SINGAPORE - Shades of pink covered the grass patches and footpaths of Hong Lim Park on Saturday (June 18) afternoon as the annual Pink Dot SG rally returned to Speakers' Corner, which had been closed for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year's rally — the 14th edition since 2009 — called on participants to envision what an inclusive Singapore would look like for them, and to speak out about the issues that impact the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community and to call for change by writing on placards.
Participants could take a photo with their placards, print them out and write a message on the back before placing the cards into "mailboxes" that had slots for each electoral constituency. The cards will be delivered to MPs.
Two politicians were spotted at the event — Kebun Baru MP Henry Kwek from the People's Action Party and Sengkang GRC MP Jamus Lim from the Workers' Party.
The last time Pink Dot SG was organised in-person was in 2019, when it focused on Section 377A, the law that criminalises sex between men.
In 2020 and 2021, the rally went online.
Capacity limits for all events were removed on April 26 as Singapore eased Covid-19 restrictions in a move to live with the coronavirus.
But as with all events over 500 persons, participants at the Pink Dot rally had to show proof of vaccination and scan a SafeEntry code after queuing to enter the rally area.
Like past rallies, they also had to show a photo identification to confirm that they are Singaporeans or permanent residents, and their bags were searched as part of security measures.
Some brought their pet dogs along and others laid out picnic mats and foldable chairs.
Pink Dot SG spokesman Clement Tan said the loss of the constitutional challenge against Section 377A this year was especially frustrating to the community.
But he said the community sees glimmers of hope.
A survey by market research firm Ipsos released on Thursday showed that support for Section 377A in Singapore has dropped as attitudes towards same-sex relationships shift.
The findings came amid an ongoing consultation exercise by the Government to better understand the viewpoints of diverse groups of Singaporeans on Section 377A before it decides on the next steps.
Mr William Chong, 46, a payroll manager, who attended the event with his partner, said he was there "to show support for the freedom to love" and equal treatment for all. He has attended Pink Dot since its first iteration in 2009.
Saturday's event included a concert as well as speeches by four people who have done important work for the LGBTQ+ community, from areas of advocacy to mental health support, according to Pink Dot SG.
One of them, lawyer Remy Choo, a committee member of the Ready4Repeal movement, said: "Discrimination did not start with 377A and it will not go away when it is repealed. We need to carry that fight forward."
He called on people to fight discrimination and to rally for better media representation.
The event ended with attendees holding up the pink placards and white umbrellas that formed the word Majulah — which means onward.
Mr Tan said: "We believe that change happens through collective action. We have long urged our policymakers to go beyond acknowledging our struggles, and to act decisively to address the stigma and discrimination that LGBTQ+ people face.
"We hope that our calls for change do not fall on deaf ears."