Monday, May 18, 2009

A response to Dr. Thio Su Mien’s letter to the ST Forum

If you all read today’s (18/5/2009) edition of the Straits Times (ST), you all would notice that Dr. Thio Su Mien wrote a letter to the ST Forum. In this letter, Dr. Thio, responding to an earlier letter by AWARE president Ms Dana Lam, reiterated her accusations that AWARE’s Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) programme promoted homosexuality. She also added the claim that “homosexual activists seeking to impose their values by mainstreaming homosexuality have become a significant chief constituency of AWARE” and this, according to Dr. Thio, was evident from the considerable presence of members from “activist homosexual groups” and “sexually challenged women” amongst the supporters of the old guard of AWARE at its recent EOGM.

Firstly, let me state clearly that I have nothing personal against Dr. Thio. I however am somewhat sceptical about some of the claims she asserted in her letter to the ST Forum.

One, Dr. Thio stated in her letter that it is against the law for AWARE’s CSE manual to state that homosexuality is neutral and normal and that “anal sex can be healthy or neutral with consent and a condom”.

Well, although I may not be as well-versed in Singapore law as Dr. Thio, it is, to the best of my limited legal knowledge, not illegal in Singapore for homosexuality or anal sex to be practised or promoted. I mean, even Section 377A of the local Penal Code only states that it is a criminal act for men to commit “any act of gross indecency with another male person”; nowhere is it stated that homosexuality per se or anal sex is illegal. Even if one includes anal sex as an “act of gross indecency”, it will seem to me that it is technically not illegal for this act to be performed between a consenting male and female couple. I, of course, may be wrong about this so I stand ready to be corrected.

And with regards to Dr. Thio’s claim that the strong presence of “activist homosexual groups” and “sexually challenged women” amongst the supporters of the old guard of AWARE is evidence of AWARE’s “gay agenda”, it would seem to me that this claim is rather questionable.

For one thing, it seem rather odd to me that although there was a wide spectrum of individuals amongst the supporters of the old guard of AWARE, Dr. Thio chooses to focus only on those supporters who she claims to be from “activist homosexual groups” and supposedly are “sexually challenged women”. I mean, if I am not wrong, there were, amongst the supporters of the old guard of AWARE, several individuals who clearly stated that they are either of the same religious faith as Dr. Thio, parents of young children or are not pro-homosexuality but are pro-equity/anti-discrimination. I, for one, am a heterosexual male who is not pro-homosexuality but am pro-equity/anti-discrimination.

Also, even if there was indeed a strong presence of homosexuals and lesbians amongst the supporters of the old guard of AWARE, it would seem to me that this is not necessarily a sign of AWARE having a “gay agenda” or it being infiltrated by “homosexual activists seeking to impose their values by mainstreaming homosexuality”. It could just be a result of the evident anti-homosexuality sentiments expressed by Dr. Thio and the previous AWARE exco headed by Ms Josie Lau causing homosexuals/lesbians to perceive their interests as being threatened, thus pushing them to join AWARE on the side of the old guard in order to protect their interests.

To conclude, although I may or may not be one of those “discerning Singaporeans” that Dr. Thio was attempting to appeal to in her letter, it would seem to me, at least for now, that her claims are perhaps not fully backed by evidence.


Alan S.L. Wong said...

I do agree with you that anal sex is not illegal between a man and a woman. Giving Dr Thio, the benefit of the doubt, she is probably talking about Section 377A of the Penal Code of Singapore which criminalises "any act of gross indecency" (which she defines to include anal sex) between mutually consenting adult men.

But the real contention is why did AWARE’s CSE Instructor Guide categorize anal sex as healthy or neutral

(a) when one can get HIV from anal sex?

(b) when condoms are more likely to tear during anal sex? and

(c) when one’s potential sex partner does not show any symptoms of HIV even if he/she is infected?

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing for teenagers because they tend to try novel experiences without considering the consequences of their actions.

If you are interested, you can read more about my critique of AWARE's CSE Instructor Guide at

Alab Wong said...

It's a real shame that a former Dean of Law's flawed arguments in her letter is so easily rebutted.

Donaldson Tan said...

I disagree with Dr Thio Su-Mien. A publication that contradicts the law cannot be deemed illegal unless the Minister of Home Affairs deemed so. This is according to Section 20 of the Internal Security Act. She has no authority to hail AWARE CSE as illegal.

Anonymous said...

A post from an Aware CSE trainer about how the manual's words are taken out of context, and the debate about it's nature ignores the training that the Aware CSE trainers go through:

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