Offensive verse of popular army marching song banned

Graduating recruits from Pulau Tekong's Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) set off from the Singapore Armed Forces Ferry Terminal along Changi Coast Road on Oct 1, 2010, for the seven-hour march along the eastern coastline and will arrive at the f
Graduating recruits from Pulau Tekong's Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) set off from the Singapore Armed Forces Ferry Terminal along Changi Coast Road on Oct 1, 2010, for the seven-hour march along the eastern coastline and will arrive at the floating platform at Marina Bay. A vulgar verse of a popular army marching song, Purple Light, has been banned, in an unprecedented move by the Singapore Armed Forces to curb the use of offensive language in camps. -- ST FILE PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

A vulgar verse of a popular army marching song, Purple Light, has been banned, in an unprecedented move by the Singapore Armed Forces to curb the use of offensive language in camps.

This followed a complaint by the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) three months ago that the offensive lyrics condoned violence against women.

In a letter to the Ministry of Defence (Mindef), the gender equality advocacy group objected to the verse: "Booking out, see my girlfriend/Saw her with another man/Kill the man, rape my girlfriend/With my rifle and my buddy and me."

Mindef did not respond to queries by press time yesterday.

Aware's executive director Corinna Lim said in a statement yesterday that the group was alerted to the offensive lyrics by seven national servicemen during a workshop in July that was held as part of Aware's ongoing campaign to stop violence against women.

Ms Lim said: "These misogynistic lyrics tolerate and normalise the violent sexual abuse of women, condoning gang- rape as a justified punishment for infidelity."

She added: "Such lyrics may encourage young men at impressionable ages to objectify women, and contribute to an environment where violence against women is trivialised."

The offensive verse of the army song was one of the issues that Aware raised to Mindef as part of its ongoing drive to stop violence against women. It declined to reveal the others.

Army songs like Purple Light and Training To Be Soldiers are military cadences traditionally chanted or sung by soldiers to the beat of a route march or run.

News of the ban on the improvised lyrics went viral online, drawing mixed reactions from servicemen. Some servicemen told The Straits Times that lyrics of army songs are often modified and should not be taken seriously.

Operationally ready national serviceman Bjorn Lim said: "The song has been around for so long and I don't think there has been any negative impact on the servicemen. It is just for laughs. Why take things so seriously?"

Others like marketing executive Joseph Chen, however, backed the move to drop the sexist lyrics. The 29-year-old, who completed his full-time NS stint in 2006, said: "Although it is just a song, singing it repeatedly may instil the wrong attitudes towards how men treat women."

jermync@sph.com.sg