This is probably the last post I’m gonna be writing over the AWARE saga for quite a while. Like so many others, I’ve just got to write a “lessons learn” piece – it’s closure = )
There has been quite a few excellent reviews and editorials written already, just do a google search. So I won’t be writing so much from a general perspective – I’m gonna write about MY own personal experience and what I, specifically, have learnt about it.
Losing my voice
I started writing my blog because I wanted to archive my thoughts — free up memory in the brain, while keeping a diary of the evolution of my thoughts and views over time. These thoughts and views were mine and mine alone.
I’ve often identified myself as a sex ed trainer in my blog – because that voluntary role is both a product and a shaper of my thoughts and views. But I’ve always made the disclaimer that on my blog, I reflect only my own views and not that of any organization, even though I know I do get careless with my writing style.
But people seem to take it for granted that my personal views are actually what is being held by the organization or done in class – not necessarily at all!!! It became worst when I realized that google listed my blog quite high up with certain keywords. Suddenly there was that pressure that came from everyone staring at me.
I had to watch my words, I had to put only info that was obtained from various other sources. I had to shut up my own views. I lost my voice. Which was very ironic, since blogs are meant to be THE place for free speech, and this whole saga was about the freedom and diversity of views.
Boxes and Labels
People have a tendency to fit others in boxes and fit themselves in boxes too. Neat little boxes. Christian. Charismatic Christian. Fundamentalist Christian. Feminist. Gay. Liberal. Those boxes provide their little conveniences but it can come with so much unnecessary and unfair baggage too.
I’m Christian – but the Christian camp censures me for not being homophobic, for saying that pre-marital sex is morally neutral, for not attending the right church. Are these the defining qualities one needs to be Christian?
At the same time, the non-Christian liberal camp pounces on me with assumptions that I must be discriminatory and imposing — does a Christian have to be so defined?
Likewise, I am an AWARE member. When the news first broke and was still highly speculative , I was very reluctant to come to the most complex conclusions – that a conspiracy was taking place here in Singapore! I gravitate towards the simpler, likelier explanations – Occam’s Razor you know?
Yet I felt condemned for holding that view — pressured to change my view. Does being a feminist mean that I have to participate in witch hunts without understanding/knowledge? When I finally agreed with them, it wasn’t about the pressure — it was about the evidence.
Lost in Interpretation
It’s amazing how I can write something and have people interpret them in 101 different ways, and get polar opposite reactions. And I’m still alive and willing to clarify and dialogue!
It really makes me re-consider all these religious texts. Let’s not even go to the accuracy of transcription or translation. Just the mere interpretation is enough for diverse religions to spring up under the same label — how can anyone be sure they’re interpreting it the author’s intended way?!?
The platform vs the people
Why was there such a big need to take back AWARE? At the end of the day, the organization is as good as it’s people — starting another organization with the same people would be like….. a name change, a re-branding exercise.
Yet at the same time, there was the issue of the brand itself. Plus all the funds and grants and licenses that could only be fought for over years and year.
And of course, the principle and statement we’re making, by standing up and speaking , rather than shutting up and sitting down.
Shut Up & Sit Down vs Stand Up and Speak Out
Heheh. Wasn’t that the defining moments of this whole episode — one side being about Shut-Up and Sit Down, and the other side being about Stand up and Speak Out. – That basically sums up the entire clash. And how naturally it was brought up! = )
I’ve often made the observation that Singapore, unlike other countries, or even unlike the foreigners here, all too often, we see the activists standing up on speaking out. The victims themselves are silent — they are now-where to be found!!! I’m sorry to say this but, I’ve often seen Ravi Philemon and Tan Kin Lian standing up and speaking out. I’ve never heard a single poor, displaced person, or a person who has lost his life savings, standing up and speaking out. Complaining, yes, but not that assertive campaigning.
I think Aware might have won the EGM because it was supported by the ONLY marginalized group in Singapore where the victims continuously stand up and speak out in the face of repeated attempts to get them to shut up and sit down. The GLBTQ lobby. And perhaps the apathy of the conservatives in voting — although I like to think that the conservatives were actually rational rather than apathetic for not turning up in the huge numbers they could have.
The other observation I made at the EGM was that there were few Singlish voices – many were proper English voices — Singaporean, no doubt, but proper English. There were a few uncles who spoke true blue Singlish — unfortunately to much embarrassment! Does this say something about the social stratification in Singapore?
One major thing that the AWARE saga highlighted is the need for mechanisms to be in place for the electorate to remove a exco even though the election might be legitimate. The exco of AWARE did much damage in just 1 month — the financial cost alone was $90 K!!! I understand (unconfirmed) that the operating cost of AWARE’s office for the whole year is just $100K! Imagine if this was something on a National scale…….
One suggestion that was floated was the need for background checks on either members or exco candidates. Can this principle be applied nationally? I understand some countries eg Venezuela, specifically “import” immigrants of certain nationalities and award them benefits in exchange for votes. Is it fair and just for us to screen potential immigrants for their political alliances? Are background checks for voters acceptable? Do we want to allow only people with a particular ideology to run for government? It seems like liberals have begun suggesting solutions they used to yell against.
Role of the press
Not a new point, but once again, I marvel at the power and influence of the press – how they can swing opinion by their choice of words.
