Thursday, 6 February 2014

Health board tackles gay issues in FAQs

Facts, advice in programme to teach youth about sexual health matters
By Hoe Pei Shan, The Straits Times, 5 Feb 2014

A LIST of some two dozen questions focusing on homosexuality and bisexuality has been generating buzz, not least because of its source - the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

First posted in November last year, the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Sexuality and their corresponding answers were put together by HPB, with the help of professional counsellors.

Part of HPB's programme to educate youth on sexually transmitted diseases, it is meant as "a one-stop resource to provide factual information on sexuality and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) / HIV prevention from a public health perspective", said the board in response to queries from The Straits Times.

"We would like to reiterate that the family remains the basic building block of our society. This means encouraging heterosexual married couples to have healthy relationships and to build stable nuclear and extended family units," it added.

From defining gender identity and sexual orientation, to comparing homosexual and heterosexual relationships, the FAQs provide facts and even advice on dealing with discrimination and homophobia. Nearly half of the 28 Q&As were for parents who may be struggling to deal with children who have displayed homosexual or bisexual tendencies, or are at risk of sexually transmitted diseases and Aids.

The general acceptance of homosexuality may currently be low - an Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) survey released last week showed that almost 80 per cent of respondents were against homosexual relations - but that is changing, said sociologist Tan Ern Ser.

"People in Singapore society, understood as a post-materialist society, will increasingly come to see homosexuality as different, rather than deviant," he said. This resonates with HPB "presenting homosexuality as a normal sexual orientation, different from heterosexuality but normal".

The FAQs also address STIs, HIV and Aids, including where to get tested and how to prevent transmissions, in a manner that is "quite clinical, without moralising", said Dr Tan.

HPB advises youth who need support in sexual health matters to seek assistance and guidance from their parents, trusted adults or professional counsellors.

Dr Benjamin Detenber, who led a team that studied perceptions of homosexuality here last year, lauded HPB for taking steps to address sexual health "in a thoughtful manner".

Said the communications professor at Nanyang Technological University: "I think it's good for HPB to provide information on a wide range of health-related topics for all kinds of people. In fact, it's essential to their mission."

For openly gay IT consultant Adrianna Tan, 29, the FAQs are, overall, a welcome addition to any public conversation about homosexuality.

"I was surprised in a positive way when I read it because I felt like it was the first scientifically accurate and non-ideological version of sexual education going back to my school days in Singapore," said Ms Tan.

"One of the things that always comes up is 'I feel unaccepted and I feel like I don't belong'. Just giving the facts is a mature step that will move us towards learning a little bit more."

What does it mean to be gay or bisexual?

A gay person is emotionally and/or physically attracted to a person of the same sex. Bisexuals can find themselves attracted to both guys and girls - sometimes at different points in their lives. No one can label a person as gay/bisexual unless the person chooses to come out of the closet (meaning reveal their sexual orientation to people he/she knows).

Can homosexuals have long lasting relationships?

Yes, homosexuals can certainly have long-lasting relationships.

A homosexual relationship, like any other relationship, is based on values like trust, love, commitment and support.

How different is a same-sex relationship from a heterosexual relationship?

A same-sex relationship is not too different from a heterosexual relationship. Both take the commitment of two people. It is also a connection of two families, cultures and sometimes racial backgrounds and values.

FAQs on sexuality prompt two opposing petitions
One describes HPB's list as questionable, the other applauds the posting
By Hoe Pei Shan, The Straits Times, 6 Feb 2014

THE Health Promotion Board's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on sexuality have become the subject of two opposing online petitions that have garnered some 3,000 signatures in less than three days.

The government statutory board put the list of questions and answers on its site last November as part of a programme to educate youth on sexually transmitted diseases. Information ranges from defining gender identity and sexual orientation to comparing homosexual and heterosexual relationships. There is also advice on dealing with discrimination and homophobia, sexually-transmitted infections, HIV and Aids.

It has also raised eyebrows.

