gay men having sex which have since been removed. The MDA said both sites had violated the Internet Code of Practice which prohibits Web sites from depicting "nudity or genitalia in a manner calculated to titillate", and host materials advocating homosexuality or pedophilia.

Details of the overseas Web site have been referred to the police for investigations, the MDA said. The legal age of consent for sex in Singapore is 16 and homosexuality is illegal in the wealthy Southeast Asian city-state known for its tough laws and strict social controls.

While the government has said that it does not discriminate against homosexuals, it has stated repeatedly that it would not tolerate an open gay culture, such as hosting gay parades or legalizing homosexual sex, saying that would offend conservative Singaporeans. The MDA currently has a list of 100 banned Web sites -- of which 98 contain pornographic content and two which are deemed to promote religious extremism.

PlanetOut: Singapore head rejects Gay Pride parades

Monday, October 10, 2005

Singapore head rejects Gay Pride parades
PlanetOut Network
published Monday, October 10, 2005

Gay Pride parades will not be allowed in Singapore because they conflict with the conservative values of most Singapore residents, the city-state's prime minister said last week.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made the statement on Thursday during a lunch meeting with foreign correspondents.

"I don't think we're homophobic," he said. "I agree … that homosexuals are people like you and me. But there's some segment of Singaporeans who vehemently disagree with that and we have to be aware of that."

"Gay Pride -- well, you can do that in Sydney, in London, in San Francisco," he added. "But I'm not sure if I want to do that in Singapore."

People Like Us, a gay interest group in Singapore, reacted by calling on the government to decriminalize consensual gay sex.

"The government should ask whether the opposition to gay equality is not a virulently vocal, religiously motivated campaign by a small number of people that is in no way representative, but merely seems so because they have the clout and resources to make themselves heard," the group said in a prepared statement.

Earlier this year the government ejected the Nation party, the biggest annual gay event in Asia. The party had been held in Singapore since 2001.

The Advocate: Singapore stops singing gay tune (Aug 30)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Singapore stops singing gay tune

Southeast Asia's rising gay scene was dealt a major blow when Singapore authorities rejected what was to be the fifth annual gay and lesbian party in the city-state. The three-day Nation party, organized by Asia's largest gay and lesbian network,, was originally scheduled to coincide with the country's National Day in August, but Singapore authorities turned down the license, saying the event is "contrary to public interest." The circuit-type event, which attracted over 8,000 revelers to Singapore last year, will now be held in Phuket, Thailand, November 4-6. "The Nation party is evolving with the circumstances, and we hope for it to be truly an event where gays and lesbians from all over the world can come together and celebrate their diversity and take pride in their community." says Stuart Koe, CEO of

My Journey to Affirming the Gay Community - Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao

Saturday, July 23, 2005

You have responded to the invitation of RedQuEEn! to this discussion on the specific topic of same-sex attraction. I have been challenged by the organisers (Su-Lin, Charmaine, Eileena) to give my private and personal perspective as a Christian. Given the fact that the majority of the Christian community is homophobic, I am heartened that there is an increasing number of Christians who are being enlightened and the day will soon dawn when the majority of Christians will be gay-affirming. This is a rising tide and it will flow on. Never before did I even dream that I will be called upon to speak in the Substation to an eager audience on this issue. God works in a mysterious way, with wonders to perform.

We want to be focused and respond to the objectives of this meeting. I have read through the questions that some of you have sent in. The process is for me first of all to share my views and then we will learn from one another through the more important session of Question & Answer. It is necessary for me to indicate to you where I come from or how I got this perspective which has yet to be accepted by the majority of the Christian community.

Like many people I am a creature of the history and culture into which I was born and nurtured. As individuals we respond in different ways and our attitudes and views vary. In my time and location the gay issue was not discussed openly. There was misinformation resulting in misunderstanding. Like most people I was silently homophobic then.

When I began my ministry in the mid-fifties, I was asked by a leading architect who must have been struggling with his sexual orientation about the views of the church. I had never studied the subject and just looked up the few isolated passages of the Bible and quickly concluded that the Bible is against homosexuality. In the minds of the Christian community until today it is not contestable for the literal words of the Bible tell me so. Homosexuality being a sin then becomes the only conclusion and is still believed by a majority of the Christian community.

Later, I met a gay person from a very rich family who wanted me to help his mother whom he had come out to, to understand the gay issue. He is a doctor trained in London. That was my first contact with a gay person and he later introduced me to his gay and lesbian friends here. He must have sensed that I could be sympathetic and took the risk. As a matter of fact I was very naïve about homosexuality. I even asked why he did not seek the best of psychiatric help to correct his condition. It was only later that I understood why he laughed at me and realised how ignorant I was about the subject. Soon I began my journey to affirming the gay community.

Sexual Orientation
I read that Sigmund Freud long ago attested that it is as difficult to change the orientation of a homosexual as it would be a heterosexual. He has been proven right. The condition comes, as does being heterosexual, by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and very early societal development. It is both nature and nurture. It is not a disease to be caught.

Freud was before his time on this issue. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of personality disorders as did two years later the American Psychological Association, indicating the naturalness of a homosexual orientation. In 1997, it passed a resolution declaring therapists in these groups who engaged in such conversion therapies to be following unethical and unhealthy practices.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counselling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers and National Education Association in the United States developed and endorsed the following statement in 1999:

"The most important fact about 'reparative therapy' and also sometimes known as 'conversion therapy,' is that it is based on an understanding of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions. [Our organizations], together representing more than 477,000 health and mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus there is no need for a 'cure’. and mental health professional organizations do not support efforts to change young people's sexual orientation through 'reparative therapy' and have raised serious concerns about its potential to do harm."

