Singapore’s 2018 Pink Dot

We are all too well aware that Singapore’s official attitude to the LGBT community is lukewarm at best. The city-state may be home to some of the world’s most attractive gay men and women but its government only tolerates them at best. The hated Section 377A remains on the statute books meaning those found engaging in homosexual activities can in theory be prosecuted and sent to jail.

The present government has stated several times it will no longer act on Section 377A. So no more entrapment activities by cute policemen when you are cruising on the beach. But it has added it will not do anything to change the law as Hong Kong did in 1991.

Pink Dot - adlijandro

Pink Dot – adlijandro

Nowhere is its pettiness concerning gay activities more visible that in its reaction to the annual Pink Dot events. At first it banned gay marches, so Singapore was unable to hold a Pride March that could perhaps have rivalled the one in Taipei which last year attracted nearly 125,000 from all around Taiwan and other parts of the region. As a tourism boost for the city, it must prove a mini-goldmine.

Pink Dot - Gay Passport

Pink Dot – Gay Passport

Instead, starting in 2009 Singapore made a small gesture to the LGBT community by permitting them to hold a rally in the small Hong Lim Park. No doubt the government assumed the whole event would be nothing more than a damp squib. Wrong! It was an extremely popular gathering with many parents joining their gay children and bringing even smaller children with them.

 Pink Dot - Ardor ASIA

Pink Dot – Ardor ASIA

Over the years, Pink Dot increased in size and popularity. Major international corporations, which Singapore makes intensive efforts to attract to the city, made donations to help Pink Dot develop. By 2016 it had attracted 18 sponsors of which 13 were international companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Barclays and J P Morgan. Then 18 months ago in an act of what can only be termed “spite”, the Ministry of Home Affairs enacted regulations which all but ensured that overseas companies could no longer be associated with Pink Dot. From thenceforth, non-Singapore citizens would also no longer be permitted to take part. Police were located at every entrance to the Park to check ID cards and enforce the rule. This might have killed the event. It did not. The organisers went door-to-door around Singapore companies and ended up with 120 local companies providing more than S$240,000, exceeding their target by a massive 60%.

VIDEO: Gay Rainbow and the Passion of those attending in 2017 Event

By 2015 Pink Dot attracted a record 26,000 attendance, so great that the Park had reached capacity. To show the world that Singapore citizens take pride in the LGBT community, the organisers arranged an overhead photo. This appeared in most of the worldwide media. It must have given the government the shivers! Sadly it probably had something to do with the more recent restrictions. Despite these, 20,000 still turned up last year. No doubt more will do so this year to help celebrate the event’s 10th anniversary.

The 2015 Pink Dove “Love” - Pink Dot

The 2015 Pink Dove “Love” – Pink Dot

Ironically the 2018 date coincides with the annual Racial Harmony Day, an event in which schools reflect on Singapore’s racial and cultural heritage. AsiaGuys.NET wonders when the government will finally accept that the city’s LGBT community is a key part of that heritage. Until then, we urge gay travellers to Singapore to bear in mind its anti-gay rhetoric and laws.

Pink Dot - Jasper Wong

Pink Dot – Jasper Wong

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Singapore Pink Dot Gets Round The Law

On January 21 we reported that the Singapore government has clearly become embarrassed by the increasing success of the annual Pink Dot Day celebrating Gay Pride in the absence of a Parade which is banned.

The 2016 Pink Dot Participants against the Singapore Skyline – pinkdot.sg

The 2016 Pink Dot Participants against the Singapore Skyline – pinkdot.sg

Presumably in an effort to emasculate the event, last October the government banned overseas-based companies providing financial support. At first this seemed it might deal a major blow even resulting in outright cancellation. 13 companies like Goldman Sachs, Apple, Facebook and Google had been supporting the event with cash for some years. Others provided goods in kind.

Dressed in Pink

Now, though, the Pink Dot organisers have not just given a middle finger to the cheapskate mandarins in the government, they have hit the pavements and raised funds from locally-based companies. So far up to 50 companies have pledged sums between S$1,000 and S$10,000 with the total so far making up 70% of the amount required. All this before the official fund-raising campaign started on March 26.

Proudly Pink

Typical of the response of the new local sponsors is Xpointo Media which has contributed S$5,000. Managing Director Kathy Teo said, “Diversity and inclusion are important values to our company. Broadcasting our commitment to these values is good for business.”

We hope the government officials in the Ministry for Home Affairs who banned overseas funding will now have egg on their faces – their pink faces!

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Backsliding in Not-So-Pink Singapore

Spurred on by Religious Bigots the Government Caves In

If you live in Singapore, the law says you cannot be a practising homosexual. This is the infamous Section 377A of the Penal Code, a 19th century Victorian leftover from the British colonial era.

For many years, Singaporeans were routinely sent to jail for sex with another man or even inappropriately making a sexual advance. Young and often-handsome policemen were sent out in civilian clothes deliberately to entrap gays on the beach and other noted cruising areas.