The first petition appeared on on Monday. It called the FAQs "questionable and objectionable", as they provide information that is "unverifiable" and "pro-homosexuality". HPB's posting of the FAQs was "not just an irresponsible act, but also a misuse of their public service position, platform and a blatant betrayal of public trust", claims the petition, posted by "Aaron".

Its creator, when contacted by The Straits Times, declined to reveal his identity but signed his e-mails as "Aaron L". He said he was "an ordinary man who loves my family and has devoted time to help homosexuals".

He took issue with several answers in the list, such as the one to the question "Is being gay or bisexual a mental illness?"

HPB's answer is that "homosexuality and bisexuality are not mental illnesses. Studies show that sexual orientation has no bearing on mental health or emotional stability".

This means "HPB is introducing the idea that homosexuality... is in-born, natural, normal, healthy", said Aaron, in a statement sent to The Straits Times. "Unfortunately, HPB's FAQ does not stand the test of true science and statistics."

He urged the Ministry of Health to "thoroughly examine the FAQ" and "the implicit, underlying values that drive it".

The petition, which had drawn more than 1,700 signatures by last night, led Ms Melissa Tsang, an openly bisexual 20-year-old, to respond with a counter-petition urging HPB to ignore the former.

"His (Aaron's) accusations against HPB are completely unfounded," Ms Tsang told The Straits Times yesterday. "It is the obligation of the HPB to get this information out there, so their FAQ is part of them doing its job."

Ms Tsang, who enters university later this year, posted her petition late Tuesday night. It asks HPB to reinstate links to three organisations that deal with sexuality and sexual health.

An earlier version of the FAQs had included links to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) counselling service Oogachaga, Action for Aids Singapore, and LGBT welfare network SAFE, she said. But these were later removed from the page, without explanation.

Ms Tsang applauded HPB's introduction of the FAQs but urged it to restore the links as "these organisations provide life-saving information".

"When I was younger and only beginning to come out, I wished some of these resources were more readily available," said Ms Tsang, whose petition had drawn more than 1,200 signatures last night.

"The FAQ means a lot to others out there, that a government agency is providing this information and engaging in the discussion on these issues."

Asked if and how it would be responding to the petitions, HPB said "visitors to the website have generally found the information useful and educational", and that the board has taken note of "the feedback from various parties".

"We appreciate the feedback... as it would be useful in HPB's continual review of our public education resources, especially on programmes which touch on sexuality matters, including sexual identity, sexual orientation and prevention of STIs and HIV/Aids.

"HPB would like to reiterate that the family remains the basic building block of our society. This means encouraging heterosexual married couples to have healthy relationships and to build stable nuclear and extended family units. The Government has been consistent in this line and HPB takes reference from it in our health promotion activities," it added.

The FAQs have been described as informative by sociologists and analysts of public perceptions on sexuality. Sociologist Daniel Goh, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore, said they were clear and objective.

He said: "The questions are very factual and reflect the current social scientific and scientific understanding of homosexuality.

"Informing people about concerns and facts about homosexuality is to acknowledge the incontrovertible reality of homosexuality... (which) actually helps promote the family as a basic building block of society, as it helps parents and other family members understand and accept homosexuality as a fact."

‘Disappointed’ MP criticises HPB for its FAQ on sexuality
By Siau Ming En, TODAY, 7 Feb 2014

A Member of Parliament has become the latest to weigh in on the Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) posting of an FAQ section on sexuality on its website, which has drawn polarised reactions — including petitions both for and against the board’s move — after it went viral last weekend.

Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan yesterday hit out at one of the responses, which said homosexual and heterosexual relationships are not too different. Writing on his Facebook page, he said: “I cannot agree that ‘A same-sex relationship is not too different from a heterosexual relationship’. The two relationships are different and they go against the Government’s policy of promoting heterosexual married couples to have healthy relationships and to build stable nuclear and extended family units.