Dr Robert Spitzer, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University announced a study indicating that "reparative" therapy has a failure rate on the order of 99.98 per cent. Indeed, the largest "reparative" therapy organisation, a ministry called Exodus International initiated and supports Choices here in Singapore. It was started by two formerly homosexual men who several years later ended up leaving the ministry, denouncing it, and living as a homosexual couple themselves.

With such official statements from reputable organisations, how can I as a simple layman not agree with these respectable scholars, teachers, social workers and doctors.

Religious Attitudes
Continuing my journey of discovery I find that the church like an ostrich has its head in the sand. Gays and lesbians are compelled to stay hidden in their closets when there is so much homophobia within the church and in the community. I kept quiet too but I saw that the movement was beginning to form in the West and I had expected it would take a long time to surface here in Asia, and especially in Singapore with its sanitised and conservative climate. But I was wrong and had little faith.

With women and blacks engaged in their liberation struggle it was a matter of time when the gay liberation would surface. My sympathies have always been for people who are victimised, the poor, and the handicapped. This was enhanced when I became a member of the handicapped community due to the physical assault I received from the hands of a group of drunken Japanese military police in 1945. I was just an innocent victim.

Then I went to the United States for my college education and I had to work my way to earn money beginning as a garbage collector in college, dishwasher, gardener and houseboy in a dormitory. Added on is the fact that I was with a handful of foreigners in a community of real heartlanders in the middle of the United States in the State of Kansas. It was the beginning of the Civil Rights struggle and I made friends with the African- Amercians and sensed in a personal way what racial discrimination is all about. The professors in my college and seminary had a strong social passion and supported the civil rights struggle.

For me it was a natural transition to the gay issue when it emerged here. It was just a concern for another marginalised and oppressed group of people. It was this sense of justice and fair-play which I was able to develop in my own intellectual and religious development that propelled me in my journey. My understanding of God is that God is the creator and we are loved by God. God created each one of us and we are formed by God. God affirms my identity including my sexual identity.

In trying to understand the question of same-sex attraction I can only naturally look at my own life and examine my sexual life. Did I at any time choose between heterosexuality and homosexuality? No, it just came naturally and it was not a matter of choice. Of course, I don’t experience how gays and lesbians become aware of same-sex attractions. I can only surmise that it came naturally to you too. I did not choose heterosexuality and you did not choose homosexuality.

The more I meet with gays and lesbians and the more I study the issue of homosexuality, the more I can affirm with conviction that homosexuality is not a sin. It is not a choice. I am convinced that the more heterosexuals meet gay people, the more they will realise that homosexuals are just as normal or abnormal as they are. The only difference is in their attraction – same-sex or opposite-sex.

Religions & Homosexuality
In my study I find that none of the major Chinese religions condemn homosexuality as a sin. The ancient Chinese believe man has the duty to produce children and maintain the family line. Sex outside of marriage and even with male lovers is viewed as a private matter. The purpose of sex is the procreation of children. It is also believed that sex strengthens male vitality by absorption of the female Yin essence which is the vaginal fluid. Same-sex acts do not diminish male vitality. This understanding prevails in Japan also.

Buddhism is traditionally neutral in its attitude towards homosexuality. It is not mentioned in any of Buddha’s discourses. Buddhist countries have few social and legal prohibitions against homosexuality. Thailand is relatively free from homophobia. Buddhism does not see homosexuality as wrong and heterosexuality as right. Both are sexual activity using the body and are strong expressions of lust which increase wrong desires. Buddhism does not condemn homosexuality as wrong and sinful. It does not condone it either, simply because it, like other forms of sex, delays the deliverance from samsara or re-incarnation.

Hinduism's stance of homosexuality is unclear for there is conflict in Hindu scriptures over this issue. None of the sacred Hindu text, such as the Vedas, contain condemnation of homosexuality. However, the Vedas does mention human beings as being classified into three different categories: male, female and a third sex. “Third sex” is the group most homosexuals identify themselves with. It is likely that homosexuality is not viewed as correct but tolerated. The Indian Kama Sutra written in the third century contains passages describing oral sex performed by men on men with tips to maximise pleasure. Prior to British colonisation of India, oral sex was not the only homosexual activity, many engaged in a form of pederasty which was openly practiced by Muslims and Sikhs in the north while being overlooked in the south by Hindus.

Ancient Greece and Rome accepted sexuality as a natural part of life, but it was more refined in Greek culture. Marriage was monogamous but sex was not confined within the marriage bond. Homosexuality was accepted because human nature is bisexual. Sexual polygamy existed within marital monogamy. The male-dominated society also had double standards. Brides were expected to be virgins but not bridegrooms. Wives did not have a public life and were confined to household duties. Men, on the other hand engaged in sex freely with slaves and prostitutes. Adultery was not proscribed except with another man’s wife who was regarded as a piece of property. Fidelity was required of wives. Along these lines, the philosophers discussed adult male relationships with boys and male youths known as pederasty. At best, adult males saw pederasty as being primarily a mentoring relationship.

When the Bible condemns the “homosexuality” of the Greco-Roman society, it was condemning all forms of ancient pederasty, not modern homosexuality. We would be violating the historical context of these texts if we failed to account with the truth that homosexuality in our historical context is different from that which occurred in the Greco-Roman world. Homosexuality today may be a sin in the eyes of some, but you cannot prove it by referring to biblical texts that are condemning pederasty and not homosexuality.

Terminology of Homosexuality
Homosexuality in terms of personal orientation as a life-long pattern was first used by Swiss doctor K M Benkert in 1869. Homosexuality refers to a sexual orientation characterised by aesthetic attraction, romantic love and sexual desire exclusively or almost exclusively for members of the same sex.

According to the most recent edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (tenth edition), "homosexual" as an adjective was first used in 1892 and as a noun in 1902, and "homophobia" was first used in 1969 and "homophobe" first used in 1975. The translation of any Bible word as “homosexual” is a mistake.

