Singapore: Three judges of this year’s Singapore Literature Prize have resigned saying they cannot in good conscience continue after the National Library Board chose to withdraw LGBT themed books for children.
“We cannot in good conscience continue as judges for the Singapore Literature Prize (Non-fiction Category) 2014 given the close links and associations that exist between the National Book Development Council Singapore and the National Library Board,” the judges said in a July 16 statement that appeared in channelnewsasia.com.
T Sasitharan, head of the Intercultural Theatre Institute, author Romen Bose and Yale-National University of Singapore professor Robin Hemley “condemned in the strongest terms” the decision to remove and destroy the books.
“The fact that the board has not even considered restricting access to the publications but has moved directly to pulping them is very disconcerting,” they said. What the National Library Board did was “censorship,… bigoted (and) unbecoming of an institution entrusted to protect and preserve learning and literature,” they added.
The National Book Development Council Singapore in response issued a statement saying it regrets the decision of the three judges and added that while the library board is a member of the council, it is not involved in its day-to-day decision making. It said it will replace the three out of 36 judges who have resigned.
The council’s Singapore Literature Prize is a biennial award that awards 12 writers with up to S$10,000 (US$8,000) for their work.
The National Library Board recently banned from libraries two children’s books featuring same-sex couples. One of children’s books And Tango Makes Three depicts the story of a couple of male penguins in a New York zoo who adopt a young penguin chick while the other The White Swan Express looks at adoption including those of a lesbian couple.
Media quoted the library board’s chief executive Elaine Ng as saying that the board chose to keep these titles off its shelves as they were unsuitable for children.
Singapore retains a British colonial-era “Section 377A” law that criminalizes same-sex relations with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years.