The role and responsibility of investigative journalism and transparent reporting in a democracy was also highlighted very strongly here. The access to information diminishes the power in the hands of a few and puts them into the hands of the electorate.
Good , brave journalism is absolutely essential to uncover hidden agendas. But journalism is also fraught with its own bias, and the interpretation and investigation of facts will be skewed. Hence it’s not enough to have good journalism — we need the quantity too, so that we can get that diversity of views which would help us come to a view that approximates the truth a little more closely.
That’s why I love blogs and FB and twitter so much — these provide a thousand and one different camera angles.
|By Zakir Hussain and Wong Kim Hoh
‘Our member churches are not involved in the present saga. In fact, our heads of churches have very recently reiterated to their clergy the standing instruction on the proper use of the pulpit,’ said the statement issued by Archbishop John Chew, president of the NCCS, and Mr Lim K Tham, NCSS general secretary.
The NCCS brings together Christian groups like the Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Salvation Army and Syrian Orthodox churches, among others. Dr Chew is also the head of the Anglican church in Singapore.
Last week, it emerged that staff and members of the Church of Our Saviour in Margaret Drive, which is under the Anglican communion, were encouraging people to join Aware and support the new team in the society’s leadership dispute.
They said the old team at Aware had been promoting lesbianism and homosexuality, a charge the team has rejected.
In a weekend sermon, Senior Pastor Derek Hong urged the women in his flock to ‘be engaged’ and support new president Josie Lau and ‘her sisters’ at Aware.
The NCCS said it had been following the recent events related to Aware.
‘We are concerned that religion has been dragged into the unfortunate situation. The matters related to Aware should be solved by its own members,’ it said.
Some Christians are however uncomfortable that the saga has thrust their religion in the limelight, for the wrong reasons. In blogs and forums, many Christian netizens said religion has no role in secular organisations.
But I have also received less appreciative messages. Some of these charged me with having sown discord and embarrassed Christianity in front of non-believers. The irony did not escape me, but then I began to wonder whether I did make one too many assumptions. These comments were probably knee-jerk reactions, meaning that some Christians may actually not have thought it possible that other Christians, a whole lot of us, could be this appalled with the episode.
For this reason, as a brother-in-Christ, I feel that I need to believe that the new ex-co’s sadness over its negative reception and its willingness to heal the social rifts it caused are genuine. There has already been too much distrust, and somewhere trust has to re-begin. My appeal for non-support is not about humiliating or condemning any group of individuals on either side. Those who have hoped that I came out in strong condemnation of one, emailing me links to sex education and “the gay agenda”, or in clear support of the other, initially mistitling my view as “supporting the Old Guard”, know that I won’t.
This is not being wishy-washy; it is staying focussed. The simple disagreement is with a course of action pursued by a group of Christians that has caused suspicion between communities and fear within each. If everyone is to set aside his or her own fixation — gay, anti-gay, faith in practice, fundamentalism, etc. — and trace back to the source of our current unhappiness, he or she will see that it all started with a single fateful decision. One ought not then to doubt that these Christians intend good from their point of view, but one has every reason to doubt that things could be restored and relationships healed by going down the same road.
As the party involved is Christian, the most amicable solution may well also be the most obvious. In fact, how could we not have seen it? We Christians believe in a God who gives every person second chances in life. Every chance after the first two is still the second: that’s how gracious we believe He is! When one makes a mistake or realises that one has followed a bad choice, there is no shame in admitting wrong, so long as one is sincere about changing. The choice to turn back is never a Christian defeat; it is our triumph!
Indeed, paradoxically in this situation, one can also only move on, move forward, by going backwards to the point where the wrong choice was made and choose rightly this time. This is a versatile truth I learnt from C. S. Lewis a long time ago. If the new ex-co will, without contest, give up its seats for a more inclusive shape of leadership in AWARE, it will have regained, I dare say, the faith of many Singaporeans and the admiration and support of every Christian in full measure. These individuals can then go on to pursue in earnest their concern over homosexual teaching in schools and related issues with the right authorities. I want to believe that everyone in that later business will be cooperative and respect the eventual findings, whatever the outcome is.
If the AWARE Christians in current leadership and those gearing up to vote tomorrow will choose this infinitely less harmful route, they will have made us all who are Christians proud of them. Do consider the option seriously: it is as practical and as Christian as it can get. Realise that fellow believers like me who are outraged want peace too and have been praying for it. But, when it comes to making peace a reality, only specific individuals are able to effect it. The ball is in their court alone. We can all avoid a confrontation. We can stun the nation with one simple move that affirms love, faith, and hope, all at once.
Gwee Li Sui
Open letter by Tan Joo Hymn (past president): Setting the record straight
As news reports get more sensationalised every day, I thought it would be helpful if you heard from directly from someone on the “inside”.
I joined AWARE in 1999 and have been on the Exco from 2000 to 2008. I was still active over the last year even though I’m no longer on the Exco, helping out in ad hoc projects etc.
To me, there are 2 separate issues here:
1. The way they took over the Exco
2. The allegations made by the new Exco about the old AWARE
1. From March 28 to 23 April, they claimed not to know each other before the AGM, and to have no agenda taking over AWARE. But what they said are full of contradictions. Please see http://www.we-are-aware.sg for more details, and I include some choice ones below.
