It’s a real privilege for me to have the chance to give a talk, ‘How can we talk about the taboo and the illegal’, at this year’s IndigNation. http://indignationsg.wordpress.com/
Some topics are more challenging than others to talk about in the classroom setting. Topics like,
1. Homosexuality – How do you de-stigmatise homosexuality, get homosexual students to practise safe sex, when you have the 377A law?
2. Under-aged sex – How do you get under-aged teens to practise safe sex, or seek medical treatment early, when their beloved partners might be jailed?
3. STI/HIV destigmatisation – How do you impress upon teens the severity of these illnesses without scare-mongering, and yet de-stigmatise these conditions at the same time?
4. Condom usage – How do you get teens to practise safe sex without over-stating the effectiveness of condoms, and without “preaching promiscuity”?
5. Trust and abuse — How do you get teens in a monogamous relationship to consistently use condoms, when love and trust are essential for a healthy relationship?
It’s a short 20min talk on this subject of Taboo and Illegal topics, followed by what I hope will be a lively discussion with the audience =)
( Disclaimer: I am giving this talk in my own personal capacity, and will NOT represent the views of any organization / faith. )
23 August Sunday
Triple bill: Kings and condoms 7 pm @ 72-13 (72-13 Md Sultan Road)
Michael Jackson and The Man In The Mirror: In the wake of Micheal Jackson’s passing, Otto Fong reflects on what he – a gay Asian who studied in America – learnt from African Americans before, during and after Jackson’s reign as the King of Pop.
The same ties that bind: A 20-minute video exploration of the various elements that determine a gay person’s acceptance within the family: family love, prejudice, religion, etc.
How can we talk about the taboo and the illegal: Mathia Lee in her talk discusses the challenges she faced as a Comprehensive Sexuality Education instructor, in bringing into the classroom topics like 1. Homosexuality 2. Underaged sex 3. STI/HIV destigmatisation 4. Condom usage 5. Trust and abuse.
In sum, this forum looks the process of acknowledging a gay person in our midst, and dealing with issues of self-acceptance, family acceptance and education.
12,000 women — meaning out of every 3 pregnancies, 2 are born and 1 is aborted.
Many are unnecessary. As Dr Beh points out in the article, half are done by married women, and because they are misinformed.
“Many husbands do not use condom right from the start of the sexual activity, (they) wait till they are near ejaculation before they put it on, and that defeats the purpose.”
“some inaccurately think that birth control pills may be linked to cancer or weight gain, and others have the misconception that the intrauterine system makes sexual intercourse uncomfortable and carries an infection risk. While this may have had some truth to it with the older copper intrauterine device, the newer hormone-releasing intrauterine system carries less risk.”
Which is why it’s so important to educate women, so that they never have to be in this position where they have to make this difficult decision and choice.
The best opportunity, is while girls are still in school — that’s what school education is for. That’s why a program that equips girls with knowledge for their whole life, rather than just their teenage years, is so important.
Abstinence-only programs teach girls how to protect themselves while they are still teens in school. It leaves them with a knowledge-gap when they get married. Comprehensive Sexuality Education equips them with the knowlege they need TODAY, and FOR LIFE.
I think our teacher molested us, over a period of 2 years, more than a decade ago when we were in Sec 3. We were a girls’ school, we didn’t know what to do about it then. Even now, I am not going to name any names, because I don’t want to have to defend myself in court. By naming names, they would have the right to sue me and summon me to court to substantiate my claims. I still don’t really know for sure if this was molest, I’ll just tell our story as it happened, and you be the judge.
We were an all girls’ school. The teacher taught us one of the Pure Science subjects in upper secondary for both years. He was a very engaging and interesting teacher, and so his students often did well because it was so easy to understand and enjoy his lessons.
As part of the practical (laboratory) lessons, we had to look down microscopes and perform dissections on flowers etc. The teacher would walk around the lab to check on us and make sure we were doing things the right way.
When he saw that a girl needed help, or if he needed to point out something about the way she did her experiment, he would stand behind her and stick his arm through the space between her body and her arm in order to guide her through the dissection/microscopy etc (seen the movie Ghost? Remember the pottery session? ). Back then, we sat on those high lab wooden stools, and our arms would be outstretched because they were busy doing the experiment on the table. As he stuck his hand through that very narrow gap, it would conveniently and unfailingly brush against her body.
After a few times of having these accidental brushes against my breasts, I learnt to do my experiments with my arms glued tightly to the sides of my body. Whenever I saw him coming, I’ll make sure I stood or moved aside, so that he had to stand beside me, and not behind me. But sometimes, I was so engrossed in the experiment, I forgot.
