Prominent Gay Opponent appointed to Singapore Parliament
One name in the recent appointment of Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) in Singapore stood out glaringly to anyone who follows the public debate of gay issues in Singapore: Thio Li-Ann. An Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Law Faculty, Thio Li-Ann, along with her mother Thio Su-Mein, is well-known for her views on homosexuality. Her appointment as one of the nine NMPs came as a rude shock to many in the gay community.
The NMP scheme in Singapore allows up to 9 unelected MPs for a term of two and a half years. The Straits Times reported that some of the issues Thio would pursue in her tenure as NMP include "civil virtues and public morality". She has a record of championing religious issues. Two of her articles published in the Straits Times stressed the role of religion in public policy debate.
At a forum ("Homosexuality: Myths and Truths") organised by Focus on the Family on 24 Nov 2003 at Wesley Methodist Church, Thio alleged that the gay community has an organised agenda. She implied that Singapore's newspapers were populated by biased liberals, whose unfair reporting paint the conservative Christians as homophobic fundamentalists, while portraying the pro-gay camp as progressive.
Her appointment as NMP could not have come at a worse time. One of the first bills to be debated in parliament is the revision to sexual crimes in the penal code, including the continued criminalisation of homosexual acts in Singapore. No representatives from the gay community were nominated, although there is no lack of prominent personalities who could sail through the NMP selection process.
Thio's presence in the parliament could perhaps bring out both conservative and liberal views on not just homosexuality but the role of religion in public policy. In this present global climate where religion is making a comeback in politics, even secular Singapore is no safe harbour.
In December 2004, Thio's mother Thio Su-Mein, a former dean of the NUS Law Faculty, wrote to the Straits Times lauding the police ban on gay parties: "As Straits Times Senior Writer Andy Ho noted recently: 'It is homosexuals who engaged in condomless anopenetrative sex that are culpable of spreading HIV in Singapore', causing the 'second wave of HIV here and worldwide.'
"To facilitate or allow such activities to carry on unchecked would constitute a gross breach of the public trust and be highly irresponsible. The Aids problem cannot be ignored.
"Blatant flaunting of homosexual activities is offensive to the conservative mainstream which wants to see enduring standards of public decency and morality upheld - it would be regressive to allow this to degenerate."