Yes, I agree that the Old AWARE had many areas for improvement, just like many other NGOs, but that does not mean that we deserve to be taken over. This matter is all the more sensitive because it appears that it was engineered by members of the same church. Not talking about religion here is a bit like not talking about the great big elephant standing in the room. Let me give you 2 hypothetical situations:
- A group of atheists decided that they have had enough of people worshipping what they think is a non-existent God. So, on Sundays, a large group of them go to a church and occupy most of the seats in the church, denying regular church goers the space to sit and listen to the sermon, and receive communion.
- A coalition of butchers think that Buddhists and Hindus are the reason that the sale of beef has gone down, so they carry entire carcasses of cows to Buddhists and Hindu temples demanding that the followers be now allowed to eat beef.
Far-fetched? But not really that different from what’s happened here: A group of (Christian) women believe that homosexuality is a sin to be condemned and engineer a take over of AWARE to ensure that AWARE now sends a message that homosexuality, pre-marital sex and anal sex are now classified as negative (and presumably to say that abortion should be outlawed).
We live in a multi-religious, multi-cultural pluralistic society. It is very dangerous when a vocal minority is allowed to take over another group to silence them and to subvert their mission.
2. The allegations made.
The Comprehensive Sexuality Education is but one programme out of many that AWARE does. Homosexuality takes up all of 2 sentences (and less than 5 minutes) in a workshop that lasts 3 hours, 6 if you include the advanced module.
The 2 sentences that have so many people up in arms are: Homosexuality is normal – true. (discusses as a variant like left-handedness). Homosexuality as a word is neutral (not positive or negative).
Taken in the scientific context, these 2 sentences are accurate. We believe in providing as accurate and up to date information as possible for young people to make up their own minds. For eg. Christians believe in the Creation. But evolution is taught in schools. Are schools then teaching children not to believe in the Creation?!
We also tell the students that some religions have their own views about homosexuality and sex, and that they should respect their own religious and cultural norms, but not to impose it on others. Ie. We believe that it is up to parents and families to provide moral and spiritual guidance to students, while we give information.
In any case, this completely detracts from the 24 years of work done by AWARE. See http://www.we-are-aware.sg/achievements
Yes, I am emotional and upset because I had spent the better part of the last 6 years at AWARE, working for free, sacrificing time with my children and family because I believed in the cause, in what I was doing. It was bad enough to have the Exco taken over by people with no idea of what AWARE is about, and who were absolutely rude and nasty to staff and volunteers, but to have such lies thrown at us is really adding insult to injury.
If you care about this issue, if you care that Singapore remains pluralistic, where civil society means people can speak up and be heard, and dialogues and arguments be had, where nobody takes over another group to silence them, please join AWARE and vote at the EGM on 2 May. You have to be female, PR or citizen and above 18 to be able to vote. Details of EGM below, but please check http://www.we-are-aware.sg/calltoaction for further updates and in case of change of venue. If you click subscribe to updates, it will help us keep track of who is coming. Please also send me a mail if you’ve joined as a member and are coming for the EGM. (to join as a member, go to http://www.aware.org.sg/?page_id=1078, and print all the receipts and bring to the EGM along with NRIC card).
Date: Saturday 2 May 2009
Time: 2 – 5pm (good to arrive early)
Some snippets about the AGM and what they said:
Jan to March 2009 – AWARE received around 120 new applications to be members. About 40 were on photocopied forms.
Nearly 80 of these new members attend the AGM on 28 March 2009. They sat staring straight ahead with no expression, not responding even when older members make small talk such as, isn’t the bee hoon delicious? (I mean, how many Singaporeans you know won’t even respond to a comment about food?!). They sat equally expressionless when passionate speeches were made about needing to have some experienced members on the Exco, but then raised their hands emphatically during voting time.
In the end 9 out of 12 Exco seats went to newcomers, 9 people that NONE of us had ever heard of, much less seen before.
In press releases, and the interview on Talking Point shown on Sunday 19 April, Josie claims not to know any of the other Exco members. But at the press conference on 23 April, they revealed that Dr Thio Su Mien had encouraged them for years to join AWARE. 6 of the 9 are also from the same church.
In press releases, and on Talking Point, Josie said that they will honour and build on the history of long time AWARE members. But they sack all the sub-committee chairs, including Braema Mathi, arguably the most experienced person in Singapore on these matters, and also bar Immediate Past President from being advisor to their second Exco meeting.
In press releases and on Talking Point, Josie said that they came to take over AWARE because AWARE had become too diversified. On 23 April, they said that AWARE had become a one issue organisation – to promote lesbianism.
Please see latest (7 May o9) post “AWARE’s Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) : Re Homosexuality, anal sex, pre-marital sex“
( Bold highlights made by Mathialee, not MOE)
Reply to Recent Comments and Claims About AWARE’s Sexuality Education Programme in Schools
1We refer to recent claims and comments about AWARE’s sexuality education programme in schools.
2Sexuality education conducted in MOE schools is premised on the importance of the family and respect for the values and beliefs of the different ethnic and religious communities on sexuality issues. The aim is to help students make responsible values-based choices on matters involving sexuality.
