Archive of the PlanetOut article, “Singapore Poll Finds Tolerance” (23 May 2000)

Singapore Poll Finds Tolerance
PlanetOut News Staff

Tuesday, May 23, 2000 / 11:35 PM

A survey by activists proves that the people are
way ahead of the government, especially when it
comes to the family value of unconditional love.

Sparked by a government official’s televised remarks a
year-and-a-half ago that the status of
homosexuality is “a question of what society
considers acceptable,” a Singapore gay and
lesbian group and their non-gay allies have
carried out a first-of-its-kind survey
there that demonstrates a high level of tolerance.

The public may be ahead of the government in judging what’s
considered “acceptable”: a current government program called
Singapore 21 is designed to increase participation
in society bears the slogan “Everyone counts,” yet
two-and-a-half weeks after applying for a public
entertainment permit for a May 28 rally, there’s
still been no response from police to the group
People Like Us, which for three years has been
denied official status.

In April and May, volunteers surveyed 251
Singaporeans on the streets of several different
districts and another 240 online. While the survey
announced May 22 is not entirely scientific, all
respondents were at least 16 years old, and their
distribution among Singapore’s major ethnic
groups (Chinese, Malay and Indian) matches the
national profile. The group estimates the margin
of error at four to six percent. They described their
findings as, “an important threshold providing a
sense of where Singaporeans stand with respect
to such issues. The findings here can be seen as
‘leading indicators’ to the way Singapore social
opinion is likely to evolve in the years ahead.”
First the poll inquired about acceptance of gay and
lesbian family members. Among respondents on
the street, 46% said they would accept a gay
brother or lesbian sister although it might take
some time, while 26% said they never could; 41%
said they would accept a gay son or lesbian
daughter, while 35% said they never could. Not
surprisingly, Internet respondents were more
liberal: 74% said they would accept a gay brother
or lesbian sister, while 9% said they never could;
66% said they would accept a gay son or lesbian
daughter, while 13% said they never could. The
group’s interpretation was that, “Singaporeans
appear to be pragmatic about the issue. These
findings suggest that they value family ties highly
enough to accommodate gay siblings and children
within the fold.”

Then respondents were asked about employment
discrimination against gays and lesbians. It was
opposed by 74% of those on the street and 83%
of those online.

Finally, the survey asked about the current “crimes
against nature” law, which most other former
British colonies have long since repealed but
which in Singapore prescribes punishments as
harsh as life imprisonment. Recently a
heterosexual male was convicted of sodomy
against his former girlfriend, but acts between two
women have never been prosecuted. Specifically,
respondents were asked if they believed that oral
sex between homosexual adults in private should
be restricted. Restrictions were opposed by 39%
of those interviewed on the street and supported
by 29%. Among Internet respondents, fully 78%
opposed restrictions and only 16% supported
them.

People Like Us spokesperson Alex Au, 47, told the
South China Morning Post that, “I am not
surprised. In coming out, I have met nothing but
friendliness and open-mindedness.” His group
attempts to represent the interests of what it
estimates to be “some 150,000 to 300,000
Singaporeans who feel alienated from the state”
on issues of sexuality, and he remarked to Agence
France Presse, “How do we expect gay
Singaporeans to feel passionate about Singapore
if they perceive that they suffer discrimination,
legal and social, in this country?”
Earlier Au observed in a statement that, “In the
thinking cosmopolitan society Singapore aspires to
be, the gay issue cannot be brushed aside.” But it
can and has been suppressed in the media by the
highly censorious national government, including
the recent kiss between two women on Ally
McBeal.

…………………………………

This article was first archived by Davestar on SiGNeL:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/signel/message/643

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About groyn88

Ultraliberal advocate of universal human rights, justice and fair play.
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