In Singapore, the Sedition Act not only prohibits seditious acts and speech which undermine the administration of government but also criminalises actions that promote feelings of ill will or hostility between different races or "classes of the population". Despite the statute's statement that it protects all segments of society, which by right should also include the LGBT community, it has mainly been used against individuals who have made offensive rants against the Malay-Muslim community. The LGBT community has not been accorded any shelter under this law and hate speech against it is constantly indulged in with impunity.
Section 298 of the Penal Code makes it an offence to utter a word within hearing distance of a person, with the deliberate intention to wound that person’s religious or racial feelings. The penalty is a jail term of up to 3 years, a fine, or both. Section 298A similarly criminalises the promotion of enmity between different religious or racial groups and carries an identical punishment. No such protection is given to the LGBT community.
- 1 Anti-LGBT groups
- 2 Instances of anti-LGBT hate speech
- 2.1 Pastor Rony Tan's comments during sermon, February 2010
- 2.2 Comments on We are against Pinkdot in Singapore, 1 April 2014
- 2.3 Bryan Lim's "open fire" comments, 4 June 2016
- 2.4 Doxxing of Martin Piper and family
- 2.5 Yahoo! article, 13 November 2019
- 2.6 Yahoo! article, 20 December 2019
- 2.7 Suspension of comments below Yahoo! articles
- 2.8 Death threat against Martin Piper
- 2.9 Joanna Theng links pride flag to Satan
- 2.10 SMOL pride flag incident
- 2.11 Sheni Nedumaran pride flag and attack incident
- 2.12 Ambuj Pandey's death threats against LGBT people
- 3 Microaggression
- 4 Progress in protection against anti-LGBT hate speech
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Acknowledgements
Anti-LGBT groups[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Singapore anti-LGBT organisations
In stark contrast to the fact that all groups against any race, religion or minority are banned in Singapore, the Government allows anti-LGBT organisations to flourish. Most of the hate speech against the gay community that can be read by the public surfaces on Facebook groups such as We are against Pinkdot in Singapore, Ban Pink Dot & LGBT Activism - Protect Children and Singaporeans Defending Marriage & Family. Many comments made below online news articles, especially those on Yahoo! Singapore, are also virulently anti-gay, abetted by the posters' sanctioned cloak of anonymity.
Instances of anti-LGBT hate speech[edit | edit source]
Pastor Rony Tan's comments during sermon, February 2010[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Pastor Rony Tan's anti-gay sermon saga
Barely two weeks after being called up by the Internal Security Department (ISD) for his insensitive comments on Buddhism and Daoism, another objectionable 80-minute video, uploaded in May 2009, was noted on the the homepage of the 12,000 strong megachurch Lighthouse Evangelism at www.lighthouse.org.sg. It featured then 33-year old Pastor Rony Tan making comments during a sermon like, "Proper sex means life - it propagates life. Lesbianism and homosexuality simply mean death and barrenness.”. He also quipped, "If you allow [homosexuality], next time people will want to get married to monkeys. And they will want rights. They’ll want to apply for HDB. With a donkey or a monkey or a dog and so on. It’s very pathetic.”.
The video attracted the attention of the public with local filmmakers Royston Tan and Sun Koh among a total of 85 people lodging a police report over the long Chinese New Year weekend against the pastor for his remarks,,. It was removed from the church's website one day after the pastor apologised to Buddhists and Daoists for denigrating their beliefs in the second week of February 2010.
Comments on We are against Pinkdot in Singapore, 1 April 2014[edit | edit source]
Bryan Lim's "open fire" comments, 4 June 2016[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Bryan Lim anti-gay hate speech saga
“I am a Singaporean citizen. I am a NSman. I am a father. And I swore to protect my nation. Give me the permission to open fire. I would like to see these £@€$^*s die for their causes”.
He was commenting on the hate group's post entitled, ‘Say No to Foreign Intervention‘.
Lim was fined $3,500 by the High Court on Friday, 4 November 2916. He was initially charged with making an electronic record encouraging violence against LGBT people, which would have landed him a maximum of five years' jail and a fine. However, he pleaded guilty to an amended charge of making a threatening, abusive or insulting communication under the Protection from Harassment Act (PHA). District Judge Low Wee Ping said the aggravating factor was his use of the words "open fire" and "die for their causes".
Doxxing of Martin Piper and family[edit | edit source]
In 2018, straight ally of the LGBT community Martin Piper and his family were doxxed - his private details, including residential address, were shared widely by the hate group “We Are Against Pinkdot in Singapore”. Other anti-LGBT groups also shared the content around this time.
