Singapore announces plans to increase use of HIV tests

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Singapore announces plans to increase use of HIV tests

Singapore's Ministry of Health has announced it plans to expand the use of rapid HIV testing kits to more clinics in the country, Singapore's Today reports.

Only three clinics nationwide provide HIV testing under an anonymous rapid-test kit pilot programme. Standard HIV blood tests are conducted at hospitals and analysed only at approved laboratories, according to Today.

Although rapid-test kits, which cost about $50 each and take about 20 minutes, will be used at more clinics, anonymous testing will be available only at the three clinics participating in the pilot programme.

According to a health ministry spokesperson, voluntary, anonymous HIV testing is gaining more acceptance in the country (Tay, Today, 7/27).

About 700 people have received anonymous, rapid HIV tests, eight of whom have tested positive for HIV - about twice the number for a similar-sized sample in general population blood testing, Channel NewsAsia reports.

Most people who come forward for anonymous HIV testing are heterosexual and single. Nine out of 10 are younger than age 40, but the number of people older than age 40 has doubled during the past few months, Channel NewsAsia reports.

Tan Sze Wee - CEO of Rockeby Biomed, which supplies the rapid HIV testing kits - said that the people who come forward for anonymous HIV testing likely would engage in high-risk behaviors (Channel NewsAsia, 7/26).

According to Today, the biggest barrier to voluntary testing is that physicians are required to provide the names of HIV-positive people to the health ministry.

HIV testing is mandatory only for pregnant women and foreign workers applying for work permits.

Chua Thiam Eng, a general practitioner at Cambridge Clinic, said, "If we think about which situation we are better off with - continue not testing at all, or testing anonymously with the hope that these people take responsibility for the results - it is better to test."

Lionel Lee, executive director of Action for Aids, said that any testing program must have support mechanisms, such as counseling, in place.

Lee added that AFA's policy is to "counsel those who test positive to go into the system (by informing the Communicable Disease Centre), as this gives them better access to treatment and support" (Today, 7/27).

Published on the web by HIV-Aids on July 31, 2007. © HIV-Aids 2007. All rights reserved.

Society and Sexual Diversity: Human Rights, International Law, Western Patterns, Asian Developments

The talk to be held at ISEAS was cancelled.

Topic: Society and Sexual Diversity: Human Rights, International Law, Western Patterns, Asian Developments
Speaker : Professor Douglas Sanders, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Law
University of British Columbia, Canada

Date: Wednesday, 8 August 2007
Time: 10.30 am – 12.00 noon
Venue: ISEAS Seminar Room II
Admission: Free

Those interested in attending are requested to register with Mrs Betty Kwan of ISEAS at 6870-2472 or to
email her at>.

TNP: Poser of 'Third Gender' (Jul 30)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Poser of 'Third Gender'


S'porean transsexual mulls over tough question FOR years, Ms Leono Lo knew it was not going to be easy. Asking to be accepted on a personal and human level is in sync with Singapore's vision of an all-inclusive society. But somehow things are different for a sex-change individual.

By Ng Wan Ching

30 July 2007

FOR years, Ms Leono Lo knew it was not going to be easy. Asking to be accepted on a personal and human level is in sync with Singapore's vision of an all-inclusive society. But somehow things are different for a sex-change individual.

The gay debate might have had some airing but what about the Third Gender? Transsexuals cause discomfort because they challenge conventional notions of male and female bodies.

Part man and part woman.

Fear of the unfamiliar spawns fear of such fringe groups and their lifestyles multiplying. Will it destabilise the traditional structure of family here?

Ms Leono Lo is aware of social prejudices and has no antidote to offer.

So she's doing the only thing she can think of - opening up and telling her story so others might see her as a human being.

Ms Lo had known something was different about her since she was 12years old and went by the name Leonard.

She knew she was not a homosexual.

But what was she then?

At 15, she chanced upon a book at the Jurong East Community Library called Cries From Within, co-written by the late Professor SSRatnam who performed Asia's first sexual re-assignment surgery here in 1971.

Said Ms Lo, 32: 'Every word in that book made sense to me. Finally, I had the words to describe how I felt. I read it from start to finish in one sitting.'

Today, she has not only written a book chronicling the stories of 13 transsexuals, My Sisters, Their Stories, but also her autobiography.


The book, From Leonard To Leona, details incidents which marked her journey from manhood to womanhood.

It is published by Select Books and will be out in the first week of September.

She started giving talks this year to help others understand.

'I do this so others may feel that they can live openly too,' MsLo said in an interview with The New Paper on Sunday.

She strikes you as just another woman, from the top of her coiffed head to her slinky outfits, attitude, outlook and slingback heels.

Her life took a turn at 21, while at university in the UK. She threw all caution to the wind and flew to Bangkok alone for the gender-changing operation which turned her physically into the woman she knew she had always been inside.

Her parents had no idea that she was going to have the operation.

Said Ms Lo: 'I was born a woman in a man's body. I only realised something was not right when I discovered I liked boys. But not as a gay man. I liked boys and I wanted them to like me as a woman.'

The realisation of her situation drove her to a desperate suicide attempt when she was serving national service. It was only then that her parents found out.

As an only son, she found that the situation was particularly difficult, and for her parents as well.

They hired an exorcist and monks. She was made to drink 'holy' ashes and pray at the temple.

'It took them two years to accept me for who I am. Now, my mother and I have a normal mother-daughter relationship where we discuss lipsticks and such,' she said.

During national service, the army downgraded her to a clerical position.

But she still had to serve out the 21/2years.

'It was difficult. It helped that I had a boyfriend who was very understanding. We had an innocent relationship - no sex, just holding hands and being together,' she said.

They later separated amicably.


After finishing her studies in Catholic High and Hwa Chong Junior College, she went to the University of York in the UK to study for a degree in English and literature.

'My parents supported me,' she said.

But in her first year in the UK, she decided she could not live as a man anymore and flew to Bangkok for her sex-change operation.

'I had researched the subject, spoken to the doctor and decided I had to get it done,' she said.

