Singapore's annual gay pride rally will move online this year but it is facing opposition calling for restrictions
By Beh Lih Yi
KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The organisers of Singapore's annual gay pride rally vowed on Tuesday to push ahead with an online event after nearly 30,000 people signed a petition demanding restrictions and called the content "immoral".
The Pink Dot rally has been held since 2009 under stringent public assembly laws at a park in Singapore, where gay sex between men can be jailed for up to two years under a law that is rarely enforced.
Like many other cities emerging from a lockdown to curb the novel coronavirus, the pride event will be marked online this year in a livestream that would feature some 35 drag queens.
Calls to restrict viewings escalated after a petition over the weekend urged the government to limit the broadcast due for Saturday on Pink Dot's website and social media.
But the organisers said they would go ahead, to support the LGBT+ community that struggled with social isolation during the recent lockdown that has since been eased.
"We hope that through our livestream, the LGBTQ community can feel seen, heard and loved during these tough times," the organisers told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email.
"It is our way of being there for another."
The petition, posted on the Change.org website, said it was started by parents who were "deeply troubled" that the event would reach children this year "without restraint", exposing them to "homosexuality as a lifestyle".
"Relevant authorities have to do their part to protect children, particularly the younger ones, from unsafe content," the petition read, citing a local law saying children cannot be shown "entertainment content of immoral nature".
Singapore's media regulator, the Infocomm Media Development Authority, did not reply to a request seeking comment.
Leow Yangfa, head of Singapore-based LGBT+ rights group Oogachaga, said demands in the petition were "unkind and uncharitable ... in an inclusive, diverse society like Singapore".
Pink Dot rally has drawn thousands of supporters and sponsorship from tech giants like Google and Facebook in the past.
The modern but socially conservative city-state of Singapore has come under pressure to decriminalise gay sex since India struck down a similar ban in 2018, and since Taiwan became the first place in Asia to allow same-sex marriage last year.
But court petitions by three Singaporean men to overturn the British colonial-era ban on gay sex were rejected in March.
(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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