Eventually a court ordered the material to be taken down and an apology made to Piper, a screenshot of which is attached below:
Screen captures made by Piper at the time of the doxxing revealed participation from religious leaders like Nina Khong. "Teril Lucifere" was a pseudonymous alternate account used by the main perpetrator while his main account was blocked by Facebook. The screen grabs are appended below:
This involvement caused extra worry and stress for Piper's family because he felt a “religious leader” posed a greater risk of inciting his/her followers to do something unwise. Religious leaders being involved with the hate group increased the risk of discrimination:
Yahoo! article, 13 November 2019[edit | edit source]
Yahoo! article, 20 December 2019[edit | edit source]
Suspension of comments below Yahoo! articles[edit | edit source]
It was not until 2021, after numerous complaints from the community, that the editors at Yahoo! decided to disable comments below their LGBT-themed articles and to publish the following statement at the end of each one:
"Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting."
Death threat against Martin Piper[edit | edit source]
"Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. It's time I share my experience, to speak out so that others know they are not alone.
About a year ago I received a physical death threat, it was violent and homophobic, which is crazy because I'm straight and married. The content left me without much doubt as to who sent it. There were other online threats around the same time. The police investigated, but nobody was charged.
A threat against me, is a threat against my family. It is a threat against society, by a small minority in Singapore intent on pushing their agenda of discrimination.
As part of the recent United Nations Human Rights periodic review, the Singapore government claimed they don't tolerate discrimination. But the fact is a well known Singapore based hate group called "We Are Against Pink Dot" still exists despite being active for years. The members of that group threaten and discriminate against others.
[edit | edit source]
In an Instagram video uploaded on Wednesday, 22 July 2020, local artiste Joanna Theng, then 22 years of age, linked the LGBT rights movement and its rainbow flag to Satan. The 14-minute video was the final instalment in a three-part series by City Revival (CR), which described itself as a "inter-generational" and "inter-denominational" Christian community. As part of the series, Theng and another member of the religious community, Jaime Wong, delved into the Book of Revelations, the final book in the Old Testament, and discussed its relevance in today's world.
While the first two episodes largely flew under the radar, the last episode attracted controversy for its portrayal of the LGBT community. Theng and Wong kicked off the video by introducing one of the main antagonists in the book, Satan. Wong then listed the LGBT pride movement as an example of "deception by Satan" and "lies in our society today". "Have you even wondered why the gay pride uses a six-colour rainbow flag as a symbol for love? Satan knows that God is love," she said. "The biblical rainbow has seven colours and seven is a number symbolic for perfection in the Bible... On the contrary, the mark of the beast is the number 666."
Theng continued: "Is it a coincidence that the gay pride celebrates taking pride in distorting the true symbol of the love and peace of God with the six-colour rainbow flag? We believe this movement is one of the ways that Satan, the spiritual force, has influenced the physical realm to manifest in ways that insult and show contempt for God."
In actual fact, the pride flag had eight colours when it was first designed in 1978. It later transitioned to a six-colour version due to production issues. An updated version of the flag which comprised 11 colours was popularised in 2020 following a push for more inclusivity in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in the US.
SMOL pride flag incident[edit | edit source]
- Main article: SMOL pride flag incident
On 18 January 2021, a passer-by ripped a pride flag off the counter of health food stall SMOL at Lau Pa Sat and threw it at one of its staff. He then shouted: "You are the kind of people who is destroying Singapore! Go to hell!" The proprietor, Charmaine Low, had displayed the flag at the stall’s outlet in support of the LGBTQ community. She was stunned but determined to continue displaying the rainbow flag. The incident was followed by an outpouring of support from customers and users of social media. A police report was lodged and the culprit speedily identified.
On 6 July 2021, it was revealed that the culprit was only given a 24-month conditional warning. The police did not recommend prosecution for the 47-year-old man because, according to them, he did not cause any injuries, the incident was “not protracted” and he had a medical history of mental disorder which may have partly explained his actions.
Sheni Nedumaran pride flag and attack incident[edit | edit source]
On 21 June, the police stopped by her home to investigate a complaint from a neighbour about her pride flag. When asked if she had committed any crime, the police officer confirmed that she had not done anything illegal. However, the police insisted that they were still required to "advise" her that there had been a complaint. When Sheni questioned the police whether they similarly "advised" the neighbour that there was nothing to investigate since nothing illegal happened, the officers responded that they could not tell the complainant what to do. The police then took down her personal details such as her NRIC number, even though it was clear she did nothing wrong.
On 29 June 2021, while working from home, Sheni was startled when she heard a loud bang. She then discovered that vandals had forcibly ripped her pride flag off her window and thrown on the ground. She went to hang it back up again. Within hours, someone ripped the rainbow flag off her window again. It was not known if it was the same person(s) on both occasions. Sheni did not manage to see the vandal/s who ripped her pride flag off, since they ran away after doing their deed. She then filed a police report against the perpetrators.