3Core programmes are delivered by teachers but schools do collaborate with other agencies in delivering additional modules. However, in doing so, schools must ensure that any programmes run by external agencies are secular and sensitive to the multi-religious make-up of our society. Parents can choose to opt their children out of these programmes.
4Last year, 11 secondary schools engaged AWARE to run workshops for their students. The number of students involved in each school ranged from about 20 to 100, and each workshop lasted 3 hours. The objectives of these workshops were to provide students with accurate information on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)/HIV, to help students understand the consequences of premarital sexual activity, and to equip students with skills such as decision-making and resisting negative peer pressure.
5AWARE also conducted assembly talks, typically of 45-minute duration, for students in a few secondary schools. Some of the areas covered in the talks included body image, self-esteem, eating disorders, teenage pregnancies, sexual harassment and the role of women in today’s context.
6The schools that engaged AWARE found that the content and messages of the sessions conducted were appropriate for their students and adhered to guidelines to respect the values of different religious groups. The schools did not receive any negative feedback from students or parents who attended the workshops and talks.
7In particular, MOE has also not received any complaint from parents or Dr Thio Su Mien, who was reported to have made specific claims about sexuality education in our schools. MOE has contacted Dr Thio Su Mien to seek clarifications and facts to substantiate her claims.
8If parents and members of the public know of specific instances where guidelines have not been adhered to, they should report them directly to MOE to investigate. MOE recognises that sexuality education is sensitive. In conducting these programmes, the views of parents will be respected and values taught should not deviate from the social norms accepted by mainstream society in Singapore.
On Apr 28, 2009, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
27th April 2009
To: AWARE Members
EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL MEETINGTO BE HELD ON 2ND MAY 2009Notice is hereby given that:1. The venue of the Extraordinary General Meeting (“EGM”) of the Association of Women forAction & Research (“AWARE”) to be held on nd May 2009 , from to5.00 p.m. is hereby changed as follows:Singapore EXPO Hall 21 Expo Drive, #01-01Singapore 486150Admission and registration would be from to on ndMay 2009 .It is mandatory to show your NRIC for admission and registration.2. Messrs Rajah & Tann have been appointed to act as AWARE’s legal advisors to attend theEGM to be convened on 2nd May 2009 to address legal queries relating to, and raisedduring, the EGM including the matters intended to be transacted, AWARE’s constitution andmeeting law and procedure.
By Order Of The Executive Committee
Jenica ChuaHonorary SecretaryAssociation of Women for Action & Research
Association of Women for Action & ResearchBlock 5,Dover Crescent#01-22, 130005Tel: 6779-7137 Fax: 6777-0318 Email: email@example.com
On Apr 27, 2009, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Sha Najak sent a message to the members of TWC2.
Subject: Statement on AWARE
TWC2 is very concerned about the AWARE leadership takeover. AWARE has been an important important partner in our work to improve the welfare of migrant workers in Singapore and champion for their rights. AWARE has ensured that issues of discrimination against migrant domestic workers are not left out in the CEDAW report and has consulted us in preparing the shadow reports. We have also joined hands with AWARE through its White Ribbon Campaign to raise awareness of the issue of violence against migrant domestic workers. As an established organisation that runs an effective and structured helpline for women in distress, AWARE has been generous in sharing its expertise with nascent organisations such as TWC2. AWARE’s social worker and volunteers have helped us in training our volunteers to staff our helpline service for migrant workers. In addition, AWARE has also taken on issues concerning the vulnerabilities of foreign brides in Singapore and the trafficking of women and children for cross-border sex trade.
The above examples, show that AWARE is far from being a single-issue organisation obsessed with promoting homosexual issues. AWARE is a dynamic organisation that has stayed true to its core mission of championing for the rights of women underpinned by values such as inclusiveness. By advocating the issues concerning migrant domestic workers, foreign brides and trafficked women and children, AWARE has shown that it understands the multiple forms in which discrimination and marginalisation of women can take place as Singapore becomes more globalised. This is largely attributed to a competent leadership that truly understands the multiplicities of gender inequality and the complex social processes that underpin gender discrimination. If AWARE’s future stand to be shaped by a group of individuals that do not have a solid understanding of gender inequality and whose motivation is driven by a single-issue objective, we risk losing a valuable partner in our work. Singapore may also stand to lose as more than two decades of advocacy work that aim to tackle the roots of gender inequality may be lost because of a lack of vision.
Over the last few days, Singapore witnessed the most exciting elections that has taken place in the country since 1959, the year that the PAP swept to power : The AWARE AGM2009 and the upcoming EGM. To quote the pastor of COOS, you have to be in a coma to not notice what has been going on.
In the briefest summary, Dr Thio Su Mien led a group of women, many of whom attend the church COOS on a crusade to take over the leadership, direction and management of AWARE. She claims the reason for the take over is AWARE’s liberal stance on homosexuality. She claims that AWARE teaches young girls about sex, and encourages them to be lesbians.
In the past weeks, we have witnessed Josie Lau – the appointed president, and her New Exco team FIRE Braema Mathi (Chair of Cedaw) and Schutz Lee (Manager of AWARE), push Claire Nazir ( the elected president ) , Constance Singham (immediate past president) and executive Joanna D’Cruz to resignation , made Caris Lim (Old Guard Exco member) walk out in tears and kept Chew I-Jin(Old Guard Exco member) out of the press conference. Subcomm heads are replaced. The staff has reported difficulties working with the New Exco — who go to the office every single day, to demand all the documents, which they scrutinize down to the last detail. They’ve also changed the locks to AWARE, where a lot of confidential client and research information is kept.
