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What concerns LGBT voters in Singapore?
Articles - LGBT Rights, Politics & World News
Written by jean   
Thursday, 09 September 2010 00:41

LGBT voters

 

Do lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters have exactly the same concerns as the general public? Are there concerns that are important to the community, yet are neglected by political parties vying for votes?

A general election is widely expected in Singapore sometime in the next 6 - 12 months. LGBT citizens will have as much a chance to express their wishes through their vote as other citizens.

A cursory glance at various media will indicate that leading issues currently include the economy, housing prices and polices, transport, foreign workers and immigration. These tend to hog the headlines because many people have anxieties or strong views about them.

There is, however, the risk that these issues, because of their wide following, are crowding out the concerns of other sections of the population. There is always the tendency for the non-LGBT majority to universalise their concerns as everybody’s concerns, and to dismiss issues unimportant to them as issues unimportant to everybody. Throughout history, it is a common conceit of the privileged or the majority.

What People Like Us would like to know is to what extent Singaporean LGBT voters share these aforementioned concerns, as well as what other concerns relevant to their lives they might have. What are their priorities going into this election?

We encourage all Singaporean LGBT voters and friends to participate in a survey: What concerns LGBT voters? It’s an online, anonymous survey, to gauge the community’s priorities. It consists of only 10 questions and should take no more than 3 -4 minutes of your time.


The survey will be kept open till at least 10 October 2010.


We recognise that no online poll can be rigourously accurate. Nonetheless, we are hoping that with wide participation, the thrust of the LGBT community’s concerns will be apparent even if the exact figures should be treated with caution.


Results will be publicised on this site and shared with other LGBT and mainstream media, after we have done an analysis.

To go to the survey: Link or http://www.plu.sg/society/

Last Updated on Saturday, 22 January 2011 16:55
 
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission gets ECOSOC status
Articles - LGBT Rights, Politics & World News
Written by Indu   
Tuesday, 20 July 2010 20:06
Sayoni supports IGLHRC, and we congratulate them for having attained this historic achievement.

republished from IGLHRC.


(July 19, 2001) On July 19, 2010, the full United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) voted in favor of a US-led resolution to grant the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) consultative status. IGLHRC is only the tenth organization working primarily for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) human rights to gain such status at the United Nations.


"Today's decision is an affirmation that the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have a place at the United Nations as part of a vital civil society community," said Cary Alan Johnson, IGLHRC Executive Director. "The clear message here is that these voices should not be silenced and that human rights cannot be denied on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity."


The resolution passed with 23 in favor, 13 against, and 13 abstentions and 5 absences.


This victory is particularly significant, coming as it does after a prolonged 3-year application process in the sub-committee that makes initial recommendations on status. Despite full compliance with all procedures IGLHRC faced deferrals, homophobic questioning, and procedural roadblocks in the ECOSOC NGO Committee.


Today's decision overturned a "no-action" vote in the NGO-committee that threatened to establish a dangerous precedent and the possibility of organizations deemed controversial being continuously denied the opportunity to have their application put to a vote even after undergoing the required review.


The vote also signals a recognition of the important role of a diverse and active civil society at the UN. In support of progress on IGLHRC's application, a group of over 200 NGOs from 59 countries endorsed a letter to all UN Member States, demanding fair and non-discriminatory treatment and supporting IGLHRC's goal of amplifying LGBT voices in the international arena.


"As human rights defenders and LGBT people living in countries where homophobic discrimination is a daily reality, we celebrate the accreditation of IGLHRC at the UN," said Frank Mugisha, Chairperson of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), one of 13 NGOs from Uganda to publicly call for IGLHRC to be accredited. "IGLHRC's access to the UN means that we too will have greater access to international human-rights mechanisms that can prove invaluable to LGBT people's lives."


The government of the United States stood strongly behind IGLHRC's application, calling for a vote in both the NGO Committee and ECOSOC. Ambassador Susan Rice, US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, publicly supported IGLHRC's application. Additionally, 14 members of the US House of Representatives and 4 Senators sent letters of support to all UN Member States for IGLHRC's application. Among them were Senator John Kerry, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Congressman Howard Berman, Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.


The victory continues the upward trajectory for LGBT rights at the UN. It allows IGLHRC to participate in a more formal way through attending meetings, submitting statements and collaborating with the UN and governments in the international human-rights arena.


"We celebrate this decision," stated Toni Reis, president of the Brazilian LGBT group, Associação Brasileira de Lésbicas, Gays, Bissexuais, Travestis e Transexuais (ABGLT) – that in 2009 was the last LGBT organization to receive status. "It is crucial that LGBT NGOs have the opportunity to participate in the UN human rights debate – though in future, organizations should receive full and fair reviews before the NGO Committee itself."