On 30 June 2021, it came to LGBT-friendly counselling agency Oogachaga's attention that Sheni, who was one of their frontline volunteer counsellors and former full-time staff member, had been attacked in her own home. They were relieved to report that she was physically sare and, understandably, she was mentally shaken by what happened. Fortunately, she was surrounded by supportive family members and friends.
Oogachaga sincerely hoped that the Singapore Police Force would thoroughly investigate these two acts of vandalism, and bring justice to Sheni and her family, and restore safety to the neighbourhood. The organisation categorically stated that any attack on Oogachaga volunteers and staff members was an attack on its wider community of volunteers, staff members and clients who were LGBTQ+, along with its allies, supporters, and family members.
Ambuj Pandey's death threats against LGBT people[edit | edit source]
On Friday, 2 July 2021, Wake Up, Singapore, a community of young political activists, posted the following message on its Facebook page after its Instagram re-post of a TikTok video depicting anti-LGBT hate speech was taken down for violating community guidelines:
"Trigger warning: Death Threats to LGBT persons and homophobic slurs
@ambuj_x went on Tik Tok live and ranted against LGBT people. Amongst other things is, he also issued death threats to the LGBT Community. We cannot post the video here as Instagram repeatedly removes our post (pls relook your policy @instagram )
In the interests of transparency, we post here his so-called "explanation" which was emailed to us after we called him out.
He also had the gall and temerity to issue legal threats to us separately (see post below)."
The following is a complete transcript of the hate speech in the video:
"Eh, why not, ah, I f**king challenge the whole LGBT to a fight, lah, this one I think I want to whack all of them already, I cannot tahan. One time you all whack only, you all will shut up. And the Pink Dot, I'll make sure the Pink Dot not happening. I'll f**king make sure I will f**king send my guys to riot in Pink Dot and I will make sure I will make it into a gang clash, ah, next year or the next.
...the f**king LGBT to f**k off from Singapore and all your gay f**kers must kena whack one day, you know. Bro, like legit, one day if I see you, ah, I will be the reason why LGBT will no longer exist in Singapore and I will be the happiest person. Because I not bapok like you. But if one of your f**king LGBT committee put one hate comment, I'll make a video of burning down the flag. I don't care you 17 years old or what. I'll f**king punch you and you just wait for it. I will just meet you and **** you one time and then I will do whatever I want to do with you. Now I am threatening you. I'll make sure, you know, you have one longkang, ah, where all my f**king...
I will throw your body in the longkang there. I'll f**king throw your body there you know. Never mind, I also know your home address. Wait ah, maybe your house I can send someone to burn down your house. I also don't mind, you know. I just don't like your face and I don't like how gay you are also. (holds up a switchblade in the final frame)."
Even though Instagram took down Wake Up, Singapore's post, the video clip had already gained traction online. Several netizens condemned Pandey and some claimed that they had lodged police complaints against the TikTok user. Pandey then contacted Wake Up, Singapore seeking to explain his side of the story. The page published screenshots of the email Pandey sent it online.
In his email, Pandey explained that the other person in the video refused to answer what the LGBTQ cause had to do with the Singapore flag and responded to his question by calling Pandey a homophobe. People in the comments section began to echo the other person’s criticism. Pandey claimed that this was when he launched into his rant against LGBTQ persons. He alleged: “So the video that was cropped from the ending of the video where the situation was already hot and they used that to post against me.” He added that he only made the remarks he did as he was hurt by the other person who compared racism to discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Pandey offered to apologise if the other person also said sorry and asked Wake Up, Singapore to arrange a public talk between himself and the other person.
Wake Up, Singapore continued to beseech netizens to inform their MPs and the authorities “about this vile and disgusting behaviour that has no place in our society.” Thanking those who had already filed police reports, the page also urged the authorities to take swift action against Pandey and send a clear message that such behaviour would not be tolerated.
Pandey left several comments on the Wake Up, Singapore's Instagram page asking them to hear the full story. He also left the website a direct message asking it to listen to his version of what happened. When the group did not respond, Pandey threatened legal action and said he would see them all in court. Wake Up, Singapore later confirmed that it had not received a lawyer's letter from Pandey and that he had only made a threat on social media to take action against the group.
"TW/CW: Expletives, LGBTQ slurs, threats of violence, death threats
Pink Dot is aware of a video circulating online where threats of violence have been against the LGBTQ community in Singapore. The individuals in this video discuss the mobilisation of others to riot and carry out acts of violence to specifically disrupt the Pink Dot event. The video is also laden with expletives and slurs.
We are aware that the relevant authorities have been notified of this video. We trust that this would be taken with utmost seriousness, as Minister K Shanmugam Sc has previously made unequivocal assurances that the authorities will take action against those that stir hate speech against the LGBTQ community.
Pink Dot is gravely concerned by these threats. The LGBTQ community here continue to face discrimination in their daily lives, and we take great pains to ensure that the event is a safe environment for all participants.