She used the tuition money that her parents had sent her for the air ticket and surgery fees.

'My parents were upset, of course, when they found out. But, ultimately, they forgave me and topped up my tuition money,' said MsLo.

When she flew back to the UK after her operation, she went immediately to see a lawyer to change her name by deed poll.

Then she wanted to change her passport to reflect her new gender status.

'But when I went to the Singapore High Commission to do that, they told me it could not be done without changing my identity card first,' she said.

She had to wait until she next returned to Singapore to get her passport updated.

She does not hide her status from anyone, including the men she dates.

Her employers were wonderful.

Ms Lo started work at the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

Then she joined Hill and Knowlton.

When they promoted her, she decided it was time to quit and start her own business.

'I wanted to be able to speak freely as a transsexual and didn't want that to conflict with my work or compromise my employers,' she said.

That was about three years ago. Today, her public relations company, Talk Sense, which concentrates on healthcare communications, has grown and she is looking to hire people.

Among her clients are HPB and Bayer Schering, a pharmaceutical company.

Apart from her books, MsLo also started a series of talks this year.

Titled 'Dare to be me - breaking free of the culture of shame. A Singapore transsexual woman speaks', the hour-long talk aims to shatter the 'culture of shame' surrounding transsexuals in Singapore.

She has given the talk twice, once at a friend's art gallery and another time to sociology students at the Nanyang Technological University.


She also plans to conduct the talk at various Singapore workplaces to raise awareness of transsexualism and gender transitioning in the workplace.

These talks will be conducted for free monthly.

She said: 'Compared to others in the region, transsexual women here are considered lucky in that we are granted legal recognition in our new gender.

'However, this is only the beginning of a journey that is fraught with difficulties because of the 'culture of shame' that still prevents many of us from moving ahead in life and fulfilling our dreams and ambitions.'

Indignation 2007: Calendar of Events

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Indignation (, Singapore’s GLBT pride season, comes around again. Brought to you by People Like Us and packed with exhibitions, talks, poetry, film, outdoor and social events, it’s a time to renew our confidence in ourselves.

The calendar of events is below, but, as always, subject to change. Do check back frequently for updates. Click on each item for more details.

All Indignation events are open to the public, and everyone, straight, gay or transgendered, is welcome. If there are any limitations, e.g. minimum age for entry as required by the licence from the authorities, they will be clearly stated in the blurb for the particular event.

Likewise, all events are free unless otherwise stated in a particular blurb.

Indignation events take place at various venues: 72-13, Free Community Church, PitchBlack Cafe, Action Theatre, etc. Each event blurb will state clearly.

Calendar of events

Wed, 1 Aug 2007
7:30 pm
Opening reception
All are welcome
1 - 15 Aug 2007 Idiosyncracies
An art exhibition.
1 - 15 Aug 2007 Kissing
A small photo exhibition
Thu, 2 Aug 2007
8 pm
Paper Dolls
Film (Hebrew/English/Tagalog with English subtitles)
Fri, 3 Aug 2007
7:30 pm
Walking out from the shadow
The success stories of 3 transsexuals
Sat, 4 Aug 2007
3 pm
A forum
Sat, 4 Aug 2007
3 pm
My Brother Nikhil
Film (Hindi with English subtitles)
Sat, 4 Aug 2007
7:30 pm
Does likeness matter?
Queer-themed Chinese writing. A forum in Mandarin.
Sun, 5 Aug 2007
7:30 pm
Tall tales and short stories
A talk by Ovidia Yu and Ng Yi-Sheng
Mon, 6 Aug 2007
7:30 pm
Relationship myths
A talk by Anj Ho
Tue, 7 Aug 2007
7:30 pm
Sexual orientation in international law: the case of Asia
A lecture by Prof Douglas Sanders
Wed, 8 Aug 2007
7:30 pm
MCC and the gay Christian witness in the 21st century church
A talk by Rev Troy Perry
Wed, 8 Aug 2007
8 pm
The Laramie Project
Film (English)
Thu, 9 Aug 2007
4:30 pm
In the pink
A picnic
Thu, 9 Aug 2007
8 pm
Paper Dolls (repeat)
Film (Hebrew/English/Tagalog with English subtitles)
Fri, 10 Aug 2007
7:30 pm
“Wei Ming is a Chao Ah Kua”
Forum: Equality and sexuality in the Singapore school
Sat, 11 Aug 2007
Meet at 8:30 am
The pink run
Morning 5km Walk/ Run around Botanic Gardens and Cluny Road Area.
Sat, 11 Aug 2007
11 am
Basketball 3-3 challenge
Register with Adlus for limited slots.
Sat, 11 Aug 2007
2 pm
Adlus Singapore hunt
A fun way to spend an afternoon
Sat, 11 Aug 2007
9:30 pm
Adlus 8th anniversary bash
Join the Adlus boys and girls as they celebrate
Sat, 11 Aug 2007
3 pm
Hitting (on) Women
A new play by Ovidia Yu
Sun, 12 Aug 2007
3 pm
Your relationships and you
A forum cum workshop
Sun, 12 Aug 2007
7:30 pm
Poetry and more
Mon, 13 Aug 2007
7:30 pm
Contending with consent
A talk - a legal case study from Hong Kong
Tue, 14 Aug 2007
8:00 pm
Chinese songs for us

Ian McKellen speaks up against s.377A (Jul 28)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ian McKellen, world-renowned actor both on stage and screen, has given the gay community of Singapore a video message, calling for the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sexual contact between 2 men.

In the message, McKellen, recognised the world over for his role as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, also expressed his support for Indignation, the GLBT pride season.


Hello, this is Ian McKellen. I’m speaking to you from Singapore where I’ve had the most wonderful time with the Royal Shakespeare Company working at the Esplanade Theatre for the Singapore Repertory Theatre. I knew very little about Singapore until I came here and I was immediately encaptured by the beauty of the place, the old buildings as well as the new, the old culture and the new, and the people, who were unfailingly friendly and helpful at every turn. And of course, being openly gay, I managed to meet a lot of gay people.

