LGBT rights defenders arrested protesting Education Ministry’s treatment of trans student

Video screengrab of protestors outside the Ministry of Education headquarters in Buona Vista. Photo: @Kixes/Twitter
Video screengrab of protestors outside the Ministry of Education headquarters in Buona Vista. Photo: @Kixes/Twitter

The police this afternoon arrested three outside the Education Ministry where they were protesting its discrimination against queer students.

The arrests came within minutes of the protest beginning at 5pm. Those taken into custody held signs supporting transgender students at the rally attended by five in total, days after the ministry’s widely criticized handling of a student’s accusations it had intervened to prevent her from obtaining hormone treatment. 

“Trans students deserve access to healthcare and support,” read one. Another: “How can we get A’s when your care for us is an F.”

Two in the group had departed of their own violation while the other three were escorted into a police vehicle, according to videos online. 

Lune Loh and Elijah Tay were named as two of the protesters in a statement published online calling for Education Minister Lawrence Wong to “end discrimination against LGBTQ+ students by MOE schools.”

“We are a group of students and supporters staging a peaceful demonstration at 5pm today outside the Ministry of Education (MOE) at Buona Vista,” the statement said. “We call on Minister Lawrence Wong to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ students by MOE schools, so as to uphold the fundamental right of all students to education within a safe and supportive school life.”

The statement also listed what it alleged were examples of the mistreatment of queer students. It included controlling what students wear, dictating gender-specific hairstyles, incorporating conversion therapy into school counseling sessions and refusing to use a student’s preferred pronouns. 

The protest is the latest reaction to the online uproar that erupted after a trans student said education officials had moved to shut down her doctor-advised hormone therapy. Identified only as Ashlee, the student said her school had threatened to expel her if she did not conform to a male identity and uniform. The ministry said last week that her life decisions were up to her parents and suggested she homeschool

Peaceful demonstrations of any size are illegal in Singapore without a police permit, which is usually granted only for rallies held at the Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park.

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