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Advancing Our Rights in ASEAN
Friday, 21 March 2014 22:14

[Photo by Rainbow Rights Project]

Sayoni is participating in the ASEAN Civil Society Conference, or ASEAN People’s Forum, again this year – this time in Yangon, Myanmar. It’s a huge civil society gathering, larger than before, with some putting the numbers at 1800 activists from all over ASEAN.

In the words of ACSC/APF,

Every year before the ASEAN Summit, a conference known as the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF) is held independently, paralleled to the official ASEAN Summit. Myanmar’s bid for the rotating ASEAN chair was granted, so it is responsible as well to host the ASEAN People’s Forum where hundreds of civil society actors from the ASEAN region will gather to represent voices of civil societies.

This year’s theme is “Advancing ASEAN Peoples’ Solidarity towards Sustainable Peace, Development, Justice and Democratization and address issues around Peace; Justice and Human Rights; Development and Democratization; and ASEAN.”

Amid all these voices, the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, a group of activists in ASEAN, seeks to give sexual orientation, gender identity and expression a place in the conversation.

This task is often a challenging one.

Throughout the plenary sessions, the question of if and when the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration will include provisions protecting the rights of LGBTIQ people remained unanswered.

[...] During a discussion on minority women’s groups, the issue of including LBTQ women’s issues under this umbrella was raised. The panel responded with consensus that LGBTIQ issues are too contentious for the women’s movement to support on the ASEAN platform and should be pursued and raised by the individual groups.

But it is extremely important that we represent SOGIE/LGBT issues at the conference. Here are some highlights from Day 1.



Follow the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus on Facebook and Twitter. Get the latest using the hashtag #ASEANtoo on Facebook (and Twitter).



ASEAN SOGIE Caucus Media Release
Thursday, 13 March 2014 13:39

Media release
March 13, 2014
For immediate release

The ASEAN SOGIE Caucus’ Affirms ‘We Are #ASEANtoo’
& Calls States And People to Support Inclusion of SOGIE in the ASEAN

March 13, 2014 - The ASEAN SOGIE Caucus (ASC) yesterday launched its ‘We are #ASEANtoo’ campaign on its social media sites in the lead up to the ASEAN People’s Forum that will take place in Burma from 21 to 23 March 2014. The social media campaign calls online users to show their support for the inclusion of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE) in the ASEAN by using the hashtag #ASEANtoo as they send supportive tweets and Instagrams.

In addition, the ASC released a summary of laws that discriminate against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans*, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) persons in the ASEAN. This is accompanied by online posters of the ASC’s recommendations to the ASEAN to promote and protect the rights of LGBTIQ persons. The posters can be found in eight major languages used in the ASEAN – Chinese, Filipino, Indonesian, Khmer, Malay, Tamil, Thai, and Vietnamese. The full recommendations can be found on the website.

“The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness regarding the ASC’s recommendations, which address some of the pressing issues concerning LGBTIQ persons in the ASEAN. The ASC calls the government of all ASEAN countries to repeal laws that discriminate against LGBTIQ persons and to comply with human rights standards, establish national level ASEAN mechanisms and review existing human rights instruments, and depathologize SOGIE,” said Hla Myat Tun, of Colors of Rainbow, Myanmar.

Chumaporn Taengkliang,
Togetherness for Equality Action Group (TEA group), Thailand further added, “Each country in the ASEAN has laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, contrary to their constitutions that guarantee fundamental rights and liberties for all. Meanwhile, state sanctioned violence continues unchecked. In such environments, we face barriers from fully enjoying our fundamental rights, accessing services, and living a fulfilling and meaningful life without fear, shame and guilt.”

“Many LGBTIQ persons are denied our right to health when SOGIE is still pathologized. To date, trangenderism or gender dysphoria is still listed as a form of mental illness in the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Homosexuality, on the other hand, was removed from the DSM in 1986, but many continue to believe that it is a mental illness. The assumption that SOGIE is a mental illness leads to attempts to cure us. This violates our fundamental liberties and takes away our personal autonomy. In addition, corrective programmes have been proven ineffective, and actually negatively scar LGBTIQ persons,” explained Yulianus Rettoblaut the Chairperson of Indonesia Transwomen Communication Forum.

With this campaign, ASC aims to create a positive environment where diversity and choice are respected, where people can all co-exist in dignity and humanity. In view of that, we call LGBTIQ persons and allies to post ‘selfies’ or photos of themselves with apps like Instagram, using the hashtag #ASEANtoo to show your support for the inclusion of SOGIE in the ASEAN.

