Singapore has rejected an application for a concert by a local AIDS support group, citing concern over its gay performers following a spike in HIV cases. Los Angeles-based gay pop musicians Jason and deMarco were the planned feature performers for the April 3 Action for AIDS event, organized by Christian group Safehaven. "Based on the duo's Web site and reports of their performances in the United States, it is assessed that their performance will promote a gay lifestyle, which would be against the public interest," said the Media Authority of Singapore in a statement.
The ban follows comments this month by a Singapore government minister who said a gay and lesbian festival in August last year may have led to a surge in the number of local AIDS cases, a remark that outraged gay activists. Although Singapore has one of Asia's lowest levels of HIV infection, the number of new infections hit a record high of 311 cases in 2004, up 28% from 2003. A third of the newly diagnosed cases were gay men. Gay activists say many of the remaining two thirds appeared to be heterosexual men who caught the illness from prostitutes in nearby Southeast Asian regions such as Indonesia's Batam island, just an hour's boat ride from Singapore.
Safehaven said the concert had aimed to raise funds for AIDS programs and increase awareness about HIV among gay people. "We invited Jason and deMarco because they are a monogamous couple for the past five years and we wanted to send forth the message to the gay community that a monogamous relationship and responsible attitude toward sex should be the approach to take," said Peter Goh, a coordinator from Safehaven. "We did not intend, and still do not intend, for this to be a gay concert," he said.
Singapore's gays have only recently begun to enjoy greater freedom, especially after former premier Goh Chok Tong announced in 2003 that gays could enter the civil service, a low-key policy shift aimed in part at fostering a creative class. He said homosexuals could hold key positions without fear of discrimination--a move once unthinkable in a country where oral sex even between men and women is still technically illegal and punishable by up to two years in jail under current laws.
"It is unfortunate that the authorities rejected the license," said Brenton Wong, a spokesman for Action for AIDS. "These people had good intentions, they wanted to do something for its community and help us as well to give funds to our prevention efforts."