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Singapore (mud) sling: US fundie invasion

Fri 19 Mar 2004 In: Comment

Some New Zealand lesbians and gay men believe that New Zealand shouldn't have signed a free trade agreement with Singapore because of the city-state's anti-gay legislation. However, the truth is rather more complex than one might suppose, says Craig Young. It's true that Singapore still retains criminal penalties for male homosexuality, cruising and oral sex outside the context of heterosexual relationships. However, it also has a fledgeling lesbian and gay rights movement as well- and predictably, a satellite Christian Right which is dependent on its US counterpart for ideology, tactics, strategy and personnel assistance. Regular observers of the New Zealand Christian Right will recall that one Sy Rogers (an 'ex-gay' and fundiepop singer) spent some time in Singapore, at the Church of Our Saviour, a fundamentalist charismatic Anglican church in that country. As one might guess, he left some debris behind him- US Christian Right antigay propaganda and contacts with his benighted homeland. Moreover, Thio Si An, a Chinese Singaporean academic based at the National University of Singapore, has taken up the cudgels as a domestic homophobe. She has spliced US antigay propaganda into a rambling and disjointed polemic against male homosexuality which can be viewed on a pdf at the Church of Our Saviour's website. Fortunately, Singapore's lesbians and gay men are fighting back. Our Safe Haven is a lesbian and gay Christian network that offers a calm, rational and scientifically-based rebuttal of Christian Right arguments against male homosexuality. On its website, Our Safe Haven provides details on a seminar related to legal strategies for the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in the city-state, and related its response to conservative Christian activism against their decriminalisation efforts. Predictably, the US Christian Right has tried to directly interfere in Singapore's domestic political debates, as it did in New Zealand twenty years ago. I found out about Singapore's domestic lesbian and gay rights debate when I was searching the Net for information about the global reach of US fundamentalist homophobe and discredited 'social scientist' Paul Cameron. Cameron's vitriolic propaganda was cited in Thio Si An's antigay polemic, as well as in a Focus on the Family seminar held in Singapore, which featured one Darrel Reid from Focus on the Family Canada. He talked about Canada's progress toward lesbian and gay relationship and parenting equality from his own distorted world- view. How real is the prospect of decriminalisation of male homosexuality in Singapore? Singapore's media have been receptive to Our Safe Haven, and allowed them to discuss their case. First Minister Lee Kuan Yew has also been pragmatic about the whole business, which may reflect concerns that as a modernising city-state, Singapore can ill-afford the professional flight that would occur if Singapore's Christian Right has its way. Singapore is a prosperous, urbanised and conservative Confucian capitalist city-state. Our Hero Parade and the Sydney Mardi Gras would seem frightening to its citizens, but so would US fundamentalist Fred Phelps, and his obnoxious disruption of religious services and funerals of lesbians and gay men throughout the Southern United States. What will be the ultimate outcome? Clearly, we should help Our Safe Haven and our Singaporean counterparts with information and tactical advice. It is to the credit of Singapore that it is now mature and open enough to entertain free, informed and open debate about lesbian and gay rights as a public policy issue. Recommended Reading: Our Safe Haven: Church of Our Saviour: Craig Young - 19th March 2004    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Friday, 19th March 2004 - 12:00pm

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