Homosexuality & Abrahamic Religions
Religion has played a significant role in forming a culture’s views towards homosexuality. There is cultural construction of the view of homosexuality. It is claimed to be religiously revealed in their sacred writings. Historically the negative perceptions have been limited to the Abrahamic religions. Other religious groups have commonly regarded homosexuality as sacred or neutral. In the wake of colonialism and Imperialism undertaken by countries of the Abrahamic faiths, some non-Abrahamic religious groups have adopted new attitudes which condemn homosexuality.

The world's three major Abrahamic religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism have historically been the primary sources condemning homosexuality in the world.

Orthodox Jews believe that homosexual intercourse by men and women was sinful, since it is forbidden by the Torah. An interpretation of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 shows that homosexual intercourse between men is considered on the same level as idolatry; requiring death, and for women it is based on Leviticus 18:2-3, where the Israelites are commanded not to follow the ways of the Egyptians or Canaanites. Today some major denominations within these religions have accepted homosexuality, arguing that the Jewish law was originally intended to distinguish between Judaism and pagan faiths, and is thus no longer relevant.

Conservative Jews recognise equality of congregation members regardless of sexual orientation, favour decriminalisation of homosexual acts, prohibit discrimination against homosexuals, and supports equal rights for gays and lesbians.

Reform Judaism argues that homosexuality is a natural attraction, and that the prohibition in the Torah was addressing pagan religious rituals, specifically Egyptian and Canaanite fertility cults and temple prostitution. They accept gay and lesbian rabbis and support civil same-sex marriages.

In Islam, homosexuality is considered as sinful. Muslims believe that people are not homosexual by nature and they become homosexual because of their environment. There are five passages in the Koran which relate to gay and lesbian behaviour.

Biblical Interpretation
Those of you who are Christian claim that the churches teaching same-sex attraction is based on the Bible. So they lift up and quote certain chapters and verses from the Bible associated with this issue and regard them as divine truth revealed by God. The Bible is a difficult book written by inspired men and women of faith believing that it was revealed to them. At one time they even claim that it was dictated by God and they just recorded it. Soon it was realised that it was not dictation but interpretation of what they believed to be God’s revelation.

The early religious community had to determine whose writing should be included in the Bible and the Church in Council finally came in to sort out these religious documents and officially gave its approval to form what we now have as the Holy Bible.

The Church leaders continued to give their interpretation of what was interpreted in the first place by the writers of the different books of the Bible. Then as good Protestants we could not accept that and called for individual interpretations of the Bible. The Bible which was denied by the Roman Catholic Church was then made available to individual Christians for their reading, study and interpretation.

The interpretations of the Bible from the outset reflected also the historical and cultural situations which prevailed then and continue to do so in the work of those who study the Bible today. Our first task is to try to understand what is meant when it was written and how it relates to us in our contemporary setting.

When I first studied for the Christian ministry I was assigned a book to read which was influential in my understanding about the Bible and Biblical interpretation. The title of the book is The Bible Speaks to our Generation. I must add the Bible continues to speak to each succeeding generation and we need to re-examine our interpretation in every generation.

In Biblical times and in Jewish history we find that it was a patriarchal society in which men ruled. Men are the head of the household. Women are seen to be subordinate and therefore submissive to men. In fact, the wife of the man is his property and it was the religious duty of the women to be producing babies, taking care of the family, and satisfying the sexual needs of men. You will find a number of Biblical passages describing this role of women. Can you subscribe to this restrictive feminine role today?

This famous quotation from Greek writer Demosthenes makes it clear: "This is what it means to be married: to have sons one can introduce to the family and the neighbours, and to have daughters of one's own to give to husbands. For we have courtesans for pleasure, concubines to attend to our daily bodily needs, and wives to bear children legitimately and to be faithful wards of our homes."

Furthermore, the passages of same-sex acts must be seen in the light of the Jewish opposition to pagan religions. The Greek and Roman culture influenced those who wrote the New Testament and coloured their reactions to pagan temple prostitution and sexual acts.

Let us look at 1 Corinthians 6:9. The two Greek words malakoi and arsenokoitai have been translated differently at different times in different versions of the Bible in English. The King James Version in 1611 regarded them to mean those who are effeminate and abusers of themselves with mankind, which was close to the Greek meaning.

The original Revised Standard Version (the New Testament first appeared in 1946) was the first translation ever to use the word "homosexual.” It translated the two words to mean homosexuals or sexual perverts. Then in 1978 the New International Version translated them as male prostitutes and homosexual offenders. It was the New Revised Version in 1989 which renders them as male prostitutes and sodomites. It must be noted that the word homosexual was not used in the earlier period. It was in 1180 that the word sodomy was first used. There is no such word as "sodomite" in the original languages (Ezekiel 16:49-50 describes the sin of Sodom as pride, gluttony, not caring for the poor and needy).

Roman culture which expected people to engage in sex with both men and women. The majority of people, then as now, had a heterosexual orientation. Thus, to participate in same-sex behaviour, and to meet society's expectations, they would have had to disregard their sexual orientation. They would have gone beyond their own nature. "The resulting activity was "unseemly" and an "error" only because the men were heterosexual by orientation. Again, it was their attempt to violate their own nature, that is, their attempt to alter the orientation God created them with, that Paul was addressing... The bottom line is, God created each of us with a sexual orientation. To attempt to change it is, in effect, telling God that He created us wrong. The creation (us) does not have the right to "re-create" itself."

The situation to the ancient Romans is similar to the situation that homosexuals find themselves in today: society expects them to be heterosexual, and to engage in sexual activity with persons of the opposite gender -- even to marry. And so, many gays and lesbians go against their nature and try to pretend to be heterosexual.

The NGPA also notes that Paul referred to this as an "error”: a mistake, not a sin.