And then we come to the one thing I don’t like about Singapore, which is 377A. You know that law. It’s a British law, and why the hell you’ve not got rid of it, I’m not quite sure. Well, I am sure, because it’s taken us a long time in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world to deal with these old problems, these ancient attitudes which need to be removed if we’re going to be part of the 21st Century. So it’s very important that gay people, wherever they are, should identify themselves, stick up for themselves, represent themselves, modestly and positively, so the rest of the world knows that we’re here and we’re not going to go away. And we’re happy to be here.

And that’s why Indignation is so important. Have a wonderful time. I congratulate the organisers and I hope it’s a step, certainly in the right direction, but a positive step towards one day getting rid of 377A. And you know I’m on your side, and I send you all my love. Bye Bye.

The Advocate: Lutheran pastor calls for removal of celibacy requirement for gay clergy (Jul 27)

Friday, July 27, 2007

July 27, 2007

Lutheran pastor calls for removal of celibacy requirement for gay clergy

Lutheran pastor Wayne Miller of Aurora, Ill., who will soon become bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod, is calling for his denomination to remove a celibacy requirement for gay and lesbian clergy, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. "That's where I think the church is going," said Miller. "That's where I think it needs to go."

Miller is hoping the change could come as early as next month in Chicago, where the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is scheduled to conduct its churchwide assembly. Nearly a third of the denomination's 65 synods are asking for a policy change in clergy standards.

Homosexuality is a debated issue at mainline church conventions. The ELCA has adopted a compromise position, allowing gay and lesbian clergy to serve as long as they remain celibate. Heterosexual clergy, however, are not subject to the celibacy requirement if they are married, a right gay clergy don't have.

As reported by the Sun-Times, more than 1,000 voting church members are expected at the August 6–11 assembly at Navy Pier. If the rules for gay clergy aren't altered, Miller acknowledges he'll experience conflict between his personal beliefs and his vows as bishop.

"That is the dilemma of a bishop at this particular moment in history," he said. (The Advocate)

ST Online Forum: Don't let prejudice get in the way (Jul 26)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

July 26, 2007
Don't let prejudice get in the way

I REFER to the letter, 'Homosexuality: Legalising something that is not right does not make it right' by Dr Ang Su Yin (Online forum, July 19). I have a colleague who goes to church. She has a daughter who is just starting her university years in Australia. She, too, attends church.

Recently her daughter went with a group of girlfriends to a bar where 'there is really good music'. After they ordered their drinks, they realised that they were the only girls there. It was a gay bar. However they let 'their hair down' and had a jolly good time. Later she reported to her mum in
Singapore that she 'has never felt so safe in the company of so many men'.

Like Dr Ang who is a paediatrician, I too am a medical doctor. However, I am involved in the care of people at the other end of the spectrum - the older people in the community and the people dying at home. I have learnt that good 'doctoring' comes with letting go of our personal judgmental attitude and learning to see our fellow beings in our care, as no different from ourselves in mental and physical sufferings as well as in happiness.

I used to be an avid reader of science fiction and my all-time favourite is the classic called The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. The novel, in a post-apocalypse era, describes the lives of the inhabitants of a rural place called Labrador. They practise a form of fundamental Christianity.
Individuals not conforming to a strict physical norm are either killed or sterilised and banished to the Fringes, a forbidden area still rife with animal and plant mutations. I will leave it to you to read this exciting fiction and find out the conclusion. I have always wondered why this novel did not make it to the big screen.

Perhaps if Dr Ang would put her prejudice away and get to know gay people, it will help to remove the 'monstrosity of fear' that obstructs the development of compassion that is essential in the practice of 'good medicine'.

Dr Tan Chek Wee

ST Online Forum: Govt should consider carefully the moral value system of the majority before making decision (Jul 26)

July 26, 2007
Govt should consider carefully the moral value system of the majority before making decision

ONE of the issues being hotly debated today in Singapore is whether Section 377a of the Penal Code should be repealed, and whether consensual gay sex should be decriminalised. My objective in this letter is to contend that the homosexuality debate cannot escape a moral argument if our legislature is to respect the moral values of the majority of Singaporeans.

It is a known fact that multiracialism and multi-religiosity form the social fabric of Singapore. Indeed, as a multi-religious community, Singapore cannot ignore the religious component of its society. In its deliberation of the homosexuality issue, the Government is obliged to give due consideration to the majority voice.

According to Statistics Singapore, the majority of Singaporeans are not atheists, agnostics, or secular humanists without religious affiliations. In this country, the majority of Chinese are Buddhists (53.6 per cent), the majority of Malays are Muslims (99.6 per cent) and the majority of Indians are Hindus (55.4 per cent). Within our multi-religious society, a common consensus on this issue can only be achieved by being mindful of the morality of the religious majority.

As Assistant Professor Yvonne Lee had pointed out: 'The attention given to fundamental moral values of the majority of citizens by retaining S377A in its entirety strikes the right balance.' Therefore, the disregard of moral values of a large population of Singaporeans who subscribe to religious faith is not the solution to the homosexuality debate.

I recognise that the Singaporean Government has been gracious by giving credence to viable opinions of various minority groups. As homosexuals in Singapore are a minority, they should all the more avoid the disparagement of other minority, albeit opposing, views. These include those from the conservative sectors of various religions in Singapore. In his recent letter to the Straits Times forum, Mr Dominic Chua Kuan Hwee hinted that 'the prejudice of a small number of church leaders' should not dictate the position of other Christians.

How Mr Chua arrived at the conclusion, that a minority group of church leaders had indeed imposed their views upon the Christian majority, is baffling. Neither do we have any reproducible evidence to support his hypothesis. By applying the rhetoric of Mr Chua, I sense that the small
minority group of homosexuals in Singapore is essentially promoting an agenda that would eventually dictate the conscience of the majority. Is it then reasonable to pressurise the religious majority to go against their moral convictions, and to accept homosexuality as being morally correct?

