Originally published on Advocate.com April 07 2004 12:00 AM ET
The Singapore government has denied freedom of association to a gay rights group and warned it to halt all activities, group officials said Tuesday.
The organization, People Like Us, has demanded that the government explain why it considers a support and advocacy group for gay people "unlawful, prejudicial to the public peace," and "contrary to the national interest," cofounder Alex Au said. "The world can rightly perceive Singapore to be an intolerant place that's refusing to move with the times," Au said.
The government warned in its formal rejection notice that the group must cease all activities, warning that members of unregistered societies face heavy punishments under the law, Au said. However, the notice did not specify the penalties. No representatives of the home affairs ministry were immediately available for comment.
People Like Us first tried to register as a society in 1997 and was refused then as well, Au said. The group would follow the government's instructions and not hold further meetings, but as individuals they will continue to argue for equal rights, he added, noting that the group will also appeal the decision to the home affairs minister.
People Like Us, which claims a membership of more than 1,000, has been using the Internet to push for equal rights in the tightly controlled city-state. Singapore bans gay sex, including it in its broad definition of "any act of gross indecency"--punishable by a maximum of two years in jail--but there have been few prosecutions of gay men and lesbians, and Singaporeans are largely tolerant of gays.