That said, we kindly ask that you do not share this video online, as it contains potentially distressing content. Please also refrain from exposing the identities of those involved."
Microaggression[edit | edit source]
Microaggression is a term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group, particularly culturally marginalised groups like the gay community. Although falling short of being hate speech, it nonetheless can be detrimental to an LGBT person’s psychological health and may lead to chronic stress, depression, anxiety, and lowered self-esteem.
Microaggressions occur in three distinct ways:
- Microassaults are conscious, deliberate forms of discriminatory practice that are intended to harm, and most closely resemble traditional forms of discrimination. Examples of microassaults would include intentionally calling a person who identifies as a sexual or gender minority a derogatory slur (eg. ah kua, bapok, pondan, faggot) or telling a trans people that they cannot use a multiple-stall restroom or rejecting their entry into a multiple-stall restroom when they try to use one.
An example of institutionalised microassault is the existence of Section 377A of the Penal Code whereby the State imparts to society and to gay men the conviction that homosexuals are criminals for indulging in sex even when it is consensual, between adults and done in private. Another is the messaging put out by religious organisations which conduct conversion therapy like the Choices ministry at the Church Of Our Saviour and truelove.is that tell gay individuals they are "broken" and that they can "come out" of their sexual orientation to become straight.
- Microinsults include snubs, gestures, and verbal slights. Examples are:
1) Asking a gay man during Chinese New Year or other holiday when he is going to find a girlfriend or get married. This insinuates that he is deficient in some way because he does not have an opposite-sex partner or that he is irresponsible for not getting married and producing children.
2) Asking a gay friend after a long hiatus whether he has a new boyfriend, implying that gay relationships are inherently fragile or that homosexuals are promiscuous.
3) Using the phrase “that’s so gay” to refer to something stupid, odd, or undesirable, which is often considered insulting and hurtful.
- Finally, microinvalidations serve to exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of certain groups. An example of a microinvalidation would be assuming that all gay individuals had a difficult experience “coming out,” which is defined as the process through which one acknowledges and accepts one’s own sexual or gender identity to their families. Another is telling a young gay person that his same-sex attraction is just a phase and that he will grow out of it.
Progress in protection against anti-LGBT hate speech[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Explanatory Statement to the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act
- See also: K Shanmugam's views on homosexuality
In 2019, the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (MRHA) was amended by Parliament to protect both religious groups as well as non-religious ones, like the gay community. An Explanatory Statement to the MRHA, passed in Parliament in the first week of October 2019, was added to the Act and specifically referred to the LGBT community, stating that it would be an offence to use force or violence against it on the grounds of religion.
It was supposed to do so by dealing with both groups equally as the new provisions were meant not only to reduce conflicts between and within religious groups, but also to prevent religion from being used as a basis to attack groups that may not be of a religious persuasion, such as the LGBT community. However, in practice, no concrete action has been taken against most instances of online hate speech, and even those that occur in the real world as witnessed in the SMOL pride flag incident.
LGBT Singaporeans who suffer from cyberbullying and online harassment may also avail themselves of the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) although the latter applies to everyone and does not specifically mention the LGBT community, thereby making it less groundbreaking in terms of LGBT rights.
On 29 April 2021, a person who recounted that in the last 3 years since he had been back to live in Singapore, he had experienced a few cases of discrimination against himself as a gay man based on religious grounds. He wanted to put an end to it so he wrote to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Ministry's reply was heartening as it gave the individual some basis to protect himself from future harassment (points 3 and 4).
"2. Although section 377A remains in the Penal Code, the Government has publicly stated that the Police will not proactively enforce it against consenting adult males in private. The Attorney-General’s Chambers has also taken the position that a prosecution under section 377A would not be in the public interest where the conduct in question was between two consenting adults in a private place.
3. The Government takes violence or hate speech against any person seriously, and does not condone such crimes committed against any individual, regardless of their sexual orientation or religious beliefs.
4. The Protection from Harassment Act protects all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation, against harassment and abuse. Recent amendments to the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act have also made it an offence to urge violence on the grounds of religion or religious belief, against any person or group. Action can be taken if a religious group, using religion, attacks a non-religious group, for example a LGBTQ group, on the basis of religion."
See also[edit | edit source]
- Discrimination against homosexuals in Singapore
- Article 12 of the Singapore Constitution: LGBT aspects
- Universal Periodic Review: Singapore LGBT issues
- Explanatory Statement to the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act
References[edit | edit source]
- Fabian Koh, "Parliament: Law protects both religious groups and LGBT community from threats, says Shanmugam", The Straits Times, 2 March 2020.
- Navene Elangovan, "New legislation protects LGBTQ community from religiously motivated violence but law is 'same for all'", TODAY, 14 October 2019.
Acknowledgements[edit | edit source]
This article was written by Roy Tan.