Govt cannot make up its mind

Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew questions homosexuality ban
23 Apr 07

Singapore’s powerful former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, acknowledging the view that some people are genetically destined to be homosexual, has questioned the city-state’s ban on sex between men.

“If in fact it is true, and I have asked doctors this, that you are genetically born a homosexual – because that’s the nature of the genetic random transmission of genes – you can’t help it. So why should we criminalise it?” Monday’s Straits Times, a pro-government daily, quoted Lee as saying.

Under Singapore law, a man who is found to have committed an act of “gross indecency” with another man can be jailed for up to two years, though prosecutions are rare.

But Lee – who remains the most powerful minister in the cabinet of his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong – said Singapore should not actively pursue homosexuals who engage in sex.

Lee said that while homosexuality was not widely accepted in Singapore, authorities must take a pragmatic approach.

“Let’s not go around like this moral police … barging into people’s rooms. That’s not our business,” he told a weekend meeting with the youth wing of the People’s Action Party, Singapore’s ruling political party.

In November, the Ministry of Home Affairs said it was considering decriminalising oral and anal sex between consenting heterosexual adults, but not between homosexuals.

The authorities have banned gay festivals and censored gay films, saying homosexuality should not be advocated as a lifestyle. But, despite the official ban on gay sex, Singapore has a thriving gay scene.

Lee’s comments come at a time when many groups, such as Singapore’s Law Society, are clamouring for a review of the laws against homosexual sex, which they view as outdated and archaic.

S’pore censors two films over sex and religion
19 Apr 07

Singapore has censored two art films at its annual film festival because of their explicit sexual content and religious symbols.

Princess, an animated film by Danish director Anders Morgenthaler, was withdrawn from the Singapore International Film Festival after the censor demanded the festival cut a “religiously offensive” scene. The film tells the story of a priest who tries to erase his dead sister’s past as a porn star.

“The scene has a porn star in a nun’s habit, with a cross protruding from her behind. Film with content denigrating a religion or a religious symbol are not permitted,” Singapore’s Board of Film Censors told Reuters in an email on Thursday.

Solos, a Singapore film about the homosexual relationship between an older man and a boy, was censored because of “explicit homosexual lovemaking scenes including scenes of oral sex and threesome sex”, the board said.

Loo Zihan, co-director of Solos said he was appealing the censor’s decision, but has not yet withdrawn the film.

“The sex scenes are not meant to titillate. It’s an art film. We hope it won’t be viewed as porn,” Loo told Reuters.

The organisers have a policy of showing only uncut films, so Princess, which opened the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in May last year, was pulled from Singapore’s film festival.

The censorship board told Reuters that films submitted for festivals are generally given more leeway “in view of the limited screening and niche audience”, but added the two films exceeded that leeway.

Censorship is common in Singapore, and even mainstream films such as Titanic, The Hours and American Beauty were cut for cinema release.

Last week, the government banned a film about former political detainee Said Zahari by local film director Martyn See, as it was deemed to be “against public interests”.

But a Thai film that was censored at home will be screened uncut at the Singapore festival, which started on Wednesday, organisers said.

Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Century, features scenes of a monk playing a guitar and another monk playing a game. This portrayed them in “inappropriate ways,” according to Thai daily the Nation, which cited censors. Monks are revered in largely Buddhist Thailand.

The director refused to make four cuts demanded by the Thai censor and the film was not shown in Thailand

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