“I am utterly disappointed at the HPB’s stand in issuing such a statement,” said Mr Lim, who has also filed a question asking the Health Minister to clarify his ministry’s stand on the board’s online resource when Parliament next sits on Feb 17.

The FAQ section, which HPB said had been developed with input from professional counsellors, was one of its initiatives to “educate youths on sexually-transmitted diseases”.

The resource started making its rounds online after generating positive buzz for the answers to topics such as homosexuality. However, it has since triggered a debate, culminating in a petition started on Monday against the board’s posting and which called for the Health Minister to conduct a “thorough, non-biased, comprehensive review” of the “one-sided” and “pro-homosexuality” information.

Pastor Lawrence Khong of Faith Community Baptist Church also wrote, in the capacity as Chairman of church network LoveSingapore, a seven-page response against the “pro-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) view” in the HPB’s FAQ section, which was yesterday put up on the church’s website and Facebook page. These were countered by another petition started on Tuesday in support of the board’s move, though it also called for the board to reinstate to the resource links to LGBT support groups that had allegedly been removed.

Yesterday, Mr Lim told this newspaper he learnt about the FAQ section a few days ago when he received it in his email. He decided to make his Facebook posting because he felt the FAQ section “sends a wrong signal”.

Noting that the bulk of the FAQ seemed to suggest that a homosexual relationship “is quite normal”, he added: “If we say a homosexual relationship is quite normal, then people get confused because that’s not the state’s pro-family position”.

In response to TODAY’s queries, the HPB said it had noted Mr Lim’s feedback and reiterated that “family remains the basic building block of our society”. The board added that it would take into consideration relevant inputs it had received to see how it could further improve its communications as well as to better reach out to Singaporeans in their health promotion educational materials.

Mr Lim also felt that some of the answers in the FAQ seemed to present opinions as facts. He cited the answer provided to the question “Can homosexuals have long-lasting relationships?”, which was: “Yes, homosexuals can certainly have long-lasting relationships. A homosexual relationship, like any other relationship, is based on values like trust, love, commitment and support.”

Mr Lim said there were no conclusive studies supporting this statement and added that it could have captured the diverse views on the issue. “From what I have read, there are really diverse opinions on it, so when there are diverse opinions, you have to be honest about it — that some people feel it this way, some people feel it the other way — and let readers judge for themselves,” he said. Nevertheless, Mr Lim said some answers, such as the definitions of gender identity and sexual orientation, were informative.

Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng also told TODAY he was “a bit surprised” when he saw that the HPB had posted the FAQ section. “It’s a bit bold of them to take this approach,” said Mr Baey, who previously had expressed support for the repeal of Section 377A, which criminalises sex between men. While he found some of the answers objective and explained in a clinical way, Mr Baey felt there were some that were too simplistic and may lead to people making judgements that are not as well-informed.

“For example, this point about the differences between same-sex and heterosexual relationships, I felt that the answer lacked another dimension, which is about the Asian values of family,” he said. He added that some social norms, such as how same-sex couples are not able to get married here, could have been reflected in the answers.

“I think the HPB tried to take a neutral stance. But (by) being neutral, it would not have included certain social norms or mainstream values that are still quite prevalent in our society, so I think that is what irks some quarters of society.”

Four myths in homosexuality debate
By Calvin Cheng, Published MyPaper, 10 Feb 2014

THE publication of the Health Promotion Board's latest FAQs on sexuality has set off Singapore's latest round of heated debate on homosexuality. It looks like Singapore will not be able to escape the destiny of other countries in entering a period of "culture war" over homosexuality.

Like in other countries, this issue is set to ignite impassioned arguments from all sides. It would, however, be tragic if, like in other countries, this causes a fracture in society that eventually inflames partisan politics.

As an atheist and a secularist, I have no reason to support anti-homosexual laws in Singapore; yet I have found it useful to try to move beyond emotive language, and clear a few myths from both sides:

1. People who are against homosexuality are stupid and bigoted

Most people who are against homosexuality are against it as a result of their religion. Many are well-educated and intelligent. Even though I do not have a religion, I respect those who do and I recognise that their religion is the basis of their moral beliefs.

