Singapore’s 2001 LGBT School Packet

What students are taught about LGBT identities and rights in schools — if they are taught anything at all — is a crucial part of either silencing or “giving voice” to LGBT citizens.  Advocating to make schools safe places of inclusion for ALL students is a key part of equal protection.

Insuring equality may mean advocating for laws against bullying (of any students), laws allowing equal inclusion in sports, laws protecting LGBT teachers from being fired…and, as in the case below, curriculums requiring tones of inclusion rather than exclusion.

The following excerpt is from Chapter 17, “Men of the Net,” in Imagining Gay Paradise: 

The same year Stuart Koe launched Fridae [2001],  the Singaporean government issued a sex education packet to be used in all the island’s secondary schools.  The Ministry of Education emphasized that the packet tried to respect all of the island’s different ethnic and religious groups, but respecting the island’s different sexual and gender groups was left unmentioned.

For Lesson 9, “Homosexuality,” the packet defined the learning outcome for students this way: “Pupils will be able to understand that homosexual acts are against the law in Singapore.” Teachers were to devote forty minutes to the lesson. One suggested activity was to give students a handout entitled “homosexuals and the society” which consisted of learning the penal code sections “regarding unnatural sex.” Teachers would tell the students to tick the “correct” or “incorrect” column that represented their views. Their choices:

 1. Homosexual acts are against the law in Singapore.

 2. The penal code states that the act of unnatural sex is an offence.

 3. Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years.

 The statements continued through the definition of “gross indecency.” The final statement, with which the students were either to agree or disagree, said, “It is possible to exercise self-control regardless of homosexual orientation.”  The guide was laced with references to overcoming temptations and not confusing attractions to the same sex with homosexuality.  Even blind and deaf Helen Keller was pressed into service with her famous quotation that although “the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it” — in effect urging homosexuals to overcome their sexual desires. “People’s sexual behavior can be changed,” the resource guide asserted. “Homosexuality does not offer a complete, natural life experience.” The final sentence said, “Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice.”

The packet did not explain any of the obvious. That gay men might indeed have a complete life, including relationships and a family. That homosexuals might have a history just as ethnic or religious groups did. That heterosexuality could not be fully explained by science either. That there were other voices to be heard among the different peoples on the island. That supremacist attitudes about heterosexuality had caused violence or discrimination. That the Singaporean laws might be wrong.

Copyright 2012 Hong Kong University Press

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Advocating LGBT justice and equality