It’s Pride Month right now, and a ‘Rainbow Scorecard‘ ranking Singaporean politicians on LGBTQ rights was recently released online.
While Singaporean parties have been notoriously ambivalent about their official positions on LGBTQ issues, their leaders seem to be quite vocal about their stance.
In the spirit of GE 2020, here’s a breakdown of the all the political party leaders’ latest public views on LGBTQ rights and legislation.
(Note: They are listed according to their extent of support for LGBTQ)
Reform Party (RP) – Kenneth Jeyaretnam
Mr. Jeyaretnam stated on Facebook in 2018 that the Reform Party supported the repeal of 377A from before GE 2011.
The opposition leader described 377A as unconstitutional, according to Article 12(1). Article 12(1) article guarantees all people equality and non-discrimination before the law.
According to Mr Jeyeratnam, 377A is “archaic” and “out of step with other advanced nations.” Responding to religious objections, Mr Jeyeratnam maintained that “we maintain harmony and freedom of religious expression by being a secular society.”
Worker’s Party (WP) – Pritam Singh
During a speech at the NUS Political Association Forum in 2019, Mr Singh said that WP would not be calling for a repeal of 377A due to the lack of consensus within the central executive committee.
According to Mr Singh, “the turning of Section 377A into a political issue may worsen divisions in our society.”
On his personal views towards the LGBTQ community, Mr Singh stated that “Section 377A has no effect on my affection and esteem for my LGBT friends.”
People’s Action Party (PAP) – Lee Hsien Loong
Mr Lee answered questions about the LGBTQ community during the Smart Nation conference on 26 June 2019.
Elaborating on article 377A, which bans homosexual acts between gay men in Singapore, the Prime Minister stated that “(377A) remains on the legislation and it will for some time.”
According to Mr. Lee, legislation like 377A “has not inhibited people from living”, or Pink Dot from gathering every year. He then stated that “whatever your sexual orientation, you are welcome to work in Singapore.”
Progress Singapore Party (PSP) – Tan Cheng Bock
During a Rector’s Tea at Yale-NUS on 16 October 2018, Mr. Tan allegedly stated that he didn’t want LGBTQ “lifestyle to be imposed on [him]”.
In response to a query about equal access to opportunities for the LGBTQ community, Mr. Tan allegedly said that “he ‘’can’t change people’s prejudices.”
However, Mr. Tan Cheng Bock stated that he “accepted the LGBTQ community” and was against the criminalisation of homosexuality.
People’s Power Party (PPP) – Goh Meng Seng
In a Facebook post on 2018, Mr Goh stated that he supported the repeal of 377A, given certain conditions.
Mr Goh stated that a repeal should be accompanied by laws which deterred the promotion of homosexuality as a lifestyle choice.
According to Mr Goh, the private act of homosexuality should not be subjected to the “societal moral judgement of 377A”. However, the promotion of an LGBTQ lifestyle would affect society at large.
Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) – Chee Soon Juan
During the 2011 General Election, SDP member Dr Vincent Wijeysingha came out as gay. This prompted PAP MP Vivian Balakrishnan to question whether Dr Wijeysingha was pushing a “gay agenda.”
In response to Mr Balakrishnan, Mr Chee stated that the SDP was not pushing a “gay agenda.” Mr. Chee stated that SDP “served all Singaporeans” and said that the national creed included a policy of non-discrimination, which extended to sexual orientation.
There Are Some Silent Parties and Leaders
To date, six parties and their leaders have remained silent on LGBTQ rights in Singapore.
This includes the Democratic Progressive Party, People’s Voice, Red Dot United, Singapore People’s Party, Singapore Democratic Alliance and National Solidarity Party.
Vulcan Post has reached out to these respective parties for clarification, and will update the article accordingly once we’ve received a response.
Slow Legal Change
Singapore’s LGBTQ community is tolerated but lacking in civil rights, as local legislation discriminates against LGBTQ people.
Sex between male couples is criminalised in article 377A. Same-sex marriage and adoption are also prohibited although anti-discrimination laws exist.
Nearly all politicians maintain the principle of non-discrimination, but few advocate for legislative change.
Not a single one of the political leaders listed in this article support the repeal of 377A despite their “tolerance” of the LGBTQ community — except for Mr. Jeyeratnam of the Reform Party.
Still, change is happening. In 2019, a law explicitly prohibiting violence against the LGBTQ community on religious grounds was passed.
While this is a welcomed step forward, protection from violence is the bare minimum that should be afforded to any community.
Growing Grassroots Movement
To date, LGBTQ expression is muffled.
On one hand, foreign entities are prohibited from supporting Pink Dot’s annual rallies because of fears of “foreign interference in domestic issues.”
On the other hand, anti-LGBTQ voters have been allowed to organise “White Dot” and flood Pink Dot rallies without backlash from the government.
There has been little attempt to clamp down on anti-LGBTQ petitions and expressions made by members of the public.
Tolerance of anti-LGBTQ expression is associated with respect for religiosity, despite the government’s zero-tolerance towards other discriminatory issues, like race.
Despite legal and social obstacles, activism is growing within Singapore’s grassroots. For instance, Pink Dot will be holding a virtual rally this year for the 12th consecutive year.
While many politicians have expressed that “Singapore is not ready for change,” that position will change as attitudes towards the LGBTQ community shift from tolerance, to acceptance, and celebration.
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