Seow Choon Leong of Princeton Theological Seminary: "I used to believe that divorce is wrong under any circumstance, simply because that is what the scriptures teach. I could -- and still can -- quote chapter and verse from the Bible (Matthew 5:31), particularly the words of Jesus. I have since learned from friends and loved ones what horrible traps bad marriages can be. People suffer enormously; some people even kill themselves because of bad marriages that they cannot otherwise escape. Some people suffer physical abuse in such marriages. Some are even killed. Unlike the friends of Job, I am not willing to uphold dogma at all costs, certainly not when I know that people are suffering and dying. I have gone back to reread the scriptures and I have heard the gospel anew.

“I also used to believe that homosexual acts are always wrong. Listening to gay and lesbian students and friends, however, I have had to rethink my position and reread the scriptures. Seeing how gay and lesbian people suffer discrimination, face the rejection of family and friends, risk losing their jobs, and live in fear of being humiliated and bashed, I cannot see how anyone would prefer to live that way. I do not understand it all, but I am persuaded that it is not a matter of choice. Seeing how some gay and lesbian couples relate to one another in loving partnerships, observing how much joy they find in one another, and seeing that some of them are better parents than most of us will ever be, I have reconsidered my views. I was wrong.

“From the testimony of homosexual persons and from various reports, I have learned that there is an extraordinarily high rate of suicide among homosexual persons. People are dying every day because of society's attitudes -- indeed, because of the church's stance. Many people hate themselves because of what society and the church say about them. I know of many homosexual persons in the ministry who have been very effective for the cause of Jesus Christ, but they suffer tremendous guilt because they have to keep their secret from the church they love dearly.... They are hurt by the church. I cannot believe that we are called to perpetuate such pain and suffering in the world.... For me there is nothing less than the gospel at stake."

Concluding Remarks
All the religious, historical, social and cultural factors must be taken into account into reading and interpreting specifically the few Biblical texts regarded to be related to the issue of same-sex attraction. Just to quote the words of the Bible without looking at the context and the traditions related to them is just not enough and irresponsible.

Then we have to examine our contemporary understanding of ourselves and our community. We are sexual beings with our urges, drives, desires and attractions.

As a heterosexual, I just accept my condition and I don’t question it. I was made that way in being attracted to the opposite sex. Since the majority of God’s people are heterosexual this powerful majority became regarded as normal. They view those who are different from them as abnormal or deviant. Those whom God has endowed with same-sex attractions are forced to question themselves. Is this normal? Is this acceptable to God? You know that you cannot change your sexual orientation and we as heterosexuals know too well that we have no desire to become homosexual. We have to relate to our different sexualities as given by God and we cannot fully comprehend the purposes of God in ordering different sexual conditions.

Especially within the Jewish/ Christian/ Muslim religious and cultural traditions we have changing attitudes towards sex. It is made more difficult when we view the spirit or soul as spiritual, and matter and body as material, and we place a higher value on things of the spirit and tend to despise the material body. We tend to believe that God is only spiritual, dwelling in the heavenly realm and totally unrelated to the material and earthly plane. Consequently we regard sex as evil and celebrate the virtue of celibacy and the denial of all things sexual. Who dares to say anything about Jesus’ being? He comes through as divine and therefore assumed to be sexless. Such is not the case of our friend Paul the Apostle who recognised the flaming power of sex though he did not give room to express it himself.

The Early Church Fathers viewed sexuality as a result of the Fall of Adam. The highest virtue for the Christian is that of martyrdom followed by virginity and celibacy. The lowest rung is the state of marriage. Sex is seen as a danger to Christian piety. Sexual abstinence in marriage is better than that of procreating children. The least good is that of enjoying sex. St. Augustine was troubled about sexual lusts and linked all sexual union with original sin. Later St Aquinas judged sexual acts in this manner: “They must be done for the right purpose (procreation), with the right person (one’s lawfully wedded spouse), and in the right way (heterosexual genital intercourse).”

Now there is general recognition that sex is not only for procreation. In Biblical times we have injunctions about semen, masturbation and attitudes about menstruation relating to procreation. This was modified by the Catholic Church with regard to family planning and population control. The Protestant churches generally have no problems with the use of condoms to prevent conception and with the issue of abortion.

Today there is also increasing acceptance of sex as described by James Nelson: God’s primary purpose in creating us as sexual beings is not that of procreation, but rather to give us the desire and capacity to love and to bond with others in intimacy. Thus, theology has given new attention to the insight that sexuality is crucial to God’s design that creatures do not dwell in isolation and loneliness but in communion and community.

God’s fundamental purpose in creating us as sexual beings was not that we might make babies, but that we might make love. I believe as sexual beings we are concerned with love, intimacy, mutuality, sexuality. Sexual intercourse is exploitative when it is not mutually satisfying or an expression of intimacy and love for one another.

John Boswell in his historical studies revealed that the Early Church did not generally oppose homosexual behaviour as such. The opposition that arose during the third to sixth centuries was due to the demise of urban culture, government regulation on personal morality and church pressures toward asceticism. Hostility appeared only in the late twelfth century.

Marriage was not celebrated by Christian wedding services in church worship until perhaps the ninth century. It was considered as a civil order and not a religious rite or church ceremony before that.

Today, I regard mutuality, intimacy, life-long committed relationships, and sexual pleasure as important values for marital relationships for heterosexuals as well as homosexuals.

What I have done in this presentation is to share with you the background of my perspective on same-sex attraction. We may not have the time to go into greater detail the different interpretations of the particular passages of the Bible which you have so much trouble with. I have outlined the way in which we should approach them. Maybe RedQuEEn! can structure some study sessions to further clarify them and help you to come to the realisation that same-sex attraction is not a sin but an orientation, holy and acceptable in the sight of God.

