News and Opinions

On Speaking

Written by Alex Serrenti on . Posted in Commentary

I have been trying to withhold judgement on this whole Amos Yee saga and trying to maintain a compassionate position to all parties. Some of you know that I've had my private scruples. But today, I confess that I am absolutely appalled by the whole affair. It's not that I wasn't disturbed before both by the first video that ignited this whole controversy and also by the responses that people had toward that.  But Amos Yee's new "prank" on the mainstream media (alleging molest by the youth counsellor who posted bail for him) is on a different scale altogether. And this time, I am no longer able to keep silent.

When a person makes an allegation about sexual offences committed against her such as molest or rape, it is a hard thing to do. A report often means the beginning of a humiliatingly intrusive process of questioning and interrogation … almost as if she was the criminal instead of the victim of a crime. She has to put up with ridiculous amounts of scrutiny of her private and public life. She is often distrusted and asked if she was "mistaken" about what happened or whether she “gave the wrong signals" -- with the subtext being that she deserved to be molested because she led her attacker on. Most of the women I have helped (and the vast majority are women sadly) are positively traumatised by the experience and many walk away without reporting legitimate offences.

IGLHRC's In Their Own Words Series

Written by alina on . Posted in Activism

Brian Tofte-Schumacher of IGLHRC sat down with Raksha Mahtani of Sayoni, a Singapore-based group that organizes and advocates for lesbian, bisexual and transgender women’s issues. Mahtani is a volunteer coordinating a human rights documentation project on violence and discrimination. The interview took place in NYC, during her visit for the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women conference in March. Mahtani, 26, has represented Sayoni at the newly formed Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression (SOGIE) Caucus, the ASEAN People's Forum and the ASEAN Youth Forum. Before volunteering for Sayoni, Mahtani worked with AWARE, a gender equality organization in Singapore.

Q: What would you say are the biggest challenges for LGBT people in Singapore?

A: I think some of the biggest challenges are quite personal. I think that's a big narrative in Singapore because the society is already multi-religious, multi-ethnic, and generally conservative in that many don't see being LGBT as “natural” or “normal” or “acceptable.” So often because of this, LGBT people are demonized, vilified, and seen as “things” to be corrected. People come out to their families and risk being subjected to corrective therapy or reparative counseling, often involving religious leaders. These can happen in the private sphere, and go unnoticed by most.


Read the full interview here. Sayoni's research project is ongoing and scheduled to be released next year. Thank you to all who have generously shared their stories.

 

In Search of the American Dream

Written by alina on . Posted in Activism


Rainbow crossing in San Francisco's Castro district

 


The US has shaped global LGBT history and culture in many ways. In some states, same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws exist, yet LGBT-related violence is not unheard of. So it was with great curiosity that I travelled to the US as a Sayoni representative, one of 19 participants from as many countries participating in an International Visitor Leadership Program exchange.

Our specific programme focused on civic engagement. The group received an overview of the US political system and, through a series of meetings, a better understanding of how its civil society organisations and government agencies advocate for civil and human rights. The journey took me to four states, Washington DC, South Carolina, Utah and California, with a final stop in San Francisco.

Silent Protest at EEAS Human Rights Seminar

Written by sayoni on . Posted in Advocacy

And this is what happened at the actual event, a day after the civil society statement. Thio Li-Ann, law professor and anti-gay rights crusader, was there to speak on the topic of international human rights law.

 

 

Activists stood in front of the stage with their placards and taped-up mouths, while two others positioned themselves with a rainbow flag in Thio's line of sight. Notably, they kept their silence, and their protest carried on alongside Thio's speech.

 

Statement of Concern on EEAS' Human Rights Day Seminar

Written by sayoni on . Posted in Advocacy


Thio Li-ann


Sayoni and nearly a hundred
civil society individuals and organisations issued this statement, dated 3 December 2014, in response to the EU Delegation to Singapore's invitation to Thio Li Ann to speak at a seminar commemorating Human Rights Day in Singapore.

The Straits Times: Civil society members protest law professor's invitation to speak at human rights seminar

The Online Citizen: Statement of concern on Thio Li-Ann as speaker at EU human rights seminar

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We, the undersigned, write to express our disappointment at the choice of Prof Thio Li Ann as a speaker for the Human Rights Day seminar hosted by the EEAS European Union Delegation to Singapore.

It is a matter of public record that Prof Thio: -

1. believes the LGBT community is not entitled to the protections of human rights with respect to issues of sexuality, even between consenting homosexual adults.

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