Singapore police dispersed a peaceful protest against transphobia outside the Ministry of Education on Wednesday, minutes after it began. Three were arrested for allegedly violating public order laws while two have been called in for questioning.
The group of five young demonstrators had gathered outside the ministry in Buona Vista to demand an end to discriminatory practices and better support for transgender students in Singapore’s public education system.
In a statement, the group called on Singaporean Minister for Education Lawrence Wong to end discriminatory and intrusive practices in public schools, which it said hurt both LGBT and cisgender students “by undermining privacy, bodily autonomy and well-being.”
Their demands included an end to intrusive clothing checks, strict regulations around dating, “conversion therapy” counselling and the censoring of discussion around LGBT issues. They also said there was a failure to provide LGBT-inclusive information on sexual and reproductive health.
A whole bunch of people (I suspect plainclothes police officers?) have arrived — it’s all happened quite quickly! pic.twitter.com/3iRnDhu2em— Kirsten Han 韩俐颖 (@kixes) January 26, 2021
“We envision a society that cares deeply for the well-being of all children in Singapore, where no child has to struggle to survive, and has every opportunity to thrive in the life they have chosen for themselves,” the statement read.
Protesters held placards showing slogans “FixSchoolsNotStudents” and “Trans students will NOT be erased.”
Three were arrested for allegedly violating laws against public assembly under the Public Order Act from police who arrived at the scene within minutes of the rally.
Two other protesters had left before the police arrived. Both have been called in for a second round of questioning after reporting to a police station on Thursday.
The group had not obtained a police permit for the protest.
Important for trans rights
Thng, one of the two who left before police arrived, told HKFP that they viewed the protest as an important step in the fight for trans rights in Singapore: “[T]his protest plays an important part in trans rights and freedoms. In the past, we have always gone through legal channels – social media, petitions, statements, policy proposals, meetings with governmental organisations and so on. None of these have worked.”
They added that the protest has, at least, focused public attention on their grievances: “Even if nothing else comes of it, I think this is a step forward in clearly and loudly articulating our need to be treated as equal and full citizens.”
Thng also said the group had no plans to stage similar protests in the future, citing Singapore’s harsh laws on civil disobedience.
Singapore has strict laws designed to quell dissent which bans even one-man protests without a police permit. Authorities rarely grant protest permits and all unauthorised protests are illegal across the city bar in a designated area of a public park.
Homosexual intercourse remains illegal in Singapore, after a court upheld a colonial-era law as constitutional last March.