Many people have asked the question : If you disagreed with AWARE’s philosophy, why couldn’t you just set up another organization promoting your own philosophy? The only reason why you’ll take over an organization would be to silence it and stop the work it was doing. Many people believe this work they want to stop and silence is AWARE’s promotion of an inclusive and non-discriminatory society.
However, I am very puzzled. And this is why:
Mar 28 : AGM 09.
Apr 10 : ST reporter Wong Kim Hoh breaks the news, with a highly speculative piece, about the take over. I am shocked, and refuse to believe it. I say so in my Apr 11 blog post.
Apr 15: Josie Lau is appointed president.
Apr 16: Braema is terminated, with effect from the 28 Mar, the AGM.
“Kindly note that your term of office as chairman of the CEDAW
Committee has ceased at the date of the AGM on the 28 March 2009.
Kindly submit all the work in progess by Friday 17 April 2009 without fail.”
Up until then, the CSE team has not heard a word from the New Exco. I am a CSE trainer. Nobody else hears a word from the New Exco either, where CSE is concerned. There are whispers of the New Exco looking into the CSE material, but nothing OFFICIAL is said, unlike what they did with Cedaw. Because of the speculation that is going around online and offline about the fundamentalist stance of the New Exco, and their ties to the COOS church, the CSE team prepares a defense nevertheless. However, they continue to remain silent on CSE, until Apr 24.
Apr 24: They change the AWARE locks, they confess to the plot, Dr Thio Su Mien turns up.
CSE and Homosexuality is cited as the primary reason for their crusade.
It puzzles me that Dr Thio chose to interpret our CSE as promoting lesbianism — since her New Exco had been scrutinizing our material, surely she can’t be that stupid! She’s a lawyer!
It puzzles me that no one has even confronted CSE for nearly one month, not a single official word was mentioned , nor were we given warning.
And then CSE became THE reason at the Apr 24 press conference.
If it was just an ideological difference, why couldn’t they say earlier?
If it was an ideological difference, why did they have to scrutinize so many documents?
CSE was no secret — the material is freely available to the New Exco, and it has contents that only needs 3 hours to cover in a secondary school class! There were no fine prints – all the philosophy was written on my blog even!
And if it was just about replacing ideology, why the need to lie, and lie so badly too? (http://www.sgpolitics.net/?p=2784)
Even more puzzling, if it was CSE and the anti-homosexuality-discrimination they were trying to silence, why did they have to fire Braema, and demand all the Cedaw material immediately?
Why was it CEDAW that was under so much fire from the New Exco?
Why did they want to silence CEDAW as well?
What exactly was CEDAW?
“The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is a United Nations convention which seeks to end gender discrimination… In signing onto CEDAW, governments commit to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women. Every four years, signatories are required to send a report to the UN CEDAW Committee describing the measures they have taken to comply with the convention. …In order to get a comprehensive picture of the status of women in each country, the United Nations requests that local NGOs like AWARE submit CEDAW Shadow Reports, offering additional insight into the lives of women. In May 2007 AWARE submitted its second Shadow Report. It received excellent reviews from the United Nations CEDAW committee in New York.”
Braema was fired as the Chair of Cedaw – the AWARE Committee preparing and submitting this report.
AWARE’s last Shadow Reported submitted to the UN , 2007
Singapore’s State CEDAW reports to the UN, 2004 and 2007: http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/refworld/rwmain?page=publisher&publisher=CEDAW&skip=0&querysi=singapore&searchin=title&display=10&sort=date )
If you flip through the 2007 Shadow Report Aware submitted to the UN, you will realise that we touch on 2 potentially contentious areas.
In 10.6 – Sexuality Education, which mentions briefly ( 5 lines out of 143 pages) that homosexuality is criminal here.
And then there is this:
ARTICLE 6 TRAFFICKING AND EXPLOITATION OF PROSTITUTION OF WOMEN
In Singapore, groups like TWC2, HOME are claiming that under the definitions of some countries, but not Singapore’s, trafficking is a significant problem here. TOC has done some very good reports over the last year also, on the situation with transient construction workers. Construction is a huge industry in Singapore, and so plays an important economic role. Any changes is the labour laws are likely to affect many construction firms and projects here. However, the Cedaw report did not touch on construction —- it focused mainly on the women, in prostitution and domestic work.
I ran a google search with the terms “human trafficking Singapore”
Here’s only a small portion of what I found, and I picked only those dated after the 2007 Cedaw reports — ie the 2008 and 09 stuff.
