‘Repeal 377A’: This year’s Pink Dot takes firm stand against legal discrimination

Photo: Pink Dot SG
Photo: Pink Dot SG

Singapore’s Hong Lim Park was filled with shades of pink this Saturday, June 29, as Pink Dot Singapore held its 11th annual installment at the park’s designated Speakers’ Corner.

The theme — “Standing Against Discrimination” — showed that this year, Pink Dot was ready to make the day not only about recognizing gains made by the LGBTQ+ community, but also about asserting the need for specific next steps towards true progress and equality.

On Saturday, thousands of supporters at Pink Dot rallied together to demand the repeal of Section 377A, a statute that criminalizes sex between consenting adult men in the country.

 

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There has been greater pressure for change in the republic since the Supreme Court of India struck down a similar section of the Indian penal code in September last year.

This spurred an online petition to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, which gained much traction among Singapore’s LGBTQ+ groups and their supporters, but ultimately failed to make any legal impact. However, with Taiwan’s recent legalization of same-sex marriage — a first in Asia — there has since been a sense of added momentum to the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the region. 

Just before Saturday’s event, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong offered a rare public comment on the law while speaking at the Smart Nation Summit at Marina Bay Sands.

“About inclusiveness, we are open. You know our rules in Singapore, whatever your sexuality orientation is, you’re welcome to come and work in Singapore. Some people have an issue with the 377A, which is our legislation on… I’m not sure exactly what the clause says, but basically it’s against homosexual acts. Which remains legislation and it will for some time,” he said.

Prime Minister Lee speaking at the Smart Nation Summit. Photo: Coconuts Media
Prime Minister Lee speaking at the Smart Nation Summit. Photo: Coconuts Media

Lee also referred to the country’s biggest LGBT+ event of the year, saying: “But it has not inhibited people from living. It has not stopped Pink Dot from having a gathering every year.”

On Thursday, June 27, organizers of Pink Dot Singapore responded to PM Lee’s comments through a Facebook post, in which the organization voiced its disagreement with the PM about whether the nation truly has LGBTQ+ tolerance and inclusiveness, stating: “Pink Dot’s existence is not proof of Singapore’s inclusiveness to the LGBTQ community… Pink Dot exists precisely because members of the LGBTQ community in Singapore continue to face discrimination and inequality in a multitude of ways, on a daily basis.”

The organization reaffirmed this statement on Saturday, during which Pink Dot 2019 spokesperson Paerin Choa, speaking to the assembled crowd, said “our leaders seem to be selective in their listening when it comes to the discrimination that LGBTQ people face every single day” — even addressing the PM directly with a plea: “Please, Prime Minister Lee — lead us. Tear down this law.”

 

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This year, the event had a total of 118 local sponsors and 25 community partners, which consisted of several local LGBTQ+ groups and organizational allies. 

There was also a concert held, with local celebrities like YouTuber Preetipls, rapper Subhas, and radio DJ Joshua Simon taking the stage to entertain the crowd.

Among the notable attendees this year were Pat Law, founder of social media agency GoodStuph; Lee Hsien Yang, former chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and brother of the Prime Minister; and LHY’s wife, lawyer Lee Suet Fern. The Lees attended with their recently married son Li Huanwu and his husband Heng Yirui.

 

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Many commended the other Lee family for their show of support, particularly applauding the appearance of the newlyweds with Li’s parents.

Photo: Pink Dot/Facebook
Photo: Pink Dot/Facebook

The night ended with the tradition of attendees holding up pink and white lights that formed one massive pink dot — this time, with a message calling for the repeal of Section 377A.

 

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Last year’s Pink Dot theme, titled “We Are Ready!”, focused on the collective effort to foster a safe social space for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Coconuts Singapore has reached out to Pink Dot for comment on this year’s event, and will update this article if and when the organization responds.

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CITY: SINGAPORECATEGORY: NEWS

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