Therefore, just as homosexuals cry out for tolerance and desire their voices to be heard, they should likewise encourage other minority groups within the nation to express their opinions, be they conservative or not.

The singling out of a minority group of conservative Christians or extremist Muslims and to put them in a negative light would do little in our journey towards a common consensus concerning the homosexuality debate. The social fabric of Singapore depends upon mutual understanding and tolerance between various religious groups, and the intolerance of any religious minority would inevitably lead to disharmony, social fragmentation and religious apartheid. Furthermore, Muslims in Singapore are generally moderate in their theological perspectives.

We are likewise not living in the time of the mediaeval Crusades. Christians do not form a majority group in this nation, with only 16.5 per cent of Chinese and 12.1 per cent of Indians professing to be Christians. Pro-homosexuality writers like Mr Dominic Chua would have done better if he
had addressed the statistically more significant religious groups, for example, the Islamic community, in his assessment of the influence of religions within Singapore's society.

We must admit that the homosexuality issue ultimately cannot escape a moral argument within an inherently conservative and multi-religious society. Various writers had attempted to argue for the decriminalisation of homosexual acts from a pragmatic perspective.

For example, consultant therapist Anthony Yeo had challenged the traditional definitions and values of the concept of family based upon pragmatic and experiential observations. Some of his questions were: 'Is there an ideal form of family life,' and 'Are parents from heterosexual marriages any safer for children?'

Mr Yeo's thought-provoking questions should perhaps result in more fundamental questions being asked concerning the definition of a family. For instance, 'Who should possess the authority to decide what constitutes an ideal family?', 'Should pragmatic considerations be used to redefine the family structure, apart from moral considerations? ' and 'Should we follow the majority consensus of what makes up a family, or should we allow the cognoscenti to decide for us?'

Certain gay-rights activists had attempted to assert their unalienable right to homosexual intercourse based upon two arguments. Firstly, homosexual acts are private, consensual activities between mature adults; and secondly, such activities do not cause harm to other people within a society. Taking morality out of the equation, are we therefore to allow the private, consensual sexual activities between family members (incest), adult and children (paedophilia) , humans and animals (bestiality) , or human and cadavers (necrophilia) ? After all, such sexual activities may be private, consensual, and confer no harm to other people. Furthermore, should we allow polygamous marriages as viable family units in Singapore? Taking the assertion of such unalienable right to the logical extreme, are we consequently obliged to legalise incest, paedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia and polygamy?

Finally, I conclude that the religiosity and morality of Singaporeans cannot be ignored in the homosexuality debate. Pragmatism alone cannot provide a satisfactory resolution to the discussion. Truth cannot be determined by merely the practical consequences of belief. Besides, a proposition that works does not necessarily mean that it is morally right.

If pragmatism is allowed to be the sole consideration in the legislation of laws, then several criminal activities might even be justified based upon various pragmatic bases. For instance, the poor might be justified to steal, or to embezzle his company for financial gains.

I therefore urge the Government to seriously consider the moral value system of the majority in its derivation of a common consensus concerning the homosexuality debate.

Dr Vincent Chia Wei Meng

ST Online Forum: Tolerance does not mean we tolerate what is wrong (Jul 26)

July 26, 2007

Tolerance does not mean we tolerate what is wrong

I AM disturbed by Mr Chua Chee Hiang's letter, 'Gay men and lesbians are Singaporeans too' (Online forum, July 21). It makes many emotional statements based on questionable assumptions. s a married Singaporean man, I am deeply concerned by the call for equal rights for people with different sexual behaviour or perversions as this implies there is no difference between the social norm of heterosexuality and homosexuality, which deviates from the norm.

Mr Chua wrongly assumes that the Pledge does not apply to homosexuals. The Pledge applies to all Singaporeans. It affirms the importance of harmony among all races and religions. Although it mentions 'equality', surely this does not mean that all forms of sexual behaviour come under legal
protection? 'Sexuality' involves some degree of choice and is not the same as one's race or sex, which is an inborn and natural trait.

In fact, what do we mean by 'sexual orientation" which the Pledge never mentions? It is such a broad term and can cover anything from homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, pederasty and bestiality to paedophilia, bigamy and adultery. Those who talk about non-discrimination on the basis of 'sexual orientation' are aggressively pushing a radical social agenda which tries to remove moral distinctions between heterosexuality and homosexuality. But, if all sexual orientations are morally equal, why should we penalise incest, bigamy or disapprove of adultery, sado-masochism, et cetera? We should just throw up our hands and say 'anything goes" when it
comes to sexual (im)morality.

I resent how Mr Chua arrogantly dismisses as a prejudice all forms of principled moral objections against mainstreaming homosexuality. Politically inclined homosexuals and lesbians, and their liberal friends do not have the right to impose their controversial moral views and their own prejudices on the rest of us.

Each of us has an equal right to marry - but marriage is regulated by four prohibitions: we can only marry unmarried persons, of the opposite sex and who have come of age, with no bloodline objections. Also, all of us enjoy the same tax and social benefits. All men, whether heterosexual or
homosexual, cannot legally sodomise another man.

Mr Chua is asking for special consideration for homosexuals which nobody else gets. It is dishonest to say 'we just want to be understood". At present, homosexuals can lead a quiet life if they want to. But it is those pushing for the homosexual agenda who are making this a public and political issue in order to gain social acceptance of a controversial sexual behaviour. This will threaten family values because a model of Man-Man is asserted as a good and wholesome alternative to Man-Woman-Child. Unless we want to change our adoption laws, we cannot legally endorse the message that two men can be good lovers and adoptive 'parents'. This kind of immoral propaganda is both insidious and harmful.

Tolerance does not mean we tolerate what is wrong. Tolerance is not the ultimate value. Singaporeans need to know the accepted norm before we can decide how far deviations from it should be permitted. This should be discussed rationally and clearly and not through emotional statements which distort the issue.

To evoke National Day as Mr Chua does is just pure emotionalism. We must remember the values that made us a strong nation, one of which is sound family values which Mr Chua's assumptions attack.