ANNUAL TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS REPORT 2008
(Improvement of Singapore’s “Tier 2″ placement)
Singapore rejects US assessment of its record on human trafficking
Posted: 22 July 2008
CSE and pornography (Commercial Sexual Exploitation – CSE) continue to be major
demand-side factors across the region, burgeoning (often unfettered) commercial sexual
exploitation in destination countries providing ample incentive to traffickers to meet
Singapore is a destination country for young women for sexual exploitation from
Malaysia, China, Thailand, South Asia, and the Philippines. It is also likely a ‘circuit’
country for young women trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation from Central
Asia and Russia
US Department of state
You are in:
Singapore is a destination country for human trafficking. http://www.humantrafficking.org/countries/singapore
S’porean woman accused of human trafficking http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Singapore/Story/A1Story20081219-109136.html
Sun, Dec 21, 2008 The New Paper
Emerging hotspots in human trafficking
Joe Fernandez | Apr 15, 09 3:21pm “The problem is that countries like Singapore have legalised prostitution. They do not see that anyone can be forced into prostitution. So, they are claiming there is no trafficking of sex slaves. Of course, we are challenging that claim,” Tenaganita director Irene Fernandez told the meet.
Human Rights Issues > Human Trafficking
Directory > Society and Culture > Issues and Causes > Human Rights > Modern Slavery > Human Trafficking
Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery
Republic of Singapore
NGO: Sabah among 3 human trafficking hotspots
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Pinay hooker in Singapore: Sex machine, punching bag
by Mar Empaynado from People’s Tonight Jul 28, 2008 at 06:05 PM
Women trafficked to Singapore lured into prostitution
Sep 1, 2008 SINGAPORE (AFP)
The Brothel in Singapore: Karin’s True Story of Slavery
by Amanda Kloer Published April 01, 2009 @ 04:08PM PST
India asks Singapore to curb trafficking racket
Oct 10, 2008
Trafficking of Filipinas in Singapore ‘unabated’–embassy :US to help curb transnational crime
By Veronica Uy INQUIRER.net First Posted 14:22:00 04/28/2008
Trafficking of Filipinas in Singapore at all-time high: report
Singapore – Human trafficking of Filipinas in Singapore has increased alarmingly to an all-time high to 212 cases in 2007, an annual report from the Philippine Embassy in Singapore said on Monday.
Human trafficking: The numbers don’t add up
Philippine Embassy says it’s on the rise here, but police reports show otherwise
TODAY Tuesday • February 5, 2008
Malaysia vows action on Myanmar human trafficking
By JULIA ZAPPEI,Associated Press Writer AP – Saturday, April 25
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysia’s prime minister on Friday vowed to investigate a scathing report by U.S. lawmakers saying thousands of Myanmar refugees were handed over to human traffickers and ended up working in Thai brothels
Please refer to http://we-are-aware.sg for future updates.
This is the closest to an official Old AWARE members website that is available. I can vouch for the website authors — they are the most reliable direct sources of information currently.
Contents of post: 1. EGM details 2. How to Join 3. EGM Agenda 4. SinQA meetup/discussion 5. DBS Credit Card Protest 6. Facebook Group 7. *NEW*: Understand more about Cedaw & Braema Mathi 8. Summary of Events/News
Iwill update this post continuously, Latest update : 25 Apr 11am
I will be qouting members of AWARE ( the old-timers) who I believe, are far more in the know than me. Please support our appeal.
AWARE CONSTITUTION http://www.geocities.com/mathia_lee_yu_chun/AWAREConstitutionJune2006.pdf
Date: Saturday 2nd May 2009, 2pm to 5pm
(****Arrive early: You might be stopped from entry if they claim place is too full****)
Seating Capacity : 500
First Choice Auditorium
3 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh
#01-01 HSR Building
Singapore 319 378
Nearby MRT: Braddell , Toa Payoh,
( my personal email : email@example.com)
REMEMBER TO BRING :
1. Proof of membership:
AWARE membership card OR e-receipts from the AWARE website (
2. Proof of registration for EGM:
You HAVE to register with firstname.lastname@example.org or call 67797137 before 22nd Apr.
I suggest EMAIL. Request for a DELIVERY receipt, and PRINT the delivery receipt as proof
(Also fwd email to email@example.com . She’ll be keeping an independant list that can be counter-checked against the AWARE new Exco’s list)
Let’s make sure no legitimate member is barred from voting based on technicalities.
They will be cracking down.
Some ex-AWARE staff has informed us that the EGM preparations are now handled by the New Exco’s VOLUNTEERS ONLY.
The AWARE staff (REALLY BRAVE PEOPLE, Please send them flowers) have been reassigned to do other things. Or fired ( Manager got fired on the night of the Great Lock Out remember?).
Do let Ovidia know if you’ve joined, she’ll like to meet you to thank you at the EGM
Membership costs $40 (or $5 if you are a full time student, Credit Card/ PayPal accepted.
ONLY SINGAPOREAN and PR WOMEN, above 18 yrs old can vote.
The Constitutional admendments allowing foreigners to vote are not in effect yet.
Visit http://www.aware.org.sg to find out more about our past achievements and what we stand for — they’ve not altered the website just yet
Please print the e-receipts and bring them to the EGM as proof of your membership.
If the AWARE Website is down, these are alternatives:
Go down to the office personally
Address: AWARE Blk 5 Dover Crescent #01-22. Singapore 130005
Nearest MRT : Bouna Vista, Cross the road, take 196 or 74, stop after ACS.
Opening hours: Mon – Fri 9am – 5pm
Print form out (in COLOR , please, for legitimacy)
or pdf form
(thanks to Jennifer for her help! = ) )
Mail in completed form to AWARE ASAP.