The Bible and the Quran make it very clear that homosexuality is a sin and I believe Christians and Muslims have no choice but to condemn it.

Of course, one can argue (as many have) that many dictates of the Bible are no longer practised by Christians, but this is up to the Christians to decide, not people like me who are outsiders. If their religion, their church says that homosexuality is a sin, then it is what they have to believe in as pious followers. It is not about being stupid or bigoted.

2. Religious beliefs have no reason to be made into laws in a secular society

Even though I am a secularist, I think this argument is wrong. Religious beliefs as I argued above are the basis of a believer's moral compass. They are one and the same thing.

Laws are a reflection of a society's moral norms. If the majority of a society belongs to religions that believe homosexuality is a sin, these are also the moral beliefs of that majority.

And so, even if I strongly disagree with those moral beliefs, I respect those beliefs, and accept that the legislation in society must reflect the moral beliefs of the majority.

3. Homosexuality is not Asian and is against Asian values

This is an egregious mistake made by anti-homosexual advocates. The laws against homosexuality in Singapore were written by the British, whose laws reflect Christian beliefs.

Previous to colonisation, homosexuality was never illegal or even frowned upon in many Asian societies.

There have been many famous examples of openly homosexual emperors in China, and homosexual characters are celebrated in Chinese literature like the Dream Of The Red Chamber.

Pre-colonial Indian society was also extremely tolerant of homosexuals and transgender people. Incidentally, the Indian Penal Code was also written by the British, and India's Section 377 is almost identical to our 377.

Melanesian and Polynesian culture has also never been historically anti-homosexual. In fact, some Melanesian societies, such as the Edolo tribe, abhor heterosexual sex and instead encourage homosexual acts among men.

It is thus terribly misguided to say that homosexuality is against "Asian values".

4. Singapore law has always criminalised only homosexual acts

This is a myth and it is important to note that this is what I believe is the major problem with 377A. 377A was part of a larger Section 377. Previously, all sodomy was illegal. In 2007, the old 377 was repealed, and was replaced by a new 377 that criminalises sex with corpses, but the old 377A was retained.

What has essentially happened is that while sodomy between a man and a woman is now legal, sodomy between a man and a man is still illegal.

The problem with this is that while previously there was no discrimination - sodomy is illegal for all Singaporeans - now discrimination is obvious, since it is now only illegal for some Singaporeans, i.e., homosexual men.

If the Government had no intention of enforcing 377A, then it should have left the old 377 alone, and then everyone would be equally "illegal" under the law, even if this is not enforced.

It has caused this constitutional crisis itself by repealing a clause nobody enforced, and introducing a new section that discriminates against some.

At the end of the day, much as I feel that 377A should be repealed just on the basis that it discriminates, I know that it is politically difficult for any political party to advocate this.

This is because just a rough estimation of Muslims, Christians and moral conservatives would already constitute a majority.

Western societies started to repeal these laws only when politicians found it politically palatable, and much of it had to do with the changing interpretation of their religion by practising Christians, in these ostensibly Christian societies.

Singapore will be no different.

The writer is a former Nominated Member of Parliament and blogs at

Stop politicising HPB’s educational resource on sexuality
By Ivy Singh-Lim, TODAY, 10 Feb 2014

I thank the Health Promotion Board (HPB) for publishing its original FAQ on sexuality, an informative and neutral resource on sexual health and identity, the first of its kind in Singapore. Unfortunately, the FAQ has been politicised.

Contrary to what Member of Parliament Lim Biow Chuan said in the report “‘Disappointed’ MP criticises HPB for its FAQ on sexuality” (Feb 7), many Singaporeans would deem the HPB’s move necessary and progressive, as it reflects tolerance of diversity.

It does not promote homosexuality; it discourages prejudice against homosexuality and is educational.