Koh Yan Sang

ST Online Forum: Historical facts used to bolster argument should be used fully and accurately, not selectively (Jul 26)

July 26, 2007

Historical facts used to bolster argument should be used fully and
accurately, not selectively

I REFER to Mr Dominic Chua's letter, 'S'poreans need to be more historically conscious and reflective in debate on homosexuality" (Online forum, July 21) In cautioning others to be 'more historically conscious and reflective" when it comes to trusting religious voices, one would expect the writer himself to live up to what he advocates. However, he fails in this as his own letter is lacking in historical awareness and reflection.

To support his argument that religions (especially Christianity) have been wrong on issues, the writer states that 'Global Christianity has, in the past, drawn on scriptural passages to support the practice of slavery. Churches, too, were silent on the issue and practice of apartheid".

It is true that the Church has at times been complicit in failing to challenge slavery and apartheid but this stems from a failure to live up to the teachings of Jesus Christ, including the tenet that 'there is neither slave nor free", as all men are equal in God's sight.

However, when Christians do live up to the teachings of Christ, they bring liberty and blessing to society. If the writer wishes to invoke history as a basis for argument, he should at least provide a complete and accurate account of such events.

It is unfair and misleading to state that Christians have supported slavery and were silent on apartheid without mentioning the major role that Christians subsequently played in the abolition of slavery and apartheid. The historical record demonstrates that Christians like William Wilberforce
led the anti-slavery movement; in nearer times, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu opposed apartheid, motivated by biblical teachings that oppose racism as, with the Fatherhood of God, comes the brotherhood of man.

History indeed has much to teach us and shows that religion has been, and can be, a powerful force for beneficial social reform. Like secular philosophies such as fascism and communism, religion can also be misused and bring human misery. Fair commentators would point this out.

Everyone is entitled to participate in public discourse, but where historical facts are relied on in public debate, these should be presented fully and accurately, not selectively. Otherwise, half-truths will distort and undermine public debate.

Mr Chua's call for Singaporeans to be more historically conscious, to know the facts and to fairly present the whole truth, is, as demonstrated by the deficiencies in his own article, clearly justified.

Soh Chai Lih (Miss)

ST Online Forum: Decriminalising homosexuality: At stake is public morality, not pragmatism (Jul 26)

July 26, 2007

Decriminalising homosexuality: At stake is public morality, not pragmatism

AS A married Singaporean man and father-to-be, I am alarmed by Ng E-Jay's
letter, 'Be pragmatic, not xenophobic' (Online forum, July 21).

Mr Ng falsely assumes homosexuality is not wrong or only violates the delicate sensibilities of ultra-conservatives . This is inaccurate. The legal endorsement of homosexuality would violate the sensibilities of the vast majority of Singaporeans, who are called conservatives because they want to protect the status quo. Furthermore, mainstreaming homosexuality harms our common welfare.

Mr Ng wrongly used the word 'xenophobic' which indicates an undue fear or contempt for that which is foreign. The decriminalisation of homosexuality has nothing to do with xenophobia - that is a red herring.

If sodomy was decriminalised in Singapore, and I hope it never is, this would mark the first step in a political movement to push for broadening the homosexual agenda. Noting the developments in other countries, such as same-sex 'marriage', is not being xenophobic but prudent. We learn from good and bad examples. Disagreeing with developments in other countries is not contempt for all that is foreign, but a wise decision to protect Singapore by not blindly importing harmful developments.

Those activists in Singapore who want to mainstream homosexuality are becoming more militant. They want to push their agenda on Singaporeans step by step. Homosexuals enjoy individual rights, such as the right to vote, to go shopping and to hold a job, like all Singaporeans, and this state of affairs does not need homosexuality to be decriminalised.

Some homosexual activists argue that the state should not police what is private. However, if they are really concerned about protecting the private sphere and how law should not interfere with the bedroom, then why are they so aggressively trying to push homosexual acts out of the bedroom into the public eye by demanding that society recognise by law that homosexuality is a valid lifestyle? Really, they are trying to change public opinion or impose their views on those who consider homosexuality to be immoral and wrong. Furthermore, the law should rightly interfere with certain activities which take place in private spaces like the bedroom and home, such as incest, child and wife abuse. What is done in private can affect the broader community.

What is at stake is public morality, not pragmatism. The wisest solution is to keep Section 377A of the Penal Code and to maintain sound moral education in schools and homes.

Andrew Lim Chia Wei

ST Online Forum: Straight people need to re-examine their heterosexuality (Jul 26)

July 26, 2007

Straight people need to re-examine their heterosexuality

I REFER to the article, 'What will the future be for our children if we decriminalise homosexuality?' by Mr Benjamin Ng Chee Yong (Online forum, July 21).

I can see how Mr Ng may be disgusted with his observation of men (supposedly gay) loitering in the changing rooms of swimming pools, peeping at other men at the urinals and the physical abuse (molest by other men) he himself experienced during his youth. For that, he calls for continued criminalisation of homosexuality as he fears for the safety of his children.

What about the less than desirable sexual expressions of heterosexuals that we are all too familiar with? Girls are taught to avoid taking the elevator alone with men, and tough night curfews are usually set for them as parents fear their daughters may fall prey to molesters and rapists. Parents advise their daughters against skimpy bikinis so as not to attract advances of men with questionable intentions. And we all know the hanky panky that goes on in some KTV lounges, not to mention the open solicitation of prostitutes that line the streets of Geylang. These are sexual activities of straight people, yet no one has called for the criminalisation of heterosexuality.

As much as the proposition of criminalising heterosexuality may sound absurd, most straight people do not realise that they are applying the same untenable line of argument when they call for the continued criminalisation of homosexuality. Surely not all heterosexuals are molesters and rapists. Likewise, not all homosexual men go around molesting young boys in elevators. If all homosexuals are to be criminalised for behaviours of the minority among them, then the same should apply to the heterosexuals.