Address: AWARE Blk 5 Dover Crescent #01-22. Singapore 130005
In the meantime, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org before 22nd Apr for EGM.
Come down to our Recruitment Drives
***For those who have failed to register online or need help in signing up, we will have volunteers on site who will be able to assist you during the following:
(ref: email@example.com )
Date : 25th April (Sat) & 26th April (Sun)
Time : 3-9pm
Location : Food #03
107+109 Rowell Road
In addition, we are setting up some sign up points on Thursday and Friday as well. Will let you know when and where once I have info.
Signing up at the door of the EGM
As of now, that is POSSIBLE
HOWEVER, we are appealing for you NOT to do that because:
1. The poor staff (they are NOT the Exco, please don’t torture them) will be overwhelmed
2. The registration might eat into the meeting time, reducing the time available for Q & A
3. The New Exco might change their mind on this policy at the last minute — let’s NOT risk it
4. You might be stopped from voting based on technicality : for not RSVPing by 22nd Apr
5. You have to come early to get a seat
ITEM 3: EGM AGENDA
Qouting (abbreviated slightly) from the letter I received officially from AWARE dated the 17th Apr 2009:
“With reference to the 24th AGM of the AWARE duly convened on 28th Mar 09, the members present and voting had, by majority vote, decided to discuss the Proposed Constitutional Amendments at an EGM to be convened by the duly elected ExCo 09/10″firstname.lastname@example.org or call 67797137.“
The documents relevant to the above meeting will be sent seperately at a later date.
Please let us know, before 22nd April, if you will be attending the EGM. You may either email Patricia at
1. Confirmation of Minutes of the 24th AGM held on 28th Mar 09
2. Matters Arising
3. Requisition for EGM
4. Proposed Constitutional Amendments ( to be sent later)
Any member who wishes to place an item on the agenda should give notice to the Honorary Secretary no later than 22nd Apr 2009.
By Order of The Executive Committee
Jenica Chua (Ms)
Reference: Requisition for EGM
We the undersigned constituting at least 10% of the membership of AWARE hereby request that an EGM to be called to consider and pass the following resolutions:
1. That the current Executive Committee has lost the mandate and confidence of th mebers of the Society to continue as the Executive Committee of the Society on the basis that the Current Exco:
a. has not acted and is not acting in the best interest of the Society; and/or
b. does not appreciate or share the values of the Society; and/or
c. does not have the requisite experience of carrying out the Society’s work or is otherwise inadequate to further the Society’s objectives;
2. that all members of the Current Exco be and are hereby removed from their positions on the Executive Committee; and
3. that a replacement Executive Committee be elected to serve for the remainder of the current term
We request that the Notice to call the EGM be issued no later than 14 days from the date of this request.
Dated 14th Apr, undersigned by 160 members.
ITEM 4: SinQA Meet Up
Host: Singapore Queer-Straight Alliance (SinQSA)
Date: Saturday, April 25, 2009
Time: 3:00pm – 6:00pm
Location: Food #03, Post-Museum, 107+109 Rowell Rd
City/Town: Singapore, Singapore
it must be clear that it is not an event, but a regular SinQSA meet-up,
and that we will address the implications of the Aware episode on “gender equality” and queer-identified and straight women.
it is not a meeting to generate hate or speculation, if you know what i mean.
the main purpose of the meet-up is to make people sensitive/aware of gender issues and related events in singapore.
ALL are welcomed; it’s all about pluralism and hearing other people’s stories, if you feel it’s great to share and listen
ITEM 5: DBS PROTEST
” What I did however, was to cancel all my DBS credit cards.
As a consumer, I have the rights to decide,
with which company I want to spend my money with.
After I terminated the cards, their service recovery staff called back the next day and tried to convince me otherwise. They already prep as to what to say when
I mentioned my reason of termination.
Their stand was: that the matter is still being handled internally and an appropriate response will be made known to the public when their investigations are complete.
The bank (DBS) is actively monitoring the fall-out from this PR crisis. If enough customers were to act & terminate their cards, the bank will definitely ask Lau to quit her post at Aware. “
ITEM 6: Facebook group :
Currently, a group of unknowns have taken over AWARE, the leading advocacy group for gender equality in Singapore. We have reason to believe that they do not act in the best interest of all women. They definitely have an agenda, or they would not have executed such a despicable and underhanded act of staging a coup.
If they want to push their agenda, let them form their own organisation.
If they truly care so much about women’s rights, they should work WITH AWARE, not against them.
If there is nothing sinister about their actions, they should stop their silence and explain to us why they did what they did and what are their plans for the future.
If they do not have anything to hide, they could have simply said “We will continue to do the good work that AWARE has been doing and improve on it.”
Instead, they have simply said “No comment”
As long as they continue to keep silent, we will continue to believe that their agenda differs from the current AWARE mission and we need to work together to get these group of people out of AWARE’s ex-co.
In order to help ensure that AWARE maintains in safe hands, a group of people are gathering women to sign up as members of AWARE. If you are a woman in Singapore and are keen to help maintain the mission statement of AWARE, please turn up during the coming EOGM to cast your vote.
Membership is at $40 per year and if you are a student below 25, you can purchase it at just $5.
Sign up at www.aware.org.sg “
If you want to help us, please come down, and join as a member. This is truly a matter of numbers already. We need you, every single one of you. Your vote MATTERS.