The ASC will also host a series of ‘Queer tweets’ on the 13, 14 and 15th March 2014 with three different topics every day. We shall cover the basics on the first day, the trends and challenges on day two, finally, positive developments in relation to SOGIE in the ASEAN on day three.

Media contacts:

thilaga sulathireh | Ging Cristobal | Jean Chong

Press Statement from "Article 12 Non-discrimination @ Workplace Committee"
Written by jean   
Friday, 04 October 2013 06:02

Press Statement from "Article 12 Non-discrimination @ Workplace Committee"

Courts Asked To Declare On Employment Equality
Singapore, 4 October 2013 – As equality laws are being revised worldwide, the Singapore courts have been petitioned to declare that Constitutional equality should apply in the workplace.

Lawrence Wee Kim San was recently dismissed by Robinsons, the iconic department store, on the grounds of sexual orientation.

In a historic application, Wee, a former senior management executive, is applying to the High Court here to declare that Article 12 should apply to all forms of discrimination at work.

The city state, heavily dependent on high-skilled labour, has sought to make Singapore attractive to professionals. In recent years, the economy has stepped up efforts to stem the outflow of Singaporean and foreign professionals, attracted by rapid development in neighbouring countries.

In May 2011, at the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Review, the Singapore government declared, “The principle of equality of all persons before the law is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, regardless of gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Wee’s application, widely regarded as a test case, is expected to declare the law in respect of workplace discrimination. Having significant implications for labour relations, it will be watched closely when it is heard in November.

A group of concerned citizens, calling themselves Article 12 Non-discrimination @ Workplace Committee, have come together to support the application. Dr Roy Tan, a spokesperson for the committee said, “Our name makes reference to the Constitutional provision that entitles everybody to equal protection of the law.”

Wee’s lawyers noted, “With the challenge before the Court, Mr Wee, on behalf of all Singaporeans, is seeking a declaration that Article 12 should be interpreted to confirm the government’s position that all persons, regardless of gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, are indeed and in fact protected by Singapore’s employment laws.”

Dr Tan added, “In the coming days, the Article 12 Non-discrimination @ Workplace Committee will release further information on the campaign and opportunities for like-minded individuals to show their support.”

For further information, please contact Article 12 Non-discrimination @ Workplace Committee at:

Last Updated on Friday, 04 October 2013 06:14
Not Your Gay Lifestyle
Written by Nei   
Sunday, 25 August 2013 23:56

The Institute of Policy Studies, a think-tank within the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, conducted a survey with 4000 Singaporeans as part of Our Singapore Conversation. Contained within its questions were some on “gay lifestyles” and same-sex marriage. I’m writing this out of a deep sense of uneasiness at the questions asked, and of course, disappointment on several levels, both as a queer woman and as one of those Singaporeans the conversation is supposed to be for.

First, I want to say that language matters, and this is true everywhere, including and especially in a research survey. From the chart (reproduced below), “gay lifestyles” appears to be the term used to measure acceptance or rejection. But what were they accepting or rejecting? Us. LGBQ persons. By framing our sexuality as a “lifestyle”, were the researchers trying to set it up as a objective quantity, something that can be added and subtracted with ease? Because that’s what they might have been suggesting to the respondent.

“Gay lifestyle” implies choice and ease of change. No matter how important a role nature or nurture play in being gay, it's not something we just stop being. Being queer is an important part of who we are and is closely tied to crucial, positive human feelings such as love and affection as well as sex. Referring to it as a lifestyle implicitly rejects queer people, and if the survey said this, I’d like to know where the researchers were coming from in asking the question.

The words of IPS Senior Research Fellow Leong Chan Hoong, as reported in Today, reflect this bias. “Singaporeans are not upset as long as gays do not advocate making alternative lifestyles a part of the mainstream.” Translation: As long as we don’t expose the straight people to gay sexuality. There is an appalling slant towards an existing message in his choice of words.

The international media has long been aware of the importance of sensitivity. GLAAD’s media reference guide states:


Offensive: "gay lifestyle" or "homosexual lifestyle"
Preferred: "gay lives," "gay and lesbian lives"
There is no single lesbian, gay or bisexual lifestyle. Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are diverse in the ways they lead their lives. The phrase "gay lifestyle" is used to denigrate lesbians and gay men, suggesting that their orientation is a choice and therefore can and should be "cured" (See AP, New York Times & Washington Post Style).