In discussing the repeal of Section 377A, straight people have to re-examine the fundamentals of their own sexuality. Firstly, they need to understand their basic sexual urges and how the urges are expressed or contained. While the majority are able to contain and express their sexual urges in ways that are not harmful to others in society, there is a minority who are unable to restrain themselves. Homosexuals are no different.

Secondly, straight people need to realise how fundamental their sexual orientation and preference are to their being. Most heterosexuals would say that they were not influenced in their adolescent years into liking people of the opposite gender. They are just naturally inclined that way. It's not something they have to decide. It is also not something they can change even if they want to. Likewise, homosexuals will tell you that their sexual orientation is not something they choose or can change.

Key to the debate on Section 377A is realising the commonality between heterosexuality and homosexuality. Homosexuality is as fundamental to gay people as heterosexuality is fundamental to straight people. Only when straight people learn to see gay people in this light will we make progress.

Dr Peter Goh Kok Yong

ST: AIDS in Singapore (Jul 25)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

July 25, 2007
'Bug chasing' should be a crime
By Andy Ho

IT WAS recently revealed in Parliament that there is a man with
HIV who is intentionally trying to infect other gay men. The authorities said nothing more about him apart from reiterating that knowingly transmitting HIV is a criminal offence in Singapore. In gay parlance, that person would be a 'gift giver'. If you thought that was tongue-in-cheek, you might be as taken aback as I was to learn that there are some gay men who actually revel in unprotected sex with other men, in search of the ultimate thrill - that of dicing with death.

Called 'bug chasers', these men are suicidal in every sense of the word except that the death that could result may come years later - if it does. Come to think of it, my favourite modern philosopher, Michel Foucault, was a bug chaser too. He moved from France to California where he explored the public bathhouses, contracted HIV and eventually succumbed to Aids at the age of 57 in 1984.

Today, 'bug chasers' and 'gift givers' use the Internet to hook up.

In Singapore, the HIV-positive person who infects another has only one legal defence: informed consent.

Thus, not only is it true that HIV-positive individuals cannot be prosecuted for informed consensual exposure, but it would also appear that bug chasing is not a crime either.

But it should be.

Reason 1: Such thrill-seeking behaviour serves to fuel the HIV/Aids epidemic. Criminalising it is justifiable as a matter of public policy. The fact that it is likely to endanger public health is a consideration which should trump the general right to be free of government regulation in one's
private sexual relations.

Reason 2: While sexual behaviour is the most private of human conduct, the right to privacy (even if we acknowledged an implied one in Singapore, where there is no such explicit right) does not shield all private sexual acts from state regulation.

For instance, incest - of which several local cases have been reported and prosecuted lately - and paedophilia are not exempt from being criminalised just because they are sexual activities per se.

Those who disagree with me may say that it is difficult to tailor HIV transmission statutes narrowly enough to criminalise 'bug chasing' without infringing upon the legitimate right to privacy in consensual sexual relations.

They may also say that while there are good public-policy reasons to criminalise bug chasing, there are no legal grounds to do so.

Lawyers will, however, tell you that there are. One way is to analogise bug chasing to suicide, which is itself a crime because the Government has an overriding interest in preserving life.

If 'bug chasing' is like suicide, then 'gift giving' is like assisting suicide.

The difference is that, in assisted suicide, only one life is taken, whereas the 'bug chaser' can endanger third parties like future sex partners or recipients of his blood, if donated, especially when he is still in the HIV-negative window period that may last as long as six months after

This means that the case to criminalise gift giving/bug chasing is even stronger than that for criminalising (assisted) suicide.

But just as it is not easy to prosecute attempted or assisted suicide, it would be equally difficult to do so with gift giving/bug chasing.

A more promising avenue might be to resort to the notion of rashness, a term deployed in the Penal Code but not defined anywhere in the law.

However, the courts have opined on the issue recently. In the infamous dunking case of 2003, one commando nearly drowned while another actually died by drowning during a commando training course on Pulau Tekong. The training involved dunking their heads in water to simulate the torture of prisoners of war.

Captain Pandiaraj, the supervising officer, did not do the actual dunking but was convicted of abetting those who did. On appeal, he claimed that he had given proper instructions to the dunkers.

Though he was near the site for all three hours of the exercise, 'he did not once monitor the instructors to ensure compliance with these rules' that trainees be dunked only three times for five to 10 seconds each per dunk, as the High Court had put it. In the event, some trainees were dunked for up to 20 seconds each time.

The then chief justice Yong Pung How ruled that Pandiaraj knew there was a risk of drowning and that, even if he believed he had managed to avoid that risk by instructing the dunkers accordingly, his crime 'lay in his running the risk of doing the act'.

His failure to stop the dunkers 'exhibited a recklessness or indifference to the consequences of the dunking', CJ Yong added.

In other words, rashness is recklessness plus indifference. A 'couldn't care less' attitude when doing the deed, coupled with the clear knowledge that risks incurred cannot be justified, makes for a rash act.

How to tailor a statute to criminalise the gift giving/bug chasing phenomenon? The first step is to remove informed consent as a legal defence. The second is to make gift giving/bug chasing qualify as a rash act, or an act of advertent recklessness. Protected sex would not qualify.

Of course, proving recklessness in any situation is difficult but that is a problem for the courts to handle. Meanwhile, I urge Parliament to weigh carefully if such a statute is needed now before the Aids epidemic gets any worse. sg

The Star Online: Devotees from Malaysia and Singapore fulfil vows to deity for transsexuals (Jul 24)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tuesday July 24, 2007

Devotees from Malaysia and Singapore fulfil vows to deity for transsexuals


KLANG: The five-day celebrations dedicated to Goddess Bahuchara Mataji, the Hindu presiding deity for transsexuals, ended yesterday in a ceremony that saw some 400 participants from Malaysia and Singapore at a temple in Pandamaran near here.

The temple, dedicated to the deity whose main temple is in Shankhalpoor in Gujarat, India, is owned and managed by the local Hindu transgender community.

The celebrations began last Thursday with the highlight on the third day when devotees fulfilled vows by carrying pal kudam (milk pots) and thee chatti (earthen pots with fire).