You don’t have to be an animal to support animal rights
You don’t have to be a child to support childrens’ rights
You don’t have to be gay to support gay rights
You don’t have to be a woman to support gender equality.
ITEM 7 : Understand more about Cedaw & Braema Mathi
Braema Mathi was the chairperson for the CEDAW Shadow Report Subcommittee. She was terminated effectively on Mar 28, the AGM 09, and informed of the termination after the 2nd Exco meeting.
Learn more about CEDAW here, and why it is important for Women all over the world and in Singapore.
The CEDAW subcomm from AWARE and what it does (not touched by the New Exco yet)
AWARE’s last Shadow Reported submitted to the UN , 2007
Singapore’s State CEDAW reports to the UN, 2004 and 2007:
ITEM 8: Summary of Events / News (also see Comments for more updates)
28th Mar : AGM. New members make up 9 / 12 Exco positions. Voted in by 100+ members who just joined over the last few months
7th Apr: 1st Exco Meeting. President Claire (nominated by Constance Singham, uncontested) quits the next day. Constance uninvited.
14th Apr: EGM requested by 160 signatories.
15th Apr: Josie Lau appointed by Exco as president. Constance asked to leave meeting. Caris Lim walks out of meeting. (no info about her resigning from Exco, though)
16th Apr: Braema Mathi terminated as Cedaw chair. DBS protests Josie’s appointment. Josie was responsible for adopting Focus on the Family as DBS’s adopted charity, which has a strong anti-homosexuality stance.
18th Apr: ST report: 6 out of the 9 new members on Exco attend Anglican Church of Our Savior at Margaret Dr ( http://www.coos.org.sg/ , http://www.anglican.org.sg/parish.html ) . President Josie Lau is related to ex-NMP Thio Li-Ann ( http://theonlinecitizen.com/2007/10/377a-serves-public-morality-nmp-thio-li-ann/ )
19th Apr: Constance Singham quits as Immediate Past President.
People remaining in Exco still fighting for the feminist cause : Chew I-Jin (Asst Hon Treasurer) , Caris Lim (Ord member)
Ng E-Jay writes a very good article here: http://www.sgpolitics.net/?p=2717
Qouting from another AWARE member , whose views I echo:
The EGM has been scheduled by the new ExCo for Saturday, May 2.(Happens to be on a holiday weekend, so we’re worried people won’t be able to attend…) Please attend and support the old guard of AWARE. We may have a vote of no confidence so we need you there. Rally as many of your friends to join AWARE and come to the meeting. This is extremely important if you care about the future of women’s issues in this country.
We have experienced a hostile takeover and need to get the organisation back in safe hands that actually care about the org’s vision and mission.“
From 21 Apr onwards: Please refer to http://we-are-aware.sg for future updates.
This is the closest to an official Old AWARE members website that is available. I can vouch for the website authors — they are the most reliable direct sources of information currently.
Edited 19th Apr : Please see
Once again, this is my personal, independent statement, that does NOT represent the views of ANYONE at all – not AWARE, or anyone from there, past or present.
I do apologize if any party has been hurt or offended by what I’ve said, or not said, in anyway, by my previous or current post.
1. My original post was meant to make a few points, which I stand by still, and nothing more.
A)I realize that my previous post came across as being defensive of the new exco. However, I wasn’t trying to defend anyone, or implicate anyone, and I’m sorry if it came across either way.
My point was: I believe that in any trial, we should presume people are innocent until proven guilty, no matter how damning circumstantial evidence is, when it’s reported in the press. So unless we are privy to full insider info, we should not condemn anyone, or overreact in anyway, based on nothing but fear and speculation.
B )I also realize that my previous post came across as being specifically critical of the Straits Times.
However, my point was: I believe that we should be skeptical about what we read in the press, especially when it is clearly stated that much of it is speculation. In other words, I am not in favor or support of anyone, nor am I condemning anyone, simply based on a press report. I think a press report based on speculation without evidence is simply bad journalism, and to believe and act on it would be irresponsible of me. I’m not against the Straits Times at all, I’m against the behavior of speculative journalism.
2. I wrote the previous post ONE day after the ST report, and strictly based on the ST report with no prior knowledge or information.
3. Ever since, there has been more news on the matter in the mass media, and there has been very loud silence too. Like everyone following the matter from the public media, my opinions have been further shaped since.
4. At this point, 1 week later, I will say that there is already enough rumor and speculation out there, and so I will not say anything more about what I think. Instead, I look forward and applaud any fair process to investigate further into the matter, and any fair action that would arise from a fair and complete investigation.
5. At this point, I am not in favor of any party or entity.
What I AM in favor of are these, and these are what I believed when I joined AWARE 4 years ago:
I am in favor and committed to the girls and women that AWARE has been working for, over the past decades. I believe that AWARE’s philosophy over all the past decades made it an excellent platform for me to serve these females.
I am in favor of providing complete, unbiased information, in a responsible, non-discriminatory and secular manner, so that people can be empowered to make informed choices based on their own personal values and desires.
I am in favor of justice and equality, regardless of GENDER, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, NATIONALITY, EDUCATIONAL LEVEL, POVERTY LEVEL, OCCUPATION, in addition to race, language and RELIGION