Singapore: An online brochure on sexuality recently published by Singapore’s Health Promotion Board has renewed public debate on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights in the city-state, reports blogs.wsj.com.
The board’s “FAQs on Sexuality” garnered little public attention when it was first published in November, but went viral on social media this week after a person started an online petition calling on Health Minister Gan Kim Yong to review the brochure’s contents, calling them “questionable and objectionable.”
The brochure addresses frequently asked questions, or FAQs, about sexuality, such as “What does it mean to be gay or bisexual?” and “What is homophobia and biphobia?” Among its answers, the brochure says, “homosexuality and bisexuality are not mental illnesses,” and that “a person’s sense of sexual orientation is influenced by environmental, biological and sociological factors.”
The Health Promotion Board said the brochure was meant as “a one-stop resource to provide factual information on sexuality and sexually transmitted infections/HIV prevention from a public health perspective.”
The petition, filed on Monday February 10 on gopetition.com under the username “Aaron,” charges that the brochure “dangerously promotes homosexuality,” with a stance it calls “detrimental to our society.” It had gathered more than 2,100 signatures as of Thursday morning, wrote Chun Han Wong in blogs.wsj.com.
Now there’s a counter-petition from a user named “Melissa Tsang,” who called on the health minister to “ignore the ridiculously misinformed and regretfully bigoted petition” posted by Aaron, and asked authorities to restore web links to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, support services that were removed from the brochure at some point after it was published.
“The health, safety, and wellbeing of [lesbian, gay and bisexual] youth should not be [a] battleground for the homophobic to advance their agenda, especially not to the [Health Promotion Board],” reads the counter-petition, which went online Tuesday. It had garnered more than 1,900 signatures by Thursday morning.
A heated debate has since played out on traditional and social media over how sexuality is and should be perceived in Singapore.
In a column published Thursday by the local newspaper MyPaper, a local megachurch’s pastor—known for his outspoken opposition to LGBT rights—charged that the sexuality FAQs undermines family values.
In a separate MyPaper column also published Thursday, a spokeswoman for a women’s rights advocacy group praised the government’s decision to publish the brochure, while also expressing disappointment at the removal of web links to LGBT support services.
Singapore has retained a British colonial-era law that criminalizes sex between men, though the government says it won’t actively enforce the ban.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has repeatedly stressed that the government doesn’t discriminate against LGBT residents – though it declined to repeal the law banning sex between men.