Another thing he liked to do was to share seats with students, especially the girls sitting along the middle aisle, and I was one of those girls. Those lab wooden stools were really small, the diameter of my 13-inch laptop. But because we had to lean forward to do the experiment, we often unconsciously sat on the edge of our stool — but the small size meant our butts took up half the stool. The teacher would be walking around, and then he would decide to share the seat with one of the girls sitting that way. The small size of the stool meant lots of body contact. But because everyone was sitting and paying attention, we felt very uncomfortable being the only one standing up.
After a few times of sharing my seat. I learnt to sit on my entire stool seat completely, lean forward and do my experiments with my arms glued to the sides of my body.
Because the lab was so huge, and because he liked doing demonstrations of experiments, he would often ask the entire class of 40 to crowd round the teacher’s bench at the front. After the demo, he would walk through the crowd with his hands outstretched to “push” his way through the crowd.
After a few times of having his hands “push” against my breasts (I don’t know how he can aim so accurately, not just once, but a few times! ) I learnt to fold my arms across my chest and make a lot of room for him the moment he looked like he was finishing with the demo.
The difficulty of reporting him – we were scared and confused
It was these sort of small things. Was it molest?
We talked about it amongst ourselves, even until today, more than 10 years later. We realized that not all, but only a handful of girls experienced this, but often, these girls experienced it repeatedly.
Back then, we spent so much time thinking of what we should/could do. He was a teacher of many many years, very well reputed, and popular amongst many previous batches of students. He was a figure of authority in the education field, and today, he still remains so. We were his last batch of students before he retired. We didn’t know if anyone would believe us at all. We were afraid of what the consequence might be if we were not believed. What if he found out we were trying to do something? We were an elite girls’ school, and we all wanted to move on to elite JCs, we didn’t dare to risk our grades and chances.
We also didn’t know if what he did could be considered molest, even though all of us affected ones were clearly disturbed by his actions. We didn’t want to be seen as ruining his reputation with some unfounded fears. So we continued to discuss what we ought to do.
Then one day, we heard that some girls from another class were going to report him, but that he got wind of it, and he scolded them severely. That confused us further. By the time we graduated, we had not come to a decision about what to do.
Years later, we one day read in the newspapers that he was charged with molesting a girl he was giving private tuition to. He was convicted for one year, a jail term which he served. None of us were surprised. Yet, today, he remains an authoritative figure in the field.
Why am I telling my story?
Because I need to tell you that these things happen in our schools and go unreported. And that it isn’t so simple and straight forward. The Instructors’ guide lists no such thing, but I always addressed sexual abuse in my classes. I wonder if any other educator does so, because I don’t have that chance to now.
Because some systems are so conducive for sexual abuse. Today I read about how thousands of Irish children were sexually abused. When the numbers go to thousands, you start examining the system rather than the criminal alone.
Because sex predators in Singapore can get away with it. Just 3 days ago I read this about Singapore
“HE WAS arrested for performing oral sex on a 6-year-old boy in a library toilet. After Chan Kok Weng, 29, was charged for the offence, he was sent for a psychiatric assessment. And that was when he made an explosive confession – he had been preying on young boys for about 15 years. Chan told Dr Stephen Phang, senior consultant psychiatrist at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), that he had been a sexual predator since he was in Secondary Two. He would seek out primary schoolboys at public places and perform oral sex on them.Chan revealed to Dr Phang: ‘(I) always target young boys, less than 10 years old or 11 years old because it’s the easiest target. Most of them are Chinese… it’s easier to communicate with them’. He also said that he usually targeted ‘primary school boys because it’s easier to get trust from them.’”
While I don’t think it is for us to judge Chan because we don’t have full info, and he may be suffering from psychological issues, what I’ll have issues with is our society and support system here that allows criminal behaviour to go undetected for 15 years.
Because I can no longer talk to teen girls directly. Today I read this “For these reasons stated, we (MOE) will not be able to use AWARE until they have gained the public’s trust for their sexuality programmes.”
And I know how much that CSE class would have benefited me 10 years ago, if I had access to an external third-party who made it comfortable for me to tell my story, and whom I knew would have found a way to help us.
Because AWARE’s platform might not be available for now, but because I believe there are so many important messages that needs to get out to the teens, I have decided I will use my blog as the platform instead.
I will tell you more in my subsequent posts
I have heard so many stories in all these classes. Stories I believe all parents and society should know about. I don’t have the time to write everything tonight, but I do ask that you come back to read, because I will tell you what reality is like in my subsequent blog posts, what advice I give, and you can decide for yourselves what you want to do.
I ask that you don’t Shut Up and Sit Down, but please stand up for what you believe in, and spread the message.
