MPs raise concerns over cancel culture in discussion of LGBT issues

Several MPs urged the public to refrain from labelling and focus instead on having open dialogues among those with opposing views. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - The spectre of cancel culture that could come with discussions surrounding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues was raised by several MPs in Parliament on Monday.

During the debate on the repeal of Section 377A and the amendment to the Constitution to protect the definition of marriage from being challenged in court, Ms Jessica Tan (East Coast GRC), Mr Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) and Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) noted that LGBT issues are divisive and asked what measures were in place to protect people from cancel culture.

Ms Tan said she had received feedback from young people and working professionals that while they accept their gay friends and family, they find it difficult to voice their opinions when they do not share their values and ideas, for fear of being labelled, bullied or cancelled in school or at the workplace.

“The fear, real or perceived, is that the repeal of S377A will amplify the activism,” she said.

Cancel culture, or being “cancelled”, is a form of social ostracism which happens mostly online to people who are deemed or proven to have crossed social boundaries.

Mr Yam asked what protections there are to ensure that businesses and institutions, such as religious organisations, are freed from legal challenges regarding teachings and beliefs on marriage.

“For example, if a religious institution declines to conduct a ceremony for a transgender or same-sex couple, will they be subjected to a lawsuit?” he said, asking for clarification from the Government.

Mr Lim said he had received feedback that employees at international organisations or multinational corporations based in Singapore were harassed at their workplaces if they did not support gay people or refused to attend events that support the LGBT community.

He added that organisations, companies and schools must have the scope to allow their employees or students to subscribe to different views on sexuality without being discriminated against.

He also called on the Government to consider making it an offence for anyone to send hate messages or make derogatory comments aimed at intimidating others into keeping silent.

“This law should apply equally to those who are anti-gay and those gays who seek to bully others into silent submission. There should be no space for people to propagate hate messages within Singapore,” he said.

Several MPs urged the public to refrain from labelling and focus instead on having open dialogues among those with opposing views.

Workers’ Party MP Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC) called for LGBT issues to be treated like religious beliefs, where people who subscribe to one faith do not force their beliefs on others.

He said: “We should not force people to accept one view or another with the risk of being labelled as bigoted or immoral. This is not to say that the issue should not be discussed at all. On the contrary, discussion should be encouraged but as a balanced discussion on different viewpoints, not as a lesson on facts.”

Mr Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Nominated MP Mark Chay said schools in particular should be safe places for students to have respectful conversations and suggested that teachers be trained on how to handle such conversations.

Mr David said: “There could also be instances where students themselves are exploring their own identity, and having trained educators who could help them in this journey of discovery would be important.”

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