Despite the limited opportunities offered to non-accredited NGOs, IGLHRC has a long history of advocating at the UN for the rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. The organization advocated for sexual rights to be included in the official discussions at the 1995 UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing; spoke at the first UN General Assembly meeting on HIV and AIDS in 2001; and in recent years has been part of a collaboration between NGOs and supportive States that resulted in the groundbreaking 2008 UNGA Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, signed by 67 UN Member States.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 July 2010 23:13
 
Indignation 2008: What’s inside the head of homophobes
Articles - LGBT Rights, Politics & World News
Written by sayoni   
Sunday, 09 August 2009 00:00

'It's so disgusting to see two men getting intimate!'
'Lesbian sex is unfathomable.'
'Homosexuals shouldn't exist on this planet.'

Which of these statements is/are homophobic in nature?

AnJ Ho will take you inside homophobia, to find out from the perspective of research: What constitutes homophobia? What's the profile of a typical homophobe like, and what might make a difference?

AnJ undertakes research at a local tertiary institution. Her research interests revolve around social psychology.

Date: Tuesday, 12 August 2008
Time: 7:30 pm
Venue: 72-13

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 February 2010 18:12
 
Singapore says no. And maybe
Articles - LGBT Rights, Politics & World News
Written by Indu   
Wednesday, 08 July 2009 00:00

Singapore has ruled out the possibility of following the Indian High Court’s lead, but leaves it open for the judiciary to interpret the law.

Law Minister says Govt careful of being ahead of public opinion

by Teo Xuanwei
05:55 AM Jul 06, 2009
TodayOnline

FOLLOWING an Indian high court’s recent landmark decision last week which overturned a 150-year-old British colonial era law criminalising homosexuality, is it time for Singapore – whose laws are “copied” from India – to repeal Section 377A?

The answer is no, says Law Minister K Shanmugam, because Singapore society is “not ready” for that. “There is a group that is actively committed to saying that homosexuality is okay,” said Mr Shanmugam, who is also the Second Minister for Home Affairs.

“But probably a majority of Singaporeans are still very conservative and say that this is totally not acceptable. So, the Government has to respect both sides.”

He was responding to a question posed by a resident, Ms Khartini Abdul Khalid during a dialogue session when he visited Punggol Central Division yesterday.

While the Government has to “set the standards” on many issues, it must “be careful about being ahead of public opinion,” he said.

“If the majority of our population is against homosexuality, then it’s not for the Government to say we are going to force something against the wishes of the people,” he said, reiterating the Government’s stance when a motion to repeal the law banning homosexual acts in Singapore was intensely debated in Parliament in 2007.

Section 377A – which makes those convicted liable to imprisonment up to two years – was not repealed eventually, even though the Government said it would not actively enforce it.

Mr Shanmugam explained that India’s laws on homosexuality have not changed. Instead, it was the New Delhi High Court’s interpretation that “with the current evidence available and the current social situations in many parts of the world … you can no longer consider homosexuality to be a wrongful sexual activity”, he said.

Mr Shanmugam stressed that Singapore’s courts are likewise free to interpret the law the same way.

“Whether the courts will take the same interpretations, I don’t know, but it’s up to the courts.”

The problem with the government’s reasoning of not wanting to “be ahead” of public opinion is two-fold.

i) Rights should not depend on majoritarian notions – if that were to be the case, then rights for minorities would likely not exist, for surely, the majority profits from oppressing the minorities.

ii) The government’s claim that they cannot be ahead of the people is disingenous – they have taken unpopular action in the past, such as legalising casinos.

To step shy of an action repealing s377A is simply to send the signal that their queer citizens are second-class citizens not worthy of legal protection. It also sends that the religious sensitivities of people can be used to discriminate against people who do not share that view – which is a dangerous path to tread.

s377A is a highly discriminatory piece of legislation which criminalises even consensual sex between men. Its effects go far beyond simply making queer men criminals – it stigmatises homosexuality, adding a layer of non-apprehended criminality to their lives. It greatly impedes work in the HIV/AIDS sector, as the threat of criminal sanction drives the community underground. Criminalising the conduct itself does nothing to curb its practice, but has many other adverse effects.

All of this was acknowledged in the landmark judgment of Naz Foundation v Government of NCT of Delhi WP(C) No.7455/2001 decided last week. The court ruled decisively that there was no rational nexus between the law and its use against homosexual men, hence violating the fundamental right of being equal before the law.

