HPB tackles gay issues in FAQs, evokes strong reaction

HPB tackles gay issues in FAQs, evokes strong reaction

SINGAPORE - A Section on sexuality on the website of the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has created a buzz online.

The webpage, titled FAQs On Sexuality, defines homosexuality, provides information for parents with homosexual children, and addresses the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

HPB worked with professional counsellors in developing the list of frequently asked questions (FAQs), which was published without fanfare in November. The last few days have seen its content circulated widely online after a netizen posted it on Facebook.

It has ignited strong feelings from both sides of the fence.

Pastor Lawrence Khong of Faith Community Baptist Church, known for his strong stance against homosexuality, said the tone of the article "gives the impression that HPB condones same-sex relationships and promotes the homosexual practice as something normal".

He even penned a seven-page response to the FAQs, taking issue with several points made, including how HPB had directed readers to only one group, Oogachaga, which he said is "pro-LGBT". The group provides counselling for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning) individuals.

"It is odd that the FAQs represent only the pro-LGBT view while they silence the pro-family view of the Government, the law, and the majority of Singaporeans," wrote Mr Khong, who is chairman of church network LoveSingapore.

As of press time, HPB had edited parts of the article. The question "Where can my child find support?", which directed readers to Oogachaga, was deleted. HPB said it is reviewing its list of counsellors and would update the site in due time.

Responding to media queries, an HPB spokesman said visitors have "generally found the information useful and educational" from a public health perspective.

She reiterated that the family "remains the basic building block of society".

Mr Khong also took issue with the comparisons between heterosexual and same-sex relationships, the use of "politically charged language and one-sided terms", and an assertion that homosexuals can have long-lasting relationships.

Conversely, some groups have called for even more progressive measures.

Ms Jean Chong, co-founder of lesbian group Sayoni, hailed the article as "a step in the right direction" and the answers to the 28 FAQs as "accurate and life-saving".

Ms Jolene Tan, programmes and communications senior manager at the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), which champions equality, said yesterday morning the move to include the FAQs was "wholly in line with HPB's mission of promoting health".

"People need access to accurate and non-judgmentally explained facts which reflect the reality of human diversity," she said. "The focus on educating parents about how to support their (LGBTQ) children is particularly helpful...family rejection has a significant damaging impact on their mental health."

Singapore's view towards homosexuality remains largely conservative.

Just last week, an Institute of Policy Studies survey found that almost 80 per cent of the 4,000 respondents said that sexual relations between two adults of the same sex were wrong.

But the FAQs had obvious uses. "It serves as a one-stop resource to provide factual information on sexuality and sexually transmitted infections/HIV prevention from a public health perspective," said the HPB spokesman.

At the same time, the family remained the building block of society, she added. "This means encouraging heterosexual married couples to have healthy relationships and to build stable nuclear and extended family units."


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