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.