Mr Lim and conservative pastor Lawrence Khong insist that the HPB should not go against the national building block of the family. Should we not be clear that family includes heterosexual couples who have chosen not to or cannot have children? If so, how different is a committed same-sex couple?

I am disappointed that a politician would suggest that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are not entitled to family values by virtue of their sexual orientation. There is a place for everyone in the paradise we call home.

It is not that homosexuality should be promoted, but that it should stop being a national issue. It is a private one, and we should stop politicising a simple resource.

It's about respect for minority rights

IT IS disappointing to hear, yet again, voices being raised against the provision of information that can be of assistance to gay and lesbian people - this time, in the form of information provided by the Health Promotion Board ("FAQs on sexuality prompt two opposing petitions"; last Thursday).

It is not a matter of approving or disapproving of the sexual orientation of part of Singapore's population, but of respect for democratic rights.

Around 5 per cent of the population in every country is gay or lesbian.

Many young people who believe that their sexual orientation may be homosexual feel very isolated and fearful of speaking with their families and friends about this, particularly if they have already encountered hostile or mocking reactions directed against other people known to be homosexuals.

Most people who take a negative view towards homosexuality, holding that it is contrary to their own moral values, would not go along with the opinion that gay and lesbian individuals should be isolated or treated with hostility, nor that young people who have those sexual orientations should feel intimidated about speaking up or feel unable to turn to anyone for non-judgmental advice or information.

A democracy's great test is not how it upholds the rights and interests of the majority, but how it protects the rights of its minorities.

In this case, what is at stake is the right of a minority to live free from fear or condescension, neither harming others nor being harmed by them.

Just as we want people of different religions, or of different racial origins, to try to get along with one another, so should we be accepting that people of different sexual orientations should be able to get on with their lives in equality and with mutual respect.

John Gee
ST Forum, 11 Feb 2014

Answers contradict MOE's stand

THE Health Promotion Board's (HPB) Frequently Asked Questions on sexuality contradict the Ministry of Education's (MOE) sexuality education policy by claiming that same-sex and opposite-sex relationships are "not too different".

In 2009, the MOE suspended the Comprehensive Sexuality Education syllabus introduced by the Association of Women for Action and Research, which attempted to normalise homosexual lifestyles. It was found that some suggested responses in the instructor guide conveyed messages that could promote homosexuality.

In its statement, the MOE emphasised that schools do not promote alternative lifestyles to students.

Its framework for sexuality education reflects the mainstream views and values of Singapore society, where the social norm consists of the married heterosexual family unit.

While the HPB has a justifiable interest in addressing the spread of sexually transmitted infections and HIV, it has overstepped the scope of its duties by promoting a form of sexuality education that directly contradicts the MOE's stand.

The education of children and young people legitimately remains within the MOE's purview. The HPB should re-align its FAQs to complement the MOE's sexuality education policy.

Darius Lee
ST Forum, 11 Feb 2014

Info must remain intact

ACTION for Aids notes with deep concern the negative and unsavoury reactions in certain circles over the provision of accurate and factual information on human sexuality on the Health Promotion Board's (HPB) Frequently Asked Questions on sexuality webpage ("FAQs on sexuality prompt two opposing petitions"; last Thursday).

Providing evidence-based 20th century information that can help young persons answer questions and come to terms with their own sexuality and that of their friends and family is the correct and responsible thing to do.

The HPB should be congratulated for this, and not vilified.

The FAQs on sexuality must remain intact without pandering to the demands of certain groups.

The HPB should also restore links to websites - for example, the Action for Aids' site - where the reader can access more detailed information. There is no reason for removing valuable information that is helpful and may be life-changing.

We congratulate the HPB for its courage in discussing sexuality topics based on fact and not on fear. The set of FAQs should be essential reading for Singaporeans of any age.

