Gay rights rally turns prudish Singapore pink

Thousands reject discrimination and old law in show of support for LGBT community

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 June, 2013, 6:16am


More than 20,000 people wearing pink clothing gathered in Singapore yesterday for an annual rally in support of gay rights in the city-state, where an archaic law criminalises sex between men.

From pink tube tops to hats and even facial hair dyed pink, straight and gay Singaporeans arrived at Speakers' Corner, a government-designated free speech park, in the colour theme picked by organisers to represent the freedom to love.

Some brought dogs and cats in pink pet clothing and on pink leashes.

"Singaporeans gathered here today are saying that we want to be a kinder and more inclusive society," said Ivan Heng, an ambassador for organiser Pink Dot Sg and a prominent local theatre director. "More Singaporeans have come to understand that prejudice and discrimination hurts the community, our families, and the people we work with."

Organisers, who stressed that the event was not a protest but a public show of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, estimated that 21,000 people attended.

It was the biggest crowd since the annual event started in 2009, when nearly 2,500 people attended.

Last year, 15,000 participated in the event, which counts Barclays Bank, JP Morgan and Google among its corporate sponsors.

The three-hour gathering featured musical performances by Singaporean artists and culminated with the crowd forming a giant pink dot after dusk by holding LED lights. Law student Akesh Abhilash, 25, said younger Singaporeans are more inclined to denounce calls from conservative segments of society to retain Section 377A, a provision in the penal code that makes it a crime for men to have sex with each other.

"The gay community does not infringe on any one's rights. It is ridiculous for others to claim to be able to dictate how they should lead their lives," he said.

Section 377A is not enforced actively by authorities, but LGBT rights campaigners still see it as a threat and demand its repeal.

Government officials maintain that the law must stay in the books because most Singaporeans are still conservative and do not accept homosexuality.

In April, Singapore's High Court rejected a petition to repeal the law, drawing fire from international rights activists.