Dressed in green sarees, the official colour for Bahuchara Mataji, the entourage, led by the community’s matriarch M. Asha Devi, 63, carried the pal kudam and thee chatti to the temple.

Two devotees balancing milk pots as they enter the temple at Pandamaran last Saturday.
This was followed by a chariot procession in the evening with Pandamaran assemblyman Datuk Dr Teh Kim Poo as the event’s special guest.

Asha Devi said preparations for the celebrations began several months ago, as arrangements had to be made to accommodate the devotees.

“Devotees also prepare themselves by fasting for at least three months before carrying the pal kudam and thee chatti,” said Asha Devi, who runs a food outlet in Kuala Lumpur.

According to her, a flag bearing the Goddess’ emblem was raised on the first day followed by an ubayam (special prayers) on the second day.

“The fourth day was also observed with prayers for Mataji. On the final day, which is today, we have special prayers for a male deity known as Veera Vetai Karar Muniandy followed by anathanam (feeding of the masses),” she added.

Meanwhile, S. Komathi, 50, who cooked for the devotees, said this year’s event was special as they were praying hard to obtain a piece of land from the state government to build a proper temple.

“The temple is currently situated in the home of one of our members’ grandmothers. Due to space constraints we cannot do any renovation,” said Komathi who owns a flower shop in Klang.

Komathi said the community badly needed a bigger temple to accommodate the crowd.

“In the past, it was only our community which prayed here but now others are also coming to the temple.”

For K. Janani, 27, who came all the way from Singapore to carry the pal kudam, the event was both fun and colourful.

“I like the festive atmosphere. I have been coming here for the past two years to offer prayers as our community does not have a dedicated temple in Singapore,” Janani added.

TODAY: Voices - Gay Men - God's Gift to Women (Jul 21)

Sunday, July 22, 2007




I DON’T think I could have walked through life’s journey without the handful of quality gay friendships that I have had in the last 15 years.

The relationship between a gay man and a heterosexual woman is unique; it is supportive and agenda-less, making it the most comfortable relationship in the world.

During the turbulent times in my life, it was Stanley who took me out and checked on me
every Sunday night to see whether I was ready to face the world bravely on Monday.

When I was entertaining thoughts of leaving Singapore and starting life anew overseas, it
was Stanley who wrote me an email saying he didn’t want me to go but would support me in
whatever decision I made.

And when I relocated to a foreign land, another gay friend suggested we become housemates as it would be safer for me and we could also save on the rent.

I remember telling my parents about having him as a housemate and my old man remarked:
“Consider yourself blessed.”

Likewise, women can be natural supporters for gay men. Many gay men tell me they did not have a happy childhood because they could not truly be at ease with their family members. It is usually through their female friends that gay men are able to experience the joys of having a loving family.

Through women, gay men can also be assured of a smooth integration into society at large. They can enjoy the joys of “fatherhood” through our children and fill the vacuum left by absentee fathers.

Contrary to what many people think, paternal instincts are as strong in gay men as they are in straight men. I remember taking Anil to the birth of a colleague’s son. As we walked out of the hospital, he said rather sadly: “As much as I want fatherhood, I can never have that unconditional joy.”

He once asked me if I would shun him when I have children, as most straight couples do. That question opened my eyes to a possibility I had never considered — that perhaps one day, he could babysit my children and enjoy the joy of being around them. Gay men can also be the best, nonpaid consultants when a woman is finding her feet in the world of dating.

Thanks to women’s lib and being forced to work and think like a man in the corporate
world, many women have forgotten how to behave like a woman during a date. Gay men have the biology and sex drive of men — and the sensitivity of women — to offer their female friends a helicopter view into the world of men.

Also, observing the way gay men reinvent themselves offers a woman some great insights
into how one can stay single, have demanding careers, go travelling and have exciting
hobbies such as joining Aids awareness groups.

Conversations with gay men can be liberating due to their being smack in the middle
of the human behavioural spectrum. Ken surprised me one night during dinner as we chatted for hours about South Beach diets, our waistlines and the hottest travel destinations.
Then, there’s Stanley who regularly emails me on his saucy sauna escapades and the like.

I know how all this sounds frivolous but, sometimes, we could do with some mindless
chatter to make us forget momentarily the goings-on at the office.

It is the gay men in my life who have helped me come to terms with my identity
as a woman — that there is nothing wrong with being a woman, and acting like one,
in a male-dominated corporate world. From Dash, I have received gorgeous Russian jewellery and a cute, really short dress as birthday presents.

Stanley, meanwhile, sends me heartfelt SMSes. When I agreed to go to a dance class
with him, he sent me a text message the same night, which said: “I am so excited to
see more of you in the future. Isn’t that wonderful! Hugs and kisses.”

He would also see me off after class. I used to tell him that I am older than him but having him dote over me does give me a warm feeling in my heart. I know he values me for my friendship — period. There’s no other agenda.

In praising gay men, I am certainly not talking down heterosexual men and I am thankful for all those straight men who have made many a woman’s life complete. But I dare say, for women who have discovered gay men as friends, life takes on a whole new meaning, with new horizons they could never have imagined before opening up.

Natasha is an accidental writer.

ST Online Forum: Homosexuality: we need to protect our Asian values (Jul 21)

July 21, 2007
Homosexuality: we need to protect our Asian values

I REFER to the discussion on homosexuality on Talkback (938 Live) with guest

MP Mr Baey Yam Keng on the morning of July 18.

Like an overwhelming majority of the callers, I am against decriminalising

I question the reason for the Government's push towards acceptance of
homosexuality. It is a fact that homosexuals are presently not hindered by
the law. The authorities do not make arrests related to this matter as long
as it is consensual and done in privacy.

Therefore decriminalising homosexuality really does not make any practical
difference to the homosexuals.

Mr Baey mentioned that the Government is trying to keep up with the changing
world landscape. But since when has the Singapore Government taken this

We have always taken pride in the view that Singapore cannot simply follow
other nations. We set our own rules and policies due to our unique context
and circumstances.