AP: Gay Singaporeans gather to pray in Christian church in country that outlaws homosexuality

Friday, July 15, 2005

by Wee Sui Lee
In a country where homosexual sex is punishable by prison time and the government bans gay-themed parties, the Free Community Church stands out. It is the only place of Christian worship willing to accept gays and lesbians in Singapore. " Each time, God seemed to use the people that didn't fit in to bring salvation," church leader Clarence Singam, who is gay, said at a recent Sunday service. " I wonder how many of you don't fit in, you don't feel comfortable in your skin?" he asked the 100-odd members of the congregation, using John the Baptist as an example of the "odd one out."

The Southeast Asian city-state of 4.2 million considers gay sex as "an act of gross indecency," punishable by a maximum of two years in jail. The country also has banned Asia's largest gay-themed party, Nation '05, from its shores. High-ranking government officials said such same-sex parties may be the reason for rising HIV infections in Singapore.

At the Free Community Church, however, the attitude toward sexuality is much different. " At this church, there are no prejudices, no preconceived notions," said Gary Chan, who left his old church when its leaders discovered he was gay and asked him to quit the church band. " Here, we look at people like they're clean sheets of paper," he said.

The status of the church says something about the place of gays and lesbians in Singapore. Though in practice homosexuality is often tolerated, gay sex is illegal here, and gay groups are unable to register as legitimate organizations. The church, however, has managed to circumvent regulations by registering itself as a company, meaning the worship sessions are considered private gatherings. The group has moved several times, meeting in a pub, a theater and now at a low-rise commercial building.

Leaders say they still get hate mail. " They say that this church exists that is going out, reaching out, trying to make people gay," said Susan Tang, a married housewife with three children and the only heterosexual on the church council.

Former Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said in a 2003 interview with Time magazine that the straight-laced city-state was now more tolerant of homosexuals and the administration was "not going to chase you all over the place." But Goh, now senior minister, also warned homosexuals in the same interview not to "flaunt your gay rights."

The Free Community Church is not recognized by the influential National Council of Churches in Singapore, which represents Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians, among others. NCSS vice president Robert Solomon said in a statement that "the practice of homosexuality is clearly incompatible with the teachings of the Christian faith." In terms of membership, the church is a mishmash of people from various Christian denominations and its services have elements from several worship styles ---- there's a communion service, and also a Christian rock band, for instance. The congregation has no pastor, so different people preach every week.
" We cover the whole spectrum," Tang said.

At once recent service, most people in the church were ethnic Chinese, who constitute around 80 percent of the country's population. Most of Singapore's people are Buddhist, followed by Christians. The nation's other main religion, Islam, is also against homosexuality. Tang acknowledged the church has members who defy Singapore's conservative culture with a party-loving and promiscuous style, but added the church has counseling sessions to advise them to "behave responsibly."

The church's chairwoman, Jean Chong, said the church offers a place for gays and lesbians to finally find acceptance. "It took me a long time to figure out that it's OK to be gay and Christian in Singapore," she said.

AU.GAY.COM: Nation Party moved to November 4-6 in Phuket, Thailand--Asia's largest gay party announces new venue and dates

Friday, June 10, 2005

Asia's largest gay and lesbian network,, will hold its signature Nation party -- dubbed a "festival of international proportions" by Time Asia -- in Phuket, Thailand from November 4th through 6th, 2005.

Singapore authorities in April rejected an application to hold Nation, Asia's most acclaimed gay and lesbian party, which had been held annually since 2001 in the city-state to celebrate the country's National Day in August. In a faxed reply, the Singapore police turned down the license citing the event to be "contrary to public interest."

Fridae regrets the Licensing Division's rejection of Nation's license. "We are disappointed that the authorities have deemed a National Day celebration by Singapore's gay citizens as being 'contrary to public interest' when it had previously been approved for four years without incident," said Dr Stuart Koe, Chief Executive Officer. "This is a direct contradiction to previous calls for embracing of diversity."

Despite the Singapore government's attempt to curtail the public space enjoyed by gay Singaporeans and residents, organizers hope for the international gay and lesbian community to come together in creating a new "Nation" -- free from discrimination and welcoming of all.

"The Nation party is evolving with the circumstances," said Dr Koe, "and we hope for it to be truly an event where gays and lesbians from all over the world can come together and celebrate their diversity and take pride in their community." For the first time, the three day event will see gay party organizers from four Asian cities (Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Taipei and Tokyo) involved in co-hosting eight parties to be held back to back over the weekend.

The last Nation party held in Singapore in August 2004 attracted an attendance of over 8,000 party revelers, of which 40 percent were international visitors
. Tourist revenue generated over the three-day event was estimated to be close to US$6 million, based on unreleased data collected by an independent market research company at Nation in 2003.

Since 2001, the Nation parties had grown tremendously and garnered international media attention with extensive coverage by news agencies and leading publications including The Wall Street Journal, Far Eastern Economic Review, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Advocate, Time magazine and BBC radio.

Nation V is sponsored by Fortune 100 global communications leader Motorola for the second consecutive year and Subaru for the third. The carmaker is a well-known pioneer corporate sponsor of gay and lesbian athletic and community events in the United States and is represented by Motor Image in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and the Philippines.
" We are very disappointed that the government is sending a very strong signal that a big minority of its population is not welcomed. That is very homophobic," Koe told Reuters.

Singapore's gay community has only recently enjoyed greater freedom after former premier Goh Chok Tong announced in 2003 that homosexuals could hold key positions in the civil service without fear of discrimination. But the gay community has come under fire in recent months after a junior health minister in Singapore said a gay and lesbian festival in August last year may have led to a surge in the number of local AIDS cases, a remark that outraged gay activists.

