Singapore Rebukes US Embassy Over LGBT Rights Event

Singapore’s government has told the U.S. Embassy “not to interfere” in local matters after it hosted a webinar with local LGBT advocates earlier this week. The invitation-only webinar, held to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia on Monday, was co-hosted by the embassy and the LGBT rights organization Oogachaga. In a terse statement Wednesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) “reminded the U.S. Embassy that foreign missions here are not to interfere in our domestic social and political matters, including issues such as how sexual orientation should be dealt with in public policy.” It added, “These are choices for only Singaporeans to debate and decide.” Founded in 1999, Oogachaga describes itself as “a community-based, non-profit, professional organization working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals, couples, and families.” In comments to Channel News Asia, Oogachaga’s executive director Leow Yangfa expressed “surprise” over the MFA statement. He said the group had received no funding from the U.S. government, and that “at least two” officials from the Singaporean Ministry of Social and Family Development had attended the webinar. The MFA’s response reflects the social conservatism of the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has ruled Singapore since its independence in 1965. Gay marriage isn’t recognized in the city-state and sex between men is also criminalized.