Our Internal Security Act, the ban on chewing gum and the death penalty are
all examples of how we are different from other nations. Why are we singing
a different tune in this case?

By decriminalising homosexuality, the Government is in fact promoting it. It
is sending out the message that 'there is nothing wrong with homosexuality
and homosexual sex acts'.

This is a very strong signal that will encourage many more people,
especially children and youths, to try out homosexuality as an alternative
lifestyle. I shudder to think of the consequences.

If we do not check ourselves, we will soon have pornography in the
newsstands, sex shows on TV, sleazy shows and strip clubs in town. Is that
the kind of Singapore we can bring our children up in?

I urge our government leaders to respect our Asian values, principles and,
most of all, the views of its very own citizens and what it calls
'stakeholders' .

Brian Tan Cheow Eng

ST Online Forum: What will the future be for our children if we decriminalise homosexuality? (Jul 21)

July 21, 2007
What will the future be for our children if we decriminalise homosexuality?

I AM just a 40-year-old layman and father of three young kids, who may not
understand the full social implications and legal intricacies of legalising

However, I would like to share my personal brushes with individuals who
practise homosexuality. They are situations, experiences and places that
those my age can identify with, recall being a witness to it or even
personally encountered.

As a Pri 3/4 pupil, my friends and I would visit the River Valley Swimming
pool (opp Liang Court) and I did not understand why there were more guys
sunbathing in skimpy trunks than swimming, with some spending more time in
the changing room when the pool is out there.

Another incident broke that innocence. Having my hands full from buying
noodles for my parents, I walked into a lift with 'faulty lights', only to
have the hands of a man grope my private parts suggesting we masturbate
together. Shocked beyond words and too small to retaliate, I elbowed his
hands away and ran out as soon as the doors opened.

Many today are aware that some gays are the affluent, 'respectable,
professional type', so the above stories seem locked in the distant past.

However, my next brush with these 'respectable types' only shows that their
'baits/lures' might be more upmarket but their depraved desires are hardly

In the early 80s, I trained with some swimmers in the national water polo
squad in Queenstown pool. There appeared a middle-aged, half-balding,
Volvo-driving man who would hang around these young secondary-school boys,
especially in the changing rooms after training.

He would often buy drinks and joined in some of their activities. Some have
had their inner thighs stroked and received 'indecent proposals' from the
man. On another occasion, I spotted the same man 'chatting up' a teen usher
at a meeting. From the closeness and way he sat, I knew he was up to the
same tricks and cautioned an older teen to warn the usher.

Some might recall the effeminate male who manned the ticketing office at the
old National Stadium Gym. Many, myself included, were openly approached by
him. Once he even boldly stretched out his hands to touch my private parts
in full view of other users. This was in the mid-80s and I was then a poly
student... have they gotten bolder?

I believe so. Many gays today have no qualms about putting their faces to
their voices, as seen in the recent forum.

There is a rapid proliferation of their sexual activities, which I believe
some trainers in gyms can attest to. Being an infrequent neighbourhood Safra
gym user, I was not immune to their advances.

In the past two years , I've had to report three cases of inappropriate
behaviours in public toilets. One involved a man who stood in front of the
urinal for about 30 minutes (until I reported him to security), all the
while casually peeping at an occupied urinal next to him. I was then helping
my one-year-old son in the toilet of the busy neighbourhood shopping centre.

The other two cases I reported involved men who bathed and soaped endlessly
in the quiet, corner cubicles of public toilets in Katong and Queenstown
pools. As male toilets are door-less, these men would often casually parade
around stark naked.

I should know they are in the toilets for a suspiciously long time because I
train as a triathlete in the pool.

Why do I divulge these personal encounters?

I appeal to the government authorities not to decriminalise homosexuality.
The pressure comes from the rise of the 'pink dollar' with many big
businesses chasing these big spenders. However, for every classy 'Orchard
Road' type gay endorsed, there will be countless other 'heartland' types
soliciting sexual favours from unwary youngsters in the neighbourhoods.

As a father, I realised that my children are not so safe anymore when I had
to teach my Pri 1 boy then, that he must lock the cubicle door before he
does his business and never use a urinal when he is alone in a public toilet
without dad.

Is that what Singapore has become? What will the future be like for our

Benjamin Ng Chee Yong

ST Online Forum: Gay men and lesbians are Singaporeans too (Jul 21)

July 21, 2007
Gay men and lesbians are Singaporeans too

GAY people are Singaporeans too whether you think they are natural or not
according to your religion or social perception.

As National Day draws near, remember our national pledge. It should apply to
heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.

To me, being a Singaporean comes first, everything else; religion, race,
language, personal and social customs, and sexuality, et cetera, second.

Let not religion nor individual prejudices divide us as a people. Everybody
is entitled to hir or her point of view, but when you are out of your home
and in the public, it is time to put the differences aside and regard your
fellow Singaporeans as fellow citizens who have a right to exist as human
beings in their own way. No one should impose his or her personal and
religious point of view on others. Preach tolerance and acceptance, practise
it too; there is no need to persecute others just to defend your own views.

MM Lee has been enlightened enough to see the plight of ordinary gay
citizens suffering from religious and social persecution to make his public
statement on homosexuals. The Government has already lifted legal
persecution through the non-application of Section 377A. Gay men and
lesbians do not want to tear up the fabric of society, they just want
everyone to understand, to each his own.

Gay men and lesbians are Singaporeans too. Family values are best protected
and taught by responsible parents who do not place blame on external

In the public, as a society, we are one people, one Singapore; regardless of
race, language, or religion. Remember the pledge.

For the longest time, homosexuals had been frowned upon, prosecuted by law,
right to marriage denied, and not even allowed to be portrayed in a
favourable light in the media due to censorship regulations and law.

How long are the Government and the heterosexual citizens going to deny the
pledge of justice and equality to homosexual citizens?

Or are homosexual Singapore citizens a sub-citizen of this nation that the
pledge does not cover?

Chua Chee Hiang