LGBT policy is for 'only Singaporeans to debate and decide': MFA to US Embassy

·Assistant News Editor
·2-min read
Attendees at Pink Dot 2019 at Hong Lim Park on 29 June 2019. PHOTO: Teng Yong Ping/Yahoo News Singapore
Attendees at Pink Dot 2019 at Hong Lim Park on 29 June 2019. PHOTO: Teng Yong Ping/Yahoo News Singapore

[UPDATE on 20 May: Leow Yangfa remarks and a statement from the Ministry of Social and Family Development.]

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has told the US Embassy in Singapore that foreign missions here are not to interfere in the city-state's domestic social and political matters, including issues such as how sexual orientation should be dealt with in public policy.

"These are choices for only Singaporeans to debate and decide," said the ministry in a statement on Wednesday (19 May). 

MFA "note(d) with regret" that the Embassy co-hosted a webinar on Monday with Oogachaga, which brands itself as Singapore’s most established LGBTQ+ community non-profit organisation. 

According to May17.org, the invitation only event was entitled The Economic Case for LGBT Equality: Exploring Global Trends with Professor Lee Badgett. Its synopsis: to examine how LGBTQI+ equality and inclusion increase economic competitiveness using case studies from around the world.

The event was held in conjunction with International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

In response to Yahoo News Singapore's queries, the Embassy said, "The United States promotes the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons worldwide. The U.S. Embassy regularly works with civil society partners on a wide range of issues to build awareness and advance the human rights of all persons."

MSF officers in attendance

Oogachaga executive director Leow Yangfa told CNA that none of the speakers discussed how sexual orientation should be dealt with in public policy. In addition, officers from MFA and the Ministry of Social and Family Development were invited to attend, and at least two MSF officers were in the audience.

In response to Yahoo's queries, MSF said it had "specifically conveyed" to Oogachaga prior to the webinar foreign missions in Singapore must not interfere in domestic issues. 

The ministry added, "MSF officers regularly participate in events organised by local civil society organisations to engage stakeholders and understand their perspectives on various issues.

"The attendance of MSF officers was not tantamount to endorsement of the webinar nor the decision by Oogachaga to co-host it with a foreign mission."

LGBT issues are a perennial point of contention in Singapore, with the controversial Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men, the subject of several legal challenges in recent years.

In 2017, the authorities announced only Singapore citizens and permanent residents were allowed to assemble at the Speakers’ Corner for Pink Dot, an annual gathering in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community in Singapore.

The year before, authorities banned foreign companies from funding the annual event.

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