It’s also a term that pops up a lot on certain Christian sites that emphasise that gay people can change, that is, gay conversion therapy, which generally holds that being queer is a negative thing. I’m not sure anyone really knows what a gay lifestyle is, though. I seem to spend a lot of time hanging out with my parents and working... oh wait, that’s what straight people do, too. And I’m single, which still doesn’t make me any less gay.

So where does this leave us? Should we all hang up our lives as lifestyles and dive deep into our closets forever? I think not. Bearing in mind that education levels tend to trend up as societies develop – we’re creating more and more tertiary institutions! – and assuming that attitudes really are affected by education, we have a picture where 39% of those with post-graduate qualifications either reject or strongly reject “the gay lifestyle”, but an almost equal 38% say they are accepting or strongly accept it.

The “neutral” section is also interesting. Are these the people who would only fight for their own causes and wants, or are they the ones who don’t want to appear gay or gay-loving in front of what might be perceived as a government-affliated body? In a Singapore where paranoia has sunk deep, although it is wearing away, it may not be easy for people to take a stand that is not government-approved. After all, the spectre of Section 377A is still here to tell us that gay sex and same-sex everything is not really okay, they just don’t persecute us.

Looking at it another way, we could also conclude that, overall, 47% actively reject “gay lifestyles”, whatever that is, and 53% don’t, while 55% are against gay marriage – 45% aren’t. Here's the chart in the OSC report, for reference.


OSC Survey 'Gay Lifestyle'

It might be instructive to bring up an earlier survey by the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University. The 2010 version surveyed 959 adult Singaporeans and permanent residents. These surveys can’t be compared as they were completely different. But most strikingly, both found that negative attitudes decreased as education increased. The WKW study also sounds like it might hold up better to peer scrutiny. Alex Au took a closer look at the study at the time, in "Singapore creeps towards more acceptance of gay people".

In 2005, 68.6 percent of respondents expressed negative attitudes, 22.9 percent had positive attitudes and 8.5 percent were neutral. In 2010, 64.5 percent of those surveyed held negative attitudes towards homosexuals, while 25.3 percent expressed positive attitudes and 10.2 percent were neutral.


Similar to studies conducted elsewhere, the survey found that Singapore citizens and PRs who have a gay or lesbian family member or know someone who is homosexual are less likely to have negative attitudes and be more accepting.

Interpersonal contact also appears to have a bigger influence in shaping attitudes and acceptance of homosexuals than mediated exposure to homosexual characters – i.e. seeing gays and lesbians in films and television programmes – which also predicted less negative attitudes and greater acceptance.


I'll probably think of the IPS survey as a curiosity and an informal study of what people here think, until the researchers can show it was an actual scientific study of any rigour. In the meantime, we can take heart that society is changing, and keep on working towards that change in our own little ways.

Editor's note: Fridae has contacted the IPS researcher Leong Chan Hoong, who "clarified that the survey did not elaborate on the contentious term and explained that the questions throughout the survey were designed to allow respondents to interpret the question "using a lens they are normally used to". Read their full article for more details.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 12:42
Come Out Come Home, a Sayoni initiative
Written by sayoni   
Sunday, 04 August 2013 13:23



Every movement starts with the few who step out a little further than the rest, and change happens from there. By coming out and being visible as an LGBTQ person or ally, we encourage others to step out of their closets, too.

COuCH, which stands for Come Out Come Home, is a Sayoni community initiative to encourage and support LGBTQ persons and allies to come out or be more out than they already are. In particular, we hope to reach LGBTQ persons who are or are trying to be ready to come out.

The movement was inspired by studies which have shown that there are many positive effects when LGBTQ persons come out. This is also about celebrating the people – families, friends, and/or peers – who love, accept and support us, and thus encourage us to be out. COuCH aims to empower and provide visibility to the LGBTQ community and our allies. This helps the world understand that we are part of and play many different roles in society.

From 3 August 2013, genuine stories about Singaporeans coming out, as a queer person or ally, will be published and streamed online through a dedicated website ( and its Facebook Page.

As one of Sayoni’s founders, Jean Chong, said at the launch of the movement at Indignation 2013 on Saturday, “We often talk about the need to dialogue with those on the opposing side... But the dialogue needs to start in our homes, with our community, with our friends, and most importantly with ourselves.”

We call on all LGBTQ persons and allies who can come out, wish to come out or feel they are ready to, to participate by sharing your photos and stories, uploading a video, making a pledge with us to come out, or contributing funds to support the initiative. The campaign peaks on 11 Oct, International Coming Out Day, with a special event.



Share, upload, pledge or contribute:


Sayoni's Coming Out Guide: In PDF format / Hard copy format

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