- Title: Gay rights: the taboo subject in Singapore's election
- Date: 8th July 2020
- Summary: LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (JULY 6, 2020) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) AUTHOR AND POLITICAL ANALYST, LOKE HOE YEONG, SAYING: "For any political party - opposition or PAP - to have a stance on this issue is considered generally as political suicide." SINGAPORE (RECENT - JUNE 30, 2018) (REUTERS) SINGAPORE PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG FINISHING NEWS CONFERENCE LEE AND PEOPLE'S ACTION PARTY COLLEAGUES PUTTING ON FACE MASKS LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (JULY 6, 2020) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) AUTHOR AND POLITICAL ANALYST, LOKE HOE YEONG, SAYING: "If rights groups were to want to advance the agenda, it would unfortunately just have to be a debate within the ruling party, the PAP, because they would control the agenda. They control the seats in parliament, they have a super majority. It's really a debate for the ruling party within themselves, I'm afraid."
- Embargoed: 22nd July 2020 07:22
- Keywords: Article 377A LGBT rights Pink Dot Singapore general election political parties
- Location: SINGAPORE/LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM
- City: SINGAPORE/LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM
- Country: Singapore
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA007CLY68UF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: When 44-year-old Victor Ong goes to the polls to cast his vote in Singapore's general election on Friday (July 10), he said he will not be able to choose a candidate that will help to advocate basic rights for him and his husband.
Among a record eleven parties set to contest the election, there has been virtual silence on one of the conservative city-state's most controversial issues - gay rights.
"We can't really express ourselves publicly. We can't have public displays of affection. We can't hold hands, really. We could surreptitiously when there's no one around, hold hands and walk down an alley," said Ong, who was married to his British husband Harry, four years ago in London.
Ong's marriage is not recognised in Singapore, meaning the couple are not eligible for some benefits like housing and tax. They also say they avoid public displays of affection due to worries about social norms shaped by the 377A law - a colonial-era legislation banning sex between men.
"It's a non-topic with the parties, with the choices we have. As much as I want to make my decision based on their stance on that, there isn't any material to work with, to consider, but all the more so, we are citizens, who are voting. We are LGBT citizens, and we're still citizens. We are sons and daughters of Singapore, whether we're gay or straight," said Ong.
Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has previously called the law an "uneasy compromise" as society "is not that liberal on these matters". There is no mention of gay rights or 377A in the manifesto of his People's Action Party, which has ruled Singapore since independence in 1965 and is widely-expected to be returned to power, or that of any other party in the election.
Of the four main parties contesting, only the new Progress Singapore Party responded to a request for comment. Progress Singapore Party candidate Ang Yong Guan said it did not object to removing criminal punishment for homosexuals but said the debate over 377A was a "proxy combat zone" for other issues like family structures and marriage.
Political analyst Loke Hoe Yeong said the issue was considered "political suicide" for parties who feel they will be punished by either conservative or more liberal voters.
Yet advocacy groups do sense a growing awareness around the issue, especially after India repealed a similar law in 2018.
Nearly 70 countries around the world criminalise gay sex, mainly in Africa and the Middle East.
(Production: Joseph Campbell)
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