Although Singapore has one of Asia's lowest levels of HIV infection, the number of new infections hit a record high of 311 cases in 2004, up 28 percent from 2003. A third of the newly diagnosed cases were gay men, the health ministry has said. Gay activists say the remaining two-thirds appeared to be heterosexual men who caught the illness from prostitutes in nearby Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia's Batam island, which is just an hour's boat ride from Singapore.

In March, the government rejected an application for an AIDS concert
, citing concern over its gay performers. In December 2004, police threw out plans by gay activists to hold a Christmas dance party, saying the event went against the "moral values" of a large majority of Singaporeans.

Southern Cross University: Homosexual rights book earns national prize

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Southern Cross University senior lecturer and Director of the Centre for Law, Politics and Culture Dr Baden Offord has been awarded the annual George Duncan Memorial Award for his book Homosexual Rights as Human Rights.

The book (published in 2003), on homosexual rights as human rights in Indonesia, Singapore and Australia, was described as "groundbreaking" and "an important contribution to the struggle for equal rights worldwide" by the George Duncan Memorial committee.

The national George Duncan Memorial Award commemorates the murder, with no subsequent conviction for the crime, of law lecturer Dr George Duncan near the University of Adelaide in 1972. South Australia later became the first state to decriminalise homosexual acts in 1975.

Dr Offord said receiving the award was an honour. He said he was 14 when Dr Duncan was murdered and remembered the news at that time. " Australia has come some was way in the past 30 years, but it would be incorrect to think that enough has been accomplished to end overt and covert discrimination in our society and families," he said.

" Sexuality, that dimension of being human which makes us most vulnerable, is still caught up in social and cultural apartheids."
In the foreword to Homosexual Rights as Human Rights, the Hon. Justice Michael Kirby compared the work to the pioneering studies of Alfred Kinsey and said Dr Offord pushed the boundaries of understanding, knowledge and acceptance.

The award, in its second year, is presented for an outstanding piece of work contributing to legal reform and the betterment of the Australian lesbian, gay, queer, bisexual, transgender or intersex community.

Curve: Our Films, Our Selves

Friday, April 1, 2005

Written by: Diane Anderson-Minshall

Almost 3 million people watched Sambal Belacan, Madeleine Lim’s award-winning documentary about three Asian women making a home in the United States. The attention was nothing new for Singaporean-born, San Francisco-based director who runs the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project. The wildly successful QWOCMAP trains women of color to make films and then helps get those films in front of viewers. Lim talks to CURVE about her work and fostering the careers of other queer women.

What has surprised you most about your QWOCMAP experience?

I’m definitely surprised by how successful QWOCMAP is. We have expanded exponentially from year to year. The demand for the training program has been incredible, to the point where we maintain a waitlist for interested participants. By the end of this year, a total of 35 short films will have been completed through the training program. That’s 35 films made by and about queer women of color, going out to film festivals all over the world. Our screenings are packed. Which is why we’re expanding our exhibition program to weekend-long screenings. The training program was awarded the 2003 Best Video Program by the San Francisco Community Media Festival. Last week, I was awarded — as artistic director of QWOCMAP — a certificate of honor by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, in public recognition of distinction and merit for outstanding service to the people of San Francisco. The level of excitement generated by community and funders alike has been phenomenal.

Besides Sambal Belacan and Shades of Grey, you did a film on homelessness, right? What other films have you done?

The video on homeless youth was called Youth Organizing: Power Through Art. In 2002, I made a documentary that traces the history and development of San Francisco’s Chinatown called A Vision of Smart Growth. I made an experimental short, which world-premiered at the San Francisco lesbian and gay film festival this year called Dragon Desire. I’m currently editing a documentary on the experiences of Afghan youth living in California. I’m also seeking funds for several documentaries. One project is about the experiences of newly arrived immigrant Chinese mothers and their daughters. Another project documents the lesbian of color movement in Europe, starting with a French group called the Sixth November Group. I also have a narrative script in development about the experiences of lesbians of color living in 1850 gold rush era California.

Can you tell me a bit more about QWOCMAP?

The objective of Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project is to build a vibrant and diverse community of queer women of color filmmakers in the San Francisco Bay Area. The lives and experiences of queer women of color — lesbians and bi-sexual women who are Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, Latina, Chicana, Native American, African American — are seldom heard or seen in mainstream cinema. Who will tell our stories if we don’t? So what QWOCMAP does is put filmmaking tools into the hands of queer women of color so that we can tell our own stories, and address the social and political issues pertinent to our diverse communities. The more films there are, the more images that reflect our real lives, the better.

How do you do that?

QWOCMAP promotes the creation and exhibition of films and videos by queer women of color through our two programs: the training program and the exhibition program. The training program is a free 16-week long digital-film production workshop that is offered to queer women of color. I believe in demystifying technology for my students. Because of economic issues, and survival issues, queer women of color don’t think to go into film or media, or we don’t have access to that technology. Participants learn major aspects of screenwriting, directing and video production, from conception of project idea to movie distribution — lots of hands-on exercises. The workshop culminates with individual projects that are written, directed and edited by the participants. Topics covered include development of idea, writing a script, storyboards, creating a shotlist, cinematography, continuity, lighting, sound, directing actors, managing crew, editing, film festivals and distribution.

Called the Queer Woman of Color Film Night, our exhibition program showcases the completed video projects annually during the San Francisco Queer Arts Festival every June. The screening is free and always packed, with standing room only, typically over 300 people. The atmosphere and sense of community is really incredible — watching new filmmakers experiencing public acknowledgment and love for their creative work from an extremely supportive audience! For 2005, we hope expand our one evening of film screening into the first [annual] Queer Women of Color Film Festival, a weekend-long affair. Fingers crossed on getting funding for it.

You have a very multicultural background — how does that work to your advantage in filmmaking?