I invite you to give your opinion
I’ll also like your opinion on my story — What we could have done? What can I do now? How can we prevent these things from happening? What should schools do? Teachers do? Parents do? Students do?
And if by fate and chance, you happen to be part of my story too, or have a story to tell, I would be honoured if you shared it with us in the comments, anonymously if you need to be, or privately : firstname.lastname@example.org .
“Questionable takeover but crucial service” says the Bishop of the Anglican Church in Singapore “An alarm has been sounded on the promotion of revisionist sexuality norm”
Sounds like the Bishop is saying that questionable methods can be justified based on their ends. And that speaking up against prejudice & discrimination is a “promotion of revisionist sexuality norm”.
I’m glad my God — in the person of Jesus Christ — made a career out of speaking against the religious leaders of his day. He never flinched from being their public enemy No. 1, even until death.
I’m glad that JC preferred hanging out with the unfairly marginalised — those terminally ill with infectious diseases ( equivalent of the HIV affected), the Samaritans ( equivalent of the marginalised/discriminated ethnic groups), the prostitutes & thieves ( which incidentally is the group that the RIGHTEOUS people of society have put homosexuals in)
I’m glad that my God never made in a requirement for his faithful to agree with the religious leaders.
By the way, just some words that JC had for the religious leaders of his day (the Pharisees were the name of such a group):
They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them (Matt 23: 4)
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
(Matt 23 : 13 – 15, 23 – 28)
“How would you have answered if a, say, 13 year old girl asked you whether the homosexual feelings she was experiencing towards her classmate were normal, and how she was supposed to cope with such feelings?”
That was a question posed to me in one of the comments (Thanks Marcus) that I feel is very valid, and very important to address , so I’ve decided to post it up on it’s own.
My response to Marcus’s comment was:
Our advice for ANY personal problems that a particular student might bring up, whether with regards to homosexuality or anything else, is this —- Please talk to someone who can give you good advice. We usually suggest the school counsellor, or else a hotline like SOS or AWARE’s hotline where they can refer the girl to a private counsellor as they deem fit.
It is actually very dangerous to dish out personal advice.
General advice given out to the whole class is one thing — it’s like the general nutritional advice you give people : eat more vegetables, fibre prevents constipation.
Specific, personal advice is completely different. If someone came up to you and said, “I have constipation, what should I do? Eat more vegetables? ”
It would be very dangerous and irresponsible to actually advise this person to simply “eat more vegetables”
Because, on a personal level, his constipation may be due to so many reasons, and the lack of vegetables may have nothing to with it — he might have some serious medical condition!
The only responsible advice to give to this person is “Please go see a doctor soon”
In the same way, when a 13-year old girl comes up to you with a simple question like what you are posing, it is very dangerous to dish out simplistic advice because you have NO idea what’s the history and context. It is very important for a qualified counsellor to address her concerns in detail, and with absolute confidentiality. As a trainer, who cannot go into such detailed counselling because we’re not supposed to, and have no time to, the only advice is “Go talk to a trusted counsellor (not just your friends) as soon as possible”
And I hope that everyone reading this will also bear this is mind when a friend or a child or teen approaches you with such questions — whether it’s because you are a teacher, a religious leader, or even a parent. I know it causes some discomfort when I include parents in this list. But the fact is, children often want to meet up to parental expectations, and in this desire to, they will hide the key and most important facts from parents, in order to retain their approval. I would suggest parents bear this in mind, and allow their children to speak with a professional, trusted counsellor, in private.
Marcus, thanks for raising this. In fact, because it is very common and very important, I am putting this up as a post by itself.
I know the way things sound with homosexuality , anal sex being noramal and all. Frankly, the instructor’s manual was confidential for a reason – you had to go through the training, and understand the values. And I must say the instructor’s manual was written very carelessly and politically insensitively (hence very open to misinterpretation) because we always trusted our trainers to respect its confidential nature — back to the trust that Constance Singham was talking about. The students’ manual says no such thing however, about pre-marital sex, homosexuality or anal sex.
Because of our value system of not imposing our values, we do NOT EVER tell students that homosexuality or anal sex or what have you is MORALLY OK — because in our value system all these are morally neutral. Of course, you don’t discuss the concept of what morally neutral means with kids – it’s not a philosophy class. You simply demonstrate it through your choice of language (elaborated later).
