FAQs on sexuality: It's about respect for minority rights

It is disappointing to hear, yet again, voices being raised against the provision of information that can be of assistance to gay and lesbian people - this time, in the form of information provided by the Health Promotion Board ("FAQs on sexuality prompt two opposing petitions"; last Thursday).

It is not a matter of approving or disapproving of the sexual orientation of part of Singapore's population, but of respect for democratic rights.

Around 5 per cent of the population in every country is gay or lesbian.

Many young people who believe that their sexual orientation may be homosexual feel very isolated and fearful of speaking with their families and friends about this, particularly if they have already encountered hostile or mocking reactions directed against other people known to be homosexuals.

Most people who take a negative view towards homosexuality, holding that it is contrary to their own moral values, would not go along with the opinion that gay and lesbian individuals should be isolated or treated with hostility, nor that young people who have those sexual orientations should feel intimidated about speaking up or feel unable to turn to anyone for non-judgmental advice or information.

A democracy's great test is not how it upholds the rights and interests of the majority, but how it protects the rights of its minorities.

In this case, what is at stake is the right of a minority to live free from fear or condescension, neither harming others nor being harmed by them.

Just as we want people of different religions, or of different racial origins, to try to get along with one another, so should we be accepting that people of different sexual orientations should be able to get on with their lives in equality and with mutual respect.

John Gee

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.