Roy Chan (Professor)
Action for Aids, Singapore
ST Forum, 11 Feb 2014

Islamic association calls HPB’s FAQ insensitive to prevailing view on homosexuality
TODAY, 15 Feb 2014

The Singapore Islamic Scholars & Religious Teachers Association (PERGAS) says it is disappointed with the Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) FAQ section on sexuality, calling it insensitive to the prevailing view on homosexuality in Singapore and saying it hopes to be consulted in future on such sensitive matters.

“This is to ensure that the interests of all groups are represented in the consideration of government agencies such as HPB,” said PERGAS in a statement issued on Tuesday.

Yesterday, Faith Community Baptist Church pastor Lawrence Khong, who had previously voiced his objection to the FAQ, said in a Facebook post that he has written to Health Minister Gan Kim Yong to seek a public inquiry into who was responsible for the publication of the FAQ. He also encouraged FCBC parishioners to support an online petition calling for a review of the FAQs, saying the aim was to collect at least 25,000 signatures.

The FAQ, published in November last year, has drawn controversy, with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups applauding the approach taken while others have spoken against it, saying it undermined the importance of the traditional family unit.

Mountbatten Member of Parliament Lim Biow Chuan has filed a question for Monday’s Parliament sitting, asking the Health Minister to explain why the HPB “promotes a same-sex relationship as not being different from a heterosexual relationship”.

Responding to media queries yesterday, the HPB said it appreciated the feedback it has received so far. It will take into consideration relevant inputs to see how it could further improve in its communications, the board said.

It reiterated that the family remains the basic building block of society, which means “encouraging heterosexual married couples to have healthy relationships and to build stable nuclear and extended family units”.

“The Government has been consistent in this line, and HPB takes reference from it in our health promotion activities,” it added.

Public deserves to know risks involved

ARTICLES in medical journals link a homosexual lifestyle with a corresponding increase in sexually transmitted diseases.

Medical specialists are aware of the disproportionate impact diseases such as gonorrhoea, syphilis, hepatitis, herpes, cytomegalovirus and Aids have on the homosexual community.

These diseases (some of which afflict patients for life) place an enormous burden on patients, their families and society at large.

Putting aside moral and religious convictions, a homosexual relationship cannot be considered, to quote the Health Promotion Board (HPB), "not too different from a heterosexual relationship". Rather, it is an alternative lifestyle with many psychological and medical repercussions.

The HPB has failed to educate the public, especially vulnerable and impressionable youngsters, on the potential and very real dangers of a homosexual lifestyle.

The public deserves to know the risks involved.

If society is not willing to address the homosexuality issue on moral or religious grounds, then medical evidence alone should be enough to convince fair-minded people that promoting the homosexual lifestyle is incompatible with the goal of promoting public health.

Ng Hsueh Mei (Dr)
ST Forum, 15 Feb 2014

Medical perspective must be objective

LIKE some other Forum writers, Mr Darius Lee ("Answers contradict MOE's stand"; Tuesday) has misconstrued the intent and purpose of the Health Promotion Board's (HPB) Frequently Asked Questions on sexuality.

Yes, the sexuality education programme in schools must reflect Singaporean mainstream views and values, where the social norm comprises the heterosexual family unit.

Nobody can deny that the ambient social and educational atmosphere here is conducive to marriage and procreation. The citizenry is constantly exhorted to get married early and to reproduce, with generous incentives dangled before all to do so.

But science is science, and medical perspective must be objective and not run contrary to the facts. In other words, science is a neutral, secular stance that is independent of moralistic leanings or religious prejudice.

For example, when the HPB advocates safe sex using condoms, it is not encouraging sexual promiscuity. It is just adopting a view that has been proven scientifically to best prevent the harmful consequences of unprotected sex, religious sensitivities notwithstanding.

Similarly, for unwanted pregnancies, doctors would suggest termination of the process as early as possible after counselling. It is a plan of action that best protects the health of the patient and is totally unrelated to the complicated moral, philosophical, metaphysical or religious issues that the topic of abortion evokes.

The homosexuality issue is not going to go away any time soon just because we choose to ignore it.

