Saturday, June 19, 2021

Singapore wags finger at US embassy for co-hosting LGBT webinar

The foreign ministry in its admonition says that issues such as sexual orientation 'are choices for only Singaporeans to debate and decide'.

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The Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Wednesday it has reminded the US embassy that foreign missions should not interfere in Singapore’s domestic social and political matters.

This includes delicate issues such as how sexual orientation should be dealt with in public policy.

On Monday, the US embassy co-hosted a webinar with Oogachaga, a local non-profit organisation working with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

A ministry spokesman said the MFA “notes with regret” that the event took place, adding that issues such as sexual orientation “are choices for only Singaporeans to debate and decide”.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times (ST), an embassy spokesman said, “The US promotes the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons worldwide. The embassy regularly works with civil society partners on a wide range of issues to build awareness and advance the human rights of all persons.”

Oogachaga executive director Leow Yangfa told ST that he noted “with surprise” the statement by MFA. “None of the webinar speakers discussed how sexual orientation should be dealt with in public policy,” he said. “The webinar was an academic discussion.”

The invitation-only webinar, titled “The Economic Case For LGBT Equality: Exploring Global Trends With Professor Lee Badgett”, was posted on the professor’s personal website. Badgett teaches economics at the University of Massachusetts and is a renowned author and speaker on the economic impact of LGBTQI+ equality.

The webinar sought to examine how LGBTQI+ equality and inclusion could increase economic competitiveness.

Leow said invitations had been extended to the MFA and the Ministry of Social and Family Development, and at least two officers from the latter were in the audience.

The webinar was also posted on May17.org, an online resource for events held around the world held on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, on May 17.

On the same day, the US embassy posted images on its social media channels of the rainbow pride flag being flown at its Napier Road grounds and wrote that the US was “committed to advancing the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world”.

The embassies or high commissions of the Netherlands, Britain, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Australia, Switzerland and Ireland also either posted messages of solidarity or displayed the rainbow flag on their social media pages.

Chan Heng Chee of the MFA, said that in Singapore, attitudes towards homosexuality are still evolving, and various communities hold different views.

“We believe it is better to let the situation evolve gradually.”

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