For those unversed with the general doctrinal approaches to equality litigation – equality does not mean actually everyone is treated alike. Equality means treating like alike, and unlike unlike. If there is to be a differential treatment of people, it has to be based on a rational nexus. Different jurisdictions take different approaches to how this rational nexus is evaluated. Hence, for a law to be held as constitutional even thought it treats people differently, the differential treatment has to be based on a reason that makes some sense. For example, one cannot discriminate against red-headed girls for a job, because the colour of her hair has no bearing on how she does her job.

There has also been a certain amount of eye-rolling in certain circles at the fact that India, a country which is supposed to be more socially and economically backwards, a country which can be said to be more conservative than Singapore, has decriminalised homosexuality, throwing the “asian values” argument right out the window. While the sentiment is understandable and quite justified, the reality is that Singapore and India are in different constitutional environments. Rights litigation is active and vibrant in India, and anyone who has studied public law in Singapore realises that local courts often reject precedents on constitutional cases that originate from India (for various reasons too complicated to cover here).

I also find it curious that the law minister seems to be abdicating the decision to the judiciary – an attitude which did not exist in the past. Never has in Singapore history a law been struck down for being unconstitutional – Public Prosecutor v Taw Cheng Kong (High Court) was the closest one got to striking down a law, and that was promptly reversed by the Court of Appeal. Are they leaving it to the courts, confident that the judiciary will not strike down a law made by the legislature (or that a case would ever even come to the court), or are they hoping it will happen and they will not have to be accountable to the people for the courts (staffed by judges who are not democratically elected nor accountable to any electorate, hence immune from their pressure) exercising their inherent jurisdiction and judicial power?

Now that the legislature has official washed their hands off the matter (at least for the time being), should we look to the courts for salvation? This is a tricky question, and can be the subject-matter of an entire thesis, analysing the history of the Singapore rights jurisprudence and how far the courts are willing to push. Constitutional litigation in general has had a very poor track record, as I explained earlier. However, things are changing – we now have a very wise, very learned bench (Chan Sek Keong CJ, Andrew Phang JA, VK Rajah JA) which prizes legality and are slowly but surely opening up to the notion that the courts are indeed the ultimate arbiter of law in the state, even on constitutional issues.

Whether or not now is the time to make this constitutional challenge, it is safe to say that in a few years, it will be (if it is not repealed quietly by the legislature by then).

 
Breaking News: Indian High Court has decriminalised gay sex
Articles - LGBT Rights, Politics & World News
Written by sayoni   
Thursday, 02 July 2009 00:00

Just today, the High Court of India ruled that s377 of the Indian Penal Code did not include consensual homosexual sex. This breakthrough comes after three years of litigation that commenced in 2006, by an interest group known as Naz Foundation sought a declaration that the law was discriminatory towards homosexuals. The decision is expected to be appealed. We will be reporting further on this development, and presenting an analysis of the judgment once it has been published.

Originally Reported by Reuters.

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – An Indian court Thursday ruled gay sex was not a crime, a verdict that will bolster demands by gay and health groups that the government scrap a British colonial law which bans homosexual sex.

In a country where public hugging and kissing even among heterosexuals invites lewd remarks and sometimes beatings, gay sex has been a taboo, leaving the government unsure how conservative Indians would react if the law was repealed.

The Delhi High Court’s ruling that homosexual sex among consenting adults is not a crime is expected to boost an increasingly vocal pro-gay lobby in India that says the British-era law was a violation of human rights.

The current law bans “sex against the order of nature,” and is widely interpreted to mean homosexual sex in India.

Gay rights activists hailed the court verdict as historic and many supporters of homosexuality were seen celebrating with sweets and smearing each other with vermilion.

“We have finally entered into the 21st century,” said Anjali Gopalan, leader of Naz Foundation, a leading health and gay rights lobby.

The ruling applies to all of India, but can be appealed at the Supreme Court.

Gay rights activists also argue the law, framed in 1861, was an impediment in fighting against HIV/AIDS because many homosexuals refuse to come out in the open fearing harassment by authorities.

“Consensual sex amongst adults is legal which includes even gay sex and sex among the same sexes,” said a two-judge bench of the court. The verdict said the current law will apply in the event of sex without consent.

Petitions to change the 1861 law have so far been firmly rejected by the government but there has been some softening up on the stand in recent years, with officials saying the possibility of revoking the ban was being discussed.

Thursday’s court verdict came after nine years of legal proceedings initiated by India’s gay groups.

Under the current law, homosexual sex is punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

(Reporting by S. Venkatraman and Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Valerie Lee)

 
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