Singapore book prize judges quit in gay censorship row

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2014, 10:54pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2014, 11:24pm


A censorship row in Singapore escalated yesterday when judges of a literary prize quit over the national library's plans to destroy three children's books deemed to be pro-homosexual.

The three judges of the non-fiction category of the biennial Singapore Literature Prize condemned a National Library Board (NLB) decision last week to pulp three titles that went against its "pro-family" stance. "We condemn in the strongest terms the NLB's decision to remove and destroy these books, given that it is responsible for the dissemination of information rather than its destruction," said T. Sasitharan, Romen Bose and Robin Hemley in a statement.

The trio are leading figures in Singapore's small but vocal arts and literary community.

The state-funded NLB last week confirmed that three titles would be destroyed following complaints by a parent and an internal review.

They include And Tango Makes Three - a true story about two male penguins in a New York zoo that raised a baby penguin - and The White Swan Express, which features children adopted by straight, gay, mixed-race and single parents.

We condemn the decision to remove and destroy these books

The third book, Who's In My Family, looks at different types of families, including gay couples.

The decision to destroy the books was supported by Singapore's information minister, Yaacob Ibrahim, who said the NLB was "guided by community norms" which do not support teaching children about "alternative, non-traditional families".

But Singaporean writers criticised the NLB for partaking in "book burning" and censorship.

About 400 people gathered at a library on Sunday to read the banned books to their children as a show of protest, and writers due to speak at an NLB event on Sunday also pulled out in protest.

Sex between men is illegal in Singapore and punishable by up to two years in jail under a provision in the penal code dating back to British colonial rule.