Row erupts in Singapore over pulling of children’s books with gay themes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 July, 2014, 6:08pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 July, 2014, 10:17pm

Authorities in Singapore are facing an online backlash after public libraries withdrew and decided to pulp three children's book titles because they were against family values.

One of them, And Tango Makes Three, is based on a true story of two male penguins taking care of a baby chick at Central Park Zoo in New York.

We sieve through the contents [of children’s books] and exercise our best judgment

It is believed that a conservative parent had written a complaint to authorities and wanted the book to be taken off the shelves.

Also withdrawn were two other titles with gay themes, The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption, and Who's In My Family: All About Our Families.

The government-run National Library Board (NLB) defended its decision on its Facebook page, saying it took "a pro-family" stance. "In selecting children's books, we sieve through the contents and exercise our best judgment," the statement said.

The decision by the NLB to pulp the books has angered critics who say librarians should not be deciding what is considered "pro-family" and what is not.

Thousands have signed two online petitions to stop the destruction of the books. A petition on had garnered more than 2,000 supporters by yesterday, while people who posted an open letter online said they had so far received 4,600 signatures.

The online protest has spawned a hashtag meme - #FreeMyLibrary.

Janice Koh, a nominated lawmaker in parliament and an advocate of lesbian and gay rights, questioned the need for pulping the books.

"I'm concerned that some other parent can decide on my behalf what is an 'acceptable' or 'unacceptable' idea for my child," she said. "In any country, there might be different perspectives on a particular issue. But what is questionable here is that the authorities have decided to pulp the books based on a complaint, with no further review or consideration for other points of view."

While there has been an outcry for the books to be returned to the shelves, some are glad that they have been banned. A few Singaporeans have sent letters to newspapers voicing their support for the NLB's actions.

A letter published in the Today newspaper read: "Parents can still choose to expose their children to other content, but to insist that the NLB circulate books that are inconsistent with its own policies would be intolerant."

Gay sex is illegal in Singapore but the rule is hardly ever enforced.

Singapore saw its largest ever gay rights rally on June 28, with 26,000 taking part despite opposition from Christian and Muslim conservatives.