Sayoni submitted its shadow CEDAW report to the 49th Session on 2 October 2017 (download the PDF version here)
Growing up, women and girls in Singapore who are perceived to be different or queer face immense pressure and discrimination to conform to stereotypical gender roles and expression. Lesbian, bisexual, transgender and other queer women (LBTQ) in Singapore regularly experience systematic discrimination in the public and private spheres from State and non-State actors. Deliberate policy, institutional gaps and a lack of anti-discrimination legislation contribute to these inequalities and prevent the issues from being addressed.
The government continues to prohibit positive and neutral portrayals of homosexuality in all mainstream media despite the CEDAW Committee’s Concluding Observations in 2012. In the 2011 General Election, the ruling party of Singapore, the People’s Action Party, used the accusation of a “gay agenda” and the basis of sexual orientation to accuse an opposition candidate of having hidden motives to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Singapore, thus encouraging hate in the public sphere.
In schools, LBTQ children experience homophobic and transphobic bullying. This is further perpetuated by a lack of comprehensive sexuality education, laws and censorship in the media and a lack of institutional support.
In the workplace, LBTQ women in Singapore continue to face discrimination. Employment guidelines and laws against harassment meant to address inequality fail to mention or protect against discrimination.
Queer women continue to have unequal access to healthcare and medical rights in a healthcare system that presumes heterosexuality in its policies and services.
The Singapore courts upheld the sodomy law that specifically targets gay men, Section 377A of the Penal Code, in 2014, stating that the guarantee of equal protection in the Constitution does not include gender identity or sexual orientation, despite the State declaring otherwise in the last CEDAW review in 2011. This law continues to justify discrimination perpetrated by State and non-State actors, particularly for LBTQ women who face intersectional oppression.
LBTQ women also have unequal rights to family life. There is no legal recognition for same-sex relationships and children born to same-sex partners, which results in discriminatory policies, lack of protections, unnecessary hardships, separation and the absence of all rights and benefits.
Gender-based violence still occurs to many LBTQ women, including psychological, sexual, physical and intimate partner violence as well as deprivation. Perpetrators are often family members of the individuals. Violence against LBTQ people is severely underreported because of fear of stigma or exposure. Lack of sensitivity to LBTQ issues from the courts, law enforcement, and the Ministry of Social and Family Development and its agencies further dissuades individuals from reporting violence.
The State must fulfil its obligations to protect all women, including LBTQ women, in accordance with the CEDAW Convention, as well as General Recommendation 19 on violence against women.