Singapore Bans Gay Story Reading During Pride Event

by VR Sreeraman on Aug 4 2007 11:43 AM

Singapore authorities have banned a story reading during the city-state's gay pride festival, saying the text showed disrespect to public officials.

The ban comes after the Media Development Authority (MDA) said it would also not allow a photo exhibition of gay kissing during the two-week pride event, which began Wednesday.

In a statement late Thursday, the MDA said it received a licence application for an event called "Tall Tales and Short Stories," which included a text by author Ng Yi-Sheng.

MDA approved the event on the condition that Ng's text was not read.

"Ng's text was disallowed as it had gone beyond good taste and decency in taking a disparaging and disrespectful view of public officers," said Amy Tsang, MDA's deputy director for arts and licensing.

Ng confirmed he has been denied a licence to read the work, which was about a young man's fictional sexual adventures with older men including military officers and government officials.

"I was expecting it, to a certain extent," said Ng, whose text made reference to an imaginary politician named "Lee Low Tar."

Alex Au, an organiser of the Indignation festival, called MDA's decision self-serving.

"Public officials should likewise be equally subject to scrutiny and the text has many layers, and to only read the superficial layer accusing it of vulgarity clearly shows no understanding of the work," Au told AFP.

Au's photo exhibition "Kissing" has also been banned by MDA.

"The proposed exhibition which focuses mainly on homosexual kissing is deemed to promote a homosexual lifestyle, and cannot be allowed," Tsang said.

Despite being one of Asia's most advanced societies, homosexual acts are still outlawed in Singapore under law dating back to British colonial days.

The government said last year that oral and anal sex in private between consenting heterosexual adults would be legalised under Singapore's first major penal code amendments in 22 years.

However, the penal code section which criminalises "gross indecency" between two males will remain, the government said.

Despite the law, gay-friendly establishments like pubs and saunas are popular with both locals and foreigners.