Celebrating Pink Dot - Coconuts Media

Celebrating Pink Dot – Coconuts Media

Things are now much easier. The present Prime Minister said some years ago that the government would not repeal Section 377A but it would not enact it either. So if you are indulging in gay sex behind closed doors you no longer needed to worry. And as gay visitors are only too well aware, the city-state has for decades been one of the cruisiest places in Asia. Its gay bars and saunas continue to attract a regular crowd.

Singapore Calendar Guy

Singapore Calendar Guy

Yet younger Singaporeans are seeking both greater freedom and a more prominent voice in their community. Unlike Tokyo, Hong Kong and Taipei, Singapore has no Gay Pride March – for the simple reason the government prohibits such an open expression by the LGBT community. So nine years ago a group of citizens decided to approach the issue from a different angle. They sought approval to rent one of the city’s smaller parks, have gay guys and gals and their supporters dress in pink and celebrate their gayness with a Pink Dot Day.

So successful has this now become that evening photographs of a large pink dot in the middle of Singapore’s skyline has clearly got some in the government worried. Too much publicity! Too obvious! Too divisive!

The 2016 Pink Dot Participants against the Singapore Skyline - pinkdot.sg

The 2016 Pink Dot Participants against the Singapore Skyline – pinkdot.sg

And of course the city’s ultra right-wing religious community has come out of its hovels to object strongly to such a display of gay freedom. Joined by a few small Muslim groups, in 2014 they arranged for their followers to wear white on Pink Dot Day. Leading the pack was the homophobic head of the Faith Community Baptist Church whose comments have included, “We cannot and will not endorse homosexuality. We will continue to resist any public promotion of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle.” He continued: “This is no good for Singapore. Why then is our Government giving Pink Dot public space to push its agenda and grow its movement?”

This bigot Lawrence Khong continued his campaign in 2015 when a record 28,000 attended the Pink Dot celebration. So successful has the Pink Dot event become that it was attracting sponsorship from a significant number of multinational companies with offices in the city including Goldman Sachs, Google, Apple, Facebook, BP and J P Morgan.

Singapore Calendar Model

Singapore Calendar Model

Sadly, the pathetic efforts of Khong and his band of motley followers is now bearing fruit. Alarmed that Pink Dot was becoming too big, the government has caved in. The recent 2016 World Report of Human Rights Watch has revealed that to make it more difficult for Pink Dot to attract sponsors, the Ministry of Home Affairs has now warned multinational companies to stop their funding, suggesting that this represents “foreign interference’ into Singapore’s domestic affairs. (Did their spokesman pick that one up from Beijing officials?)

Under rules promulgated in October last year, the Ministry has ensured that any company not incorporated in Singapore and which does not have a majority of Singapore citizens on its Board is now required to apply for an official permit to sponsor Pink Dot. Naturally that excludes all the companies listed above. And equally naturally the chances that all will be granted permits is all but nil!

We Are Proudly Pink - Suhaimi Abdullah / Getty Images

We Are Proudly Pink – Suhaimi Abdullah / Getty Images

This is precisely the type of petty interference in many aspects of their lives that has younger Singapore citizens increasingly frustrated. But the supreme irony of this decision is that another branch of the same government has spent decades working hard to attract multinational corporations to base their Asian headquarters in Singapore, with the offer of tax incentives and other advantages. Indeed, the government has been desperate to lure companies away from its main regional competitor, Hong Kong.

It is all so petty. It is perfectly understandable that the government has a duty to maintain a peaceful environment, the more so when Singapore has three very diverse ethnic groupings – Chinese, Malay and Indian. And some people are inevitably as anti-gay as they are in most societies. But young people in Singapore are now far more adventurous and open-minded than earlier generations. There is a yearning for greater freedoms from a nanny state government even whilst admiring everything their government has achieved since independence.

Singapore’s Water Polo Team was rebuked for "inappropriate" (i.e. suggestive) likeness of the State Flag in 2010 - Lim Sin Thai / AFP

Singapore’s Water Polo Team was rebuked for “inappropriate” (i.e. suggestive) likeness of the State Flag in 2010 – Lim Sin Thai / AFP

By kowtowing to religious bigots – the more so at a time when the leaders of another of the large mega-churches are now convicted criminals, the result of a monstrous and patently obvious scam to cream US$35 million from its members to promote as a pop singer in America the wife of the head of the organization (I refuse to call him a Pastor, for this was extortion of the worst sort and nothing at all to do with the Will of God), the government has merely illustrated once again how weak it is in dragging itself out of the 20th century.

The Grim-faced Convicted Pastor with his Songbird Wife

The Grim-faced Convicted Pastor with his Songbird Wife

And don’t you think this is all rather odd? Singapore is a state with only around 27% of its citizens being professed Christians, far less than the Buddhist community. How is it that a tiny homophobic gang from within this group of allegedly “compassionate” Christians can hog the limelight so effectively and trash the LGBT community with such impunity that it all but helps dictate government policy?

Saluting Singapore’s Pink Dot Success - The Straits Times

Saluting Singapore’s Pink Dot Success – The Straits Times

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