Singapore’s universities have become more Lesbian Gay Bi and Transgender (LGBT) friendly, but they are still far from ideal, says a commentator on LGBT rights in Singapore.
With the failure of LGBT groups to abolish Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes sexual intercourse between men and government restrictions on foreign corporate funding for Pink Dot, LGBT activists face an uphill battle.
However, LGBT activists have been successful in building a wider and more vibrant environment in university campuses, says Daryl Yang, who co-founded and currently serves as Executive Director of the Inter-University LGBT Network. The network consists of student groups from the various universities in Singapore: Gender Collective from NUS, The G Spot at Yale-NUS College, Kaleidoscope at NTU, Out To Care at SMU and tFreedom at Tembusu College.
According to Yang, the network worked with National University of Singapore faculty to craft new guideline for a “safe aand inclusive” orientation program for new undergraduates following public outcry over the university’s overly “sexualized” orientation games.
But Yang acknowledges that there have been some setbacks on campus.
For example, in 2014, an NUS Malay Studies professor Dr Khairudin Aljunied published a Facebook post calling lesbians a “cancer to society”. The professor was subsequently counselled and the university sent out a reminder to keep the campus environment respectful and free from discrimination.
In Nanyang Technological University, Kaleidoscope has faced so many problems working with the university that it has decided to operate as an external organization separate from the school, even though it is an official student organization.
Yang wrote in a recent article on Popspoken, “It may come as no surprise then that NUS has been ranked the 4th most international university. While the best universities here and abroad are actively supporting their LGBT students to achieve their highest potential, some of the universities here have chosen instead to give in to fears of public backlash or ideological disagreements on campus. Yet, is it not the purpose of a university to facilitate reasoned and intellectual dialogue on controversial matters?”