Every year since 2009, Singapore’s annual Pink Dot event has united the country’s LGBTQ residents and allies to show their support for “inclusiveness, diversity and the freedom to love.” The event attracts as many as 28,000 attendees as well as celebrity performers and corporate sponsors. But recent changes to the country’s laws will only allow Singaporean citizens and permanent residents to attend this year’s July 1 event and all Pink Dot events hereafter.
Why are foreigners banned from Pink Dot?
The Pink Dot event has always been held in Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park, a place where citizens can hold public demonstrations without a police permit. Before this year, the country’s “Public Order Act” (POA) allowed Singaporean citizens to demonstrate with signs while foreigners merely “observe.”
Even though Pink Dot stresses that its event is not a public protest, because of recent amendments added to the POA, the event’s organizers say, “the law no longer distinguishes between participants and observers, and regards anyone who turns up to the Speakers’ Corner in support of an event to be part of an assembly.” This change affects the approximately 30% of Singapore’s population who are neither Singaporean citizens nor permanent residents.
A Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman told the BBC, “[The change is] consistent with the government’s long held position that foreigners and foreign entities should not engage in our domestic issues, especially political issues or controversial social issues.”
How is Pink Dot responding to the ban on foreign attendees?
In a public statement released this last Sunday, Pink Dot organizers said they were upset along with my family, friends, LGBTQ couples and longtime supporters, but they warned that any non-foreigners trying to attend could be arrested and prosecuted along with Pink Dot’s organizers. (Violators could face a fine of SGD $20,000 or $14,297 U.S. Dollars or a year imprisonment.) As such, organizers have pledged to check the ID of all attendees.
In early April, the human rights watchdog group Amnesty International worried that the recent changes to Singapore’s POA would “further curtail freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in a country where government critics and activists are already heavily controlled.”
Other changes to the POA forbid foreign companies from sponsoring public demonstrations. Google, Facebook and Twitter used to sponsor Pink Dot, but no longer. Now, local companies have stepped in to provide additional funds.
What’s the state of LGBTQ rights in Singapore?
Although the country allows openly gay and bisexual men to serve in its compulsory military, the country does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions, nor does it allow adoptions or blood donations by men who have sex with men (including trans men) nor does it offer any LGBTQ non-discrimination protections. Male same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Singapore thanks to British colonial law. The country is predominantly Buddhist and Christian.
Pink Dot happens July 1 at 5 p.m. with concurrent events happening in world cities.