What I would say to the class is this (abbreviated/summarised here): “This is NOT a moral education class. This is a HEALTH education class. 3 kinds of sex is possible –oral , anal, vaginal. All 3 are at risk for STIs, unless you use condoms. Only through vaginal sex can you get pregnant, although heavy petting does result in pregnancy too. There are religions that believe homosexuality is wrong. There are also people who believe homosexuality is OK. Just like there are religions who believe eating meat or other kinds of food is wrong, and there are people who believe in eating everything. What’s important is that we respect each other. That means if you believe in a particular religion, you should be able to hold your beliefs without feeling shame or discriminated. Likewise, if you don’t believe in that religion, you should be able to hold your values without feeling shame or discriminated. Respect also means that while we hold on to our belief system, we do not have to impose on others, and insist that they also practice our religions practices.”
You know what? I’ve NEVER had a problem with teachers (we even did workshops for teachers), or any students, saying this. At 14, they UNDERSTAND the meaning of respect and religious freedom. I’ve a lot of hope in the next generation — 80% of girls I meet believe that homosexuals should be treated and respected just like anyone else, although they are different, but orientation-wise only. Plus I’m sure you recognise that sex ed for homosexuals must start young too, and that you couldn’t impart any knowledge by telling them they are morally wrong?
And BEFORE we even go into all this, we first talk about what it means to respect each other’s choice. What consent is? What’s love? Does changing for a person demonstrate love? Does sacrifice demonstrate love?(Answer: What’s the difference between someone who wants you to change/sacrifice for HIS own benefit, versus someone who wants you to change for YOUR own good? I ask this question, and the students’ answers are always unanimous and mature.) Does sex mean love? Is pain bad? In that context, we talk about the vaginal sex — is it painful the first time? Should it hurt? What signs and symptoms do you watch for before you go to the doctor? (Answer: ANYTHING out of the ordinary. Don’t even ignore a minor, bearable itch!) We talk about anal sex – is it painful? Should it be? What kind of lubricants will /not compromise the quality of the condoms? (Answer: Please don’t ever use baby lotion or hair gel or what have you) If you’re under 14 and pregnant or get an STI, what do you do? (Answer: your health is first priority, NEVER avoid the doctor because you don’t want you beloved boyfriend to go to jail) Does being married protect you from STIs? (Answer: Where STIs are concerned, whether you’re married, or having pre-marital sex, you can still get STIs. Fact is most female HIV patients in Singapore get HIV from their spouses, and most women who have abortions are married)
Where views & values are concern, we leave it open to the girls to air their 101 views so that they realise there’s so much diversity with views and values, it’s disrespectful to impose and insist. With facts, we provide answers in a morally neutral fashion, using morally neutral language, — but we don’t even have to articulate the moral neutrality.
An example of a morally neutral statement: Anal sex carries a higher risk of STIs because the anus skin tends to tear more easily. Condoms are the only means of reducing the risk of STIs, if you choose to engage in sexual activity, provided they are used correctly and 100% of the time.
By informing students of the consequences, and letting them know it’s a choice they make, you empower them and respect them as humans capable of making good choices. Making moral prescriptions – whether positive or negative – both disempowers and disrespects the students.
All these values and preparations is not put in the manual — it’s part of the value system trainers hold to get selected, and is reinforced in the training and in AWARE’s value system. And this is what we focus on in class.
But when you take 3 lines out of a manual, out of the entire class context —- that’s when things get messy and misinterpreted. Like we said at the EGM, the New Exco clearly flouted our confidentiality agreements and intellectual property rights when they made that disclosure. And I’ll even say slander when they put my name and Joo Hymns’ on the website in a derogatory fashion.
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.
I’m glad for the chance to defend the claim that I’ve been promoting homosexuality, as evidenced by my previous blog post where I say
“What do we teach about homosexuality?
We don’t impose our views. In the first 2 sessions, we explore view points by asking the students what they think. Our aim is to open up students to the fact that there are many different views, and to open up their minds to all these different views so that they can think about it, and make their own choices based on their own personal values..”
The claim has been made here http://wherebearsroamfree.blogspot.com/2009/04/so-aware-was-front-for-promotion-of-gay.html
Here below, I copy-and-paste the comment I left on their blog :
Thank you so much for commenting on my blog. Although I don’t quite understand or agree with your views, I’m glad that you’ve chosen to debate and discuss it. That’s what AWARE tries to do — both within AWARE, and in our CSE classes.
Now if I were to take a leaf out of the New Exco’s book, I’ll hack into your blog and replace it with my own post, and then blame you for not being vigilant enough against hackers = )
I think many arguements for and against both our views have been raised here.
All I’ll like to say, from my own personal point of view is this.
If I could save the life of just one gay person or one straight person from HIV infection, because he/she remembered my words and decided to use a condom, I would feel I have lived my life well.
I’ll rather stand at the gates of heaven, and say “I’ve lived my life well, because I prevented someone from dying of AIDS”
than say “I’ve lived my life well, because I prevented someone from turning gay”
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