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Activists Struggle For Gay Rights in Singapore

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Singapore face oppression, both societal and institutionalized. There are also many groups in Singapore working to raise awareness about LGBT rights, though. One of the most prominent of those groups is Pink Dot Singapore, which was formed in 2008. On Saturday, the group will hold its third mass public gathering at Hong Lim Park, which was designated the Singapore’s Speaker’s Corner in 2000, making it a safe zone for free speech and demonstrations.\n

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

18th June 2011 08:45

Alessia Valenza | ILGA Asia

The attendees are expected to wear something pink – not only to show support for the cause, but also for a more practical reason.

“The event will culminate with the formation of a pink dot in the middle of Hong Lim Park, which will be photographed from above,” event representative Paerin Choa said.

Choa added that the annual event had attracted a growing number of visitors since its inception in 2009. He said the organizers were hoping to top the 4,000 people who attended last year’s event.

The event was first run as an alternative to staging a parade through the streets of Singapore.

“Dr. Roy Tan, a medical practitioner with a keen interest in archiving LGBT-related information in Singapore, planned to stage a traditional gay pride parade to create awareness and acceptance for the LGBT community,” Choa said.

However, some members of the group were concerned that instead of encouraging acceptance, a public parade could spark a hostile reaction, further alienating them from society.

“Censorship in the mainstream media and the existence of Section 377A in the Singapore penal code criminalizing gay sex continues to create a social stigma for LGBT people in Singapore,” Choa said.

He added that the group did not wish to add to this stigma with a provocative public display.

Instead, Pink Dot aims to affirm a sense of belonging for the LGBT community in Singaporean society. In lieu of Tan’s planned parade, Pink Dot raises awareness by holding an annual event where people gather in one location to show their support for the LGBT community.

The group’s name refers to Singapore’s moniker as the Little Red Dot, while pink is a color that is often associated with the LGBT community.

“More importantly, pink is the color of our national identity cards, and it is what you get when you mix the colors of our national flag,” Choa said. “We felt it was representative of the inclusivity and ‘Singaporean-ness’ of our national movement.”

With its official tagline, “Supporting the Freedom to Love,” representatives said Pink Dot should not be seen as a form of protest but as an assembly of people who believe that everyone deserves the right to love, regardless of their sexual orientation.

“LGBT issues are often swept under the carpet, and I believe discrimination and abuse against LGBT people happens as a result of ignorance and a fear of the unknown,” Choa said.

“Pink Dot shows that LGBT people aren’t any different. They lead normal lives, have wonderful families and healthy relationships and are not the deviant, hedonistic, pedophilic bogey people many have been misled to believe.”

Pink Dot also works with other LGBT-related groups from Singapore who have been invited to share their ideas and show off the work they have done for the cause so far.

Pink Dot members, supporters and everyone who is interested in this year’s event will gather in Hong Lim Park on Saturday starting at 4:30 p.m. The event will feature performances by local musicians, comedians and a dance troupe.

“This year, for the first time in Pink Dot’s history, Google Singapore, a large and influential corporation, has publicly endorsed Pink Dot and the affirmative values we stand for, pledging their sponsorship for the event,” Choa said.

With success stories like this under their belt, the members of Pink Dot are positive that the work they have been doing will be even more effective in the future.

Choa acknowledged that prejudice against LGBT individuals still existed in Singapore, even though hate crimes were rarely reported.

“Many people in Singapore’s LGBT community feel they are unable to be open about their sexuality for fear of discrimination, prejudice and a lack of legal protection,” he said.

“We do not expect to change attitudes and mindsets overnight. The simple desire to have the freedom to love and to be comfortable with oneself continues to be a real challenge. There is more work to be done.”