Ethnically, I’m mostly Chinese, with some Malay, Indian, and Portuguese mixed in. I was born and raised in Singapore, with a stepfather who is German. My own journey in self-acceptance definitely informs my filmmaking. I definitely do not shy away from exploring the complexities in our society, and subsequently to convey those same complexities through film by interweaving different elements that can best tell that story and the issues involved. My films tend to be mixed-genre and pushes at traditional filmic boundaries. I find the traditional narrative form or the traditional documentary form somewhat limiting in terms of fully expressing my experiences. I weave scripted scenes, found footage, poetry and dance into a documentary, so that the final mixed-genre form is more able to fully express my vision.

What was it like coming out in Singapore?

Hard and challenging. I attended an all-girls convent school. I had my first girlfriend when I was 15 and I almost got expelled from school at 16, in 1980, for being a lesbian. I was constantly pulled out of my class and interrogated by the teachers and the principal about how unnatural lesbianism was, how I should use make-up, how I should date boys.

My girlfriend and I were literally forced to break up. There were no women’s support groups, no LGBT support groups, no books, no information, nothing. I literally had to re-invent the wheel for myself. I finally came out to my mum at 19. At 21, I ran an underground lesbian feminist newsletter for two years and tried to organize a lesbian community. That effort really came from trying not to feel isolated and alienated as a lesbian. After the Singapore government arrested dissenting citizens, I left for the U.S.

Do you have to struggle to get your lesbian identity validated in Singapore? How about your Asian identity among American lesbians?

Being a lesbian in Singapore today is very different than it was in
1980. Young lesbians, especially the butches, are very visible everywhere. There are organized sports for lesbians, lesbian nightclubs and email listservs for lesbians. Information is available literally at the tip of your fingers through the Internet. The last time I was in Singapore in 1999, I didn’t have to struggle to get my lesbian identity validated.

I’m extremely fortunate to live in San Francisco where a third of the population is Asian or Asian American. The community that is closest to my heart is of course the Asian Pacific Islander queer women’s community. There are tons of API queer women’s ethnic organizations here: Japanese, Mandarin speakers, Vietnamese, Singaporean and Malaysian, Filipino, South Asian, Middle Eastern — the list goes on. Asian American lesbians have been extremely supportive! So I feel totally at home here in San Francisco. The issue for me is less about being an Asian than it is about being an immigrant in the U.S. and feeling like I belong and included here.

What are your hopes for lesbian filmmaking in the future overall?

Film and video is such a powerful medium — visually and emotionally. It is the means by which we see reflections of ourselves. It is the means through which we understand our quests for self, community, the tangible and intangible world around us.

Films are all about fantasies. Fantasy of the perfect romance.
Fantasy of the ideal parents. Fantasy of the best childhood. The question is, “Whose fantasies get to go up on the big screen?” I personally have never been able to identify with any of the characters in most films. My hope is to see the lives of queer women of color reflected on the silver screen. I want to see films that tell the stories of lesbians of color from center stage, instead of having our experiences relegated to the sidelines, or worse yet, completely non-existent. I would love to see a sexy, sizzling, romantic comedy between two lesbian of color characters! Soon!

AFP: Singapore minister upholds ban on gay Christian concert

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Singapore - Singapore's information and communications minister has upheld a ban on a planned weekend concert organised by a local gay Christian support group, the media industry regulator said Wednesday.The Media Development Authority (MDA) said Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lee Boon Yang supported its earlier decision to deny a permit for the Affect05 concert scheduled for Sunday, to protect public interest. " The minister has carefully considered the appeal for the licence application for Affect05 and has decided to uphold the MDA's position that such performances that promote alternative lifestyles are against the public interest," MDA said in an e-mail to AFP.

Susan Tang, spokeswoman for the concert organiser Safehaven, said the group was disappointed with the rejection of their appeal. The MDA said last week it turned down Safehaven's application for a permit after reviewing past performances of the main performers, a Los Angeles-based Christian gay couple named Jason and deMarco.

" Based on the duo's website and reports of their performances in the United States, it is assessed that their performance will promote a gay lifestyle which would be against the public interest," the MDA said at that time. Safehaven, which lodged the appeal, has said the aim of the concert was to raise funds for HIV/AIDS sufferers in Singapore and promote awareness of the illness.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is an incurable condition which is passed on by having unprotected sex, among other causes. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. Singapore's gay and lesbian community has protested comments earlier this month by a senior health ministry official who said a sharp rise in new HIV infections could have been caused by an annual gay and lesbian party held in the city-state.
The annual Nation Party on Sentosa island is a key date in Asia's gay festival calendar.

A record 311 people in Singapore contracted HIV last year
, 28 percent more than in 2003, Senior Minister of State for Health, Balaji Sadasivan said. He said 90 percent of the people who contracted the virus last year were men, a third of them gay. There are now more than 2,000 HIV-infected or confirmed AIDS patients in Singapore, which has a population of about 4.2 million people including resident foreigners. Singapore Nixes AIDS Concert Over US Gay Singers

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Singapore - The government of Singapore is refusing to allow a local AIDS group to hold a fundraising concert because it would have featured gay pop singers Jason and deMarco.

Safehaven, an AIDS support group, had planned to hold the concert on April 3. " Based on the duo's website and reports of their performances in the United States, it is assessed that their performance will promote a gay lifestyle which would be against the public interest," the Singapore government said in a statement.

Singapore has one of the lowest HIV/AIDS rates in Asia, but over the past year the number of new cases rose by 28 percent. A third of the cases were in gay men. The government's ban on the concert followed remarks earlier this month by a Singapore official who claimed that a gay pride event last August was responsible for the increase in HIV.

The rejection of Safehaven's application for an event permit has angered AIDS and LGBT rights groups
who say the concert was a means of drawing attention to the spread of AIDS within the gay community. Jason and deMarco are a monogamous couple for the past 5 years and regularly perform throughout the US and Canada. Jason toued for several years with the Christian Contemporary recording group TRUTH. DeMarco, who grew up in Canada, performed in concerts, festivals, and clubs in Los Angeles and across the country.

