Singapore’s Pink Dot calls on politicians to move “onwards” with law reform

Pink Dot

Majulah, in Malay it means ‘onwards’ and it’s the message attendees at Singapore’s Pink Dot event sent to politicians and their fellow citizens.  Singing the country’s national anthem Majulah Singapura, thousands called for action on Singapore’s antiquated colonial laws against homosexuality.

Singapore’s annual gathering in support of LGBTIQA+ law reform drew thousands of people to Hong Lim Park on Saturday. Supporters of the event called on the nation’s government to take action and remove the British colonial era laws.

Saturday’s event saw some politicians in attendance, although they declined to speak to the media. The event also saw performances and speeches from members of Singapore’s LGBTIQA+ communities.

Lawyer Remy Choo, who has involved in some of the recent court challenges to the laws against homosexuality, spoke to the crowd highlighting changes that have occurred in recent years.

“I think we stand on the edge of something significant. The government has said it is going to review 377A. The majority of Singaporeans no longer support criminalisation of gay men.” Choo said speaking to the crowd.

The specific piece of legislation that outlaws homosexuality in Singapore is section 377A of the penal code. It was first established when Singapore was a British colony. Similarly worded legislation is found in many former British colonies, often with the same statue number.

“Soon the choice will be before parliament again and there will be two options. Do we want to continue being held hostage to a moral minority that gets weirdly triggered by cartoon characters kissing? Or, are we going to start taking that first step into making a reality of the pledge to build  a democratic society based on justice and equality? Any day of the year, I choose equality now.”

Choo, who is also a committee member of the Ready4Repeal group, said decriminalising homosexuality would have a big effect on people’s lives.

“We hide in our workplaces, we hide to our families, and we have to hide to our loved ones, and this hurts. That’s because laws like 377A they do something to us, they gas-light us.” Choo said. “Gas-lighting requires us to accept as the truth, something that we inherently know is wrong. 377A asks us to accept that a relic of colonial history, birthed in 1938.”

“In a country that compares itself to New York and Hong Kong, we censor cartoons like the most conservative of religious countries. This gas-lighting requires us and asks us to accept as normal a truth that we know is not correct, so today we look around us and we affirm that there is nothing abnormal about our love.” Choo said.

The lawyer said the removal of the laws outlawing homosexuality would still leave the country needing to take action against discrimination that occurred in schools, housing, media representation and against racial minorities, and  people living with HIV.

Protests are only allowed in Singapore under strict rules. Speaker’s Corner in Hong Lim park is the only space when speaking against the government is permitted. Over the years the Pink Dot movement has lead the way in showing what a peaceful protest can achieve, but it has faced increasing pressure from authorities as it’s popularity grew.

The event used to be held in the evening with participants shining pink coloured torches into the night sky to create the ‘pink dot’. In recent year’s authorities have clamped down on the event only allowing it to be held during daylight hours, banning non-Singaporean citizen’s from attending, and stopping multi-national companies from sponsoring the event. Organisers also face huge fines if any of the strict rules are broken.

Undeterred Pink Dot Singapore have continued on finding innovative ways to continue to spread their message. Saturday’s event saw participants hold up pink placards to create the sea of pink messages.

On each placard they wrote messages of support and added their post code. Attendees also had the option of taking a photo with their message that could be printed out and sent to their local representative.

Graeme Watson, image: Pink Dot Singapore. 

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