Like Action for Aids Singapore president Roy Chan ("Info must remain intact"; Tuesday), I agree that the HPB should be commended for taking the bull by the horns and addressing the issue succinctly from the medical perspective.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)
ST Forum, 15 Feb 2014

* HPB’s sexuality FAQs provide advice from public health perspective: Minister
Same-sex relationship not too different from heterosexual one in that both require commitment, says minister
TODAY, 18 Feb 2014

In a written reply, Mr Gan said that the statement “A same-sex relationship is not too different from a heterosexual relationship” — which was part of a response in the FAQ — should be taken together with the statement that followed it: “Both require the commitment of two people.”

“They highlight that relationships require commitment, and it is possible to remain faithful to one’s partner, regardless of one’s sexual orientation,” said Mr Gan. “This drives home a key STI and HIV prevention message to ‘Be faithful’ to one’s partner, rather than to have multiple partners. This helps to protect individuals from STIs and HIV, minimise transmission risks, and thereby safeguarding public health.”

The FAQs, published in November, have drawn both praise and objection in recent weeks for how it addressed homosexuality. Today (Feb 17), Mr Gan reiterated that there was no shift in the Government’s policy that the family is the basic building block of Singapore society and in encouraging heterosexual married couples to have healthy relationships.

Meanwhile, a guide purportedly drafted by LoveSingapore — a movement affiliated to Faith Community Baptist Church pastor Lawrence Khong — on how to support Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code is making its rounds online. Alluding to repeated calls in recent years to repeal Section 377A, which criminalises sex between men, the guide explains how to show support for Section 377A, such as what to write in a letter to a Cabinet minister or what to post on Facebook.

LoveSingapore was unable to reply to queries by press time.

Review FAQs on sexuality, urges council of churches
It expresses concern over HPB advisory's claim of being 'factual'
By Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 20 Feb 2014

THE National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) yesterday called for a review of the controversial Health Promotion Board's (HPB) online sexuality advisory.

In its statement, the council, which represents more than half of the 500 or so churches here, expressed concern over the advisory's claim that it was "factual". This is because "scientific research on the causes and consequences of homosexuality is at best inconclusive".

When asked to clarify, NCCS president Terry Kee said research is divided over whether people are born homosexuals, for instance. And while long-term, same-sex relationships are possible, divorce statistics from countries that sanction such unions are high, he said.

The statement came two days after Health Minister Gan Kim Yong made clear to Parliament that the advisory, consisting of 28 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on various sexuality issues, did not encourage same-sex relationships.

In reply to Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan in Parliament on Monday, he said there was no shift in the Government's stance that the family is the basic building block of Singapore society.

Pointing to one of the FAQs, Mr Gan said the statement that "a same-sex relationship is not too different from a heterosexual relationship" should be read with the next sentence: "Both require the commitment of two people." This drives home a key message on preventing sexually transmitted infections and HIV: Be faithful instead of having multiple partners.

NCCS, with about 300 churches under its wing, said it welcomed Mr Gan's assurance and was "heartened" by his clarification that the FAQs do not endorse or normalise same-sex relations.

But while it acknowledged the need for HPB to educate the public, it said "great care must be taken not to conflate a health advisory to a particular group at risk with statements about sexuality that implicitly reflect values".

The full statement can be viewed on the NCCS website.

Spokesman Paerin Choa for gay rights and social change movement Pink Dot SG believes the HPB FAQs should stay as they are. "The debate on whether studies are conclusive will always be met with contentions from either camp," he said. "But the reality is the lesbian, gay, bisexual... still need a factual resource to turn to whenever they feel ostracised and in need of help."

Last month, the FAQs, put up in November, became the focus of debate here. Online petitions for and against them drew thousands of signatures. Christian and Muslim religious leaders spoke up against them, while Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Hri Kumar Nair called for a measured discussion.

On the NCCS' statement, a HPB spokesman said it will consider "relevant input" to improve its public education resources.

No comments:

Post a Comment