When the two met, found they had common music interests and then fell in love, they began performing together.
Last December Singapore police scuttled plans for an all-night Christmas dance party because they said it would attract a large number of gays.

Singapore, an ultramodern city-state of four million people, still bans gay sex, defining it as ``an act of gross indecency'' punishable by a maximum of two years in jail. There have been few prosecutions, however, the city state's large Moslem community has been pressuring the government to crack down on gays. Earlier this week an Anglican bishop in Uganda refused a gift of more than $350,000 to fight AIDS because the Episcopal diocese in the US which offered it supported the election of a gay bishop in New Hampshire. (story)

Reuters: Singapore government AIDS comment outrages gay activists

Friday, March 11, 2005

March 11. 2005

Singapore - Gay activists responded with outrage and disbelief on Thursday to statements by a Singapore official who said a gay and lesbian festival -- dubbed Asia's largest gay event -- may have caused a big spike in Aids cases. The "Nation.04" party -- a festival of international DJs, podium dancers, pumping music and muscular boys stripping off their tops on packed dance floors -- had increased in size every year since it was launched in 2000.

Last August's party could have allowed "gays from high prevalence societies to fraternise with local gay men, seeding the infection in the local community," junior health minister Balaji Sadasivan told parliament on Wednesday. Sadasivan said this was the view of an unnamed epidemiologist to explain a 28 percent rise in the number of new HIV/Aids cases in Singapore in 2004 to an all-time high of 311. " This is a hypothesis and more research needs to done," he said.

Gay activists such as Eileena Lee of People Like Us accused the government of promoting homophobia and being irresponsible.
" This is almost like paranoia," she said. "Statements like this can marginalise and stigmatise what is already a minority group.", which organised the event and runs Singapore's main gay and lesbian Internet site, said the government must shoulder more responsibility for the rise in HIV because of its poor public health policies and laws which criminalise oral sex. Under Singapore's Penal Code section 377A, acts of "gross indecency" between two men are punishable by up to two years in jail. The government has said it may decriminalise oral sex but only between men and women.

" In the past 25 years none of the public health campaigns have ever targeted the gay community. It's really no wonder that the rates of infection are increasing," said Stuart Koe, chief executive of " It's very simplistic and dangerous of them to point the finger at one single event and say that that is responsible for the spike," he said.

Ninety percent of newly diagnosed patients were male and a third of them gay men, said Sadasivan, describing the new cases as "the tip of the iceberg" in Singapore where a total of about 2,000 people are diagnosed to be suffering from HIV/Aids. " For every Aids patient we have diagnosed, there are possibly two to four undiagnosed patients with HIV in Singapore. That means there could be, anywhere between 4000 to 8000, undiagnosed HIV patients in Singapore," he said. The "Nation.04" party -- half of whose 6000 revellers came from other Asian countries and the United States to make it Asia's largest known gay festival -- is at odds with Singapore's image as a strait-laced city-state.

But the government has turned a blind eye to the growth of an entertainment industry catering for homosexuals, quietly acknowledging the potential of the "pink dollar. " Gay activists have urged authorities to decriminalise homosexuality in the affluent, predominantly ethnic Chinese island of 4.2 million people to strengthen Aids awareness.

AFP: Gay festival may be behind HIV surge in Singapore: Minister

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Wed Mar 9, 7:05 AM ET

SINGAPORE (AFP) - One of Asia's most popular gay and lesbian festivals may be behind a sharp rise in the number of new HIV infections in Singapore, a government minister told parliament.

Senior Minister of State for Health, Balaji Sadasivan, cited an unnamed medical expert's opinion that the Nation festival, which attracts thousands of revellers from around the region each August, is a possible cause for the rise.

"We do not know the reasons for the sharp increase of HIV in the gay community," Balaji said, as quoted by local radio station NewsRadio 93.8.

"An epidemiologist has suggested that this may be linked to the annual predominantly gay party in Sentosa, the Nation party, which allows gays from high prevalence societies to fraternise with local gay men, seeding the infection in the local community.

"However, this is an hypothesis and more research needs to be done by the experts."

Balaji told parliament that a record 311 people in Singapore had contracted HIV last year, 28 percent more than in 2003.

He said 90 percent of the people who contracted the virus last year were men, with a third of them gay.

There are now more than 2,000 HIV or AIDS confirmed patients in Singapore., which bills itself as Asia's largest website for gays, has hosted the increasingly popular Nation festival on the Sentosa resort island since 2001. More than 8,000 people attended last year's edition. chief executive Stuart Koe reacted angrily to Balaji's comments. He said they would fuel homophobia in Singapore and he blamed inaction by the government as the main driver of the increase in HIV among gays.

"The government has failed to address the issue of MSMs (men having sex with men) in any of their public health campaigns," Koe told AFP, adding that the prohibition on homosexual acts in Singapore was also a major problem.

"Because gay sex is illegal, many of the public health agencies in Singapore aren't even available to work with MSM groups."

"These statements serve to fuel homophobia and discrimination in this country."

The government's hands-off approach to the Nation festival had helped build Singapore's reputation over recent years as one of Asia's premier gay tourism hubs, despite gay acts being illegal.

However, the government late last year signalled it was rethinking its stance on gay parties when it banned's planned all-night "Snowball.04" party that was scheduled to start on Christmas Day.

It cited incidents at the Nation parties for its banning of the Christmas event, which it said would be "against the moral values" of most Singaporeans.

Among measures to fight AIDS, Balaji said over-the-counter test kits that require only saliva samples may be made available, while the government was also considering making HIV testing for pregnant mothers compulsory.