Goodbye, and good riddance

The meeting this Saturday at Fort Canning Park was supposed to be hush-hush.

Those attending were told to utter a secret phrase - "Do you know where the pet shop is?" - to identify themselves as a "like-minded tribe" member.

The instructions were precise: Meet underneath the big arch and only between 8pm and 8.20pm.

Similar meet-ups were supposed to take place at more than 150 meeting points in 43 countries.

But after much controversy in the media, organiser Roosh V, whose real name is Daryush Valizadeh, apologised to supporters for cancelling the worldwide meet-ups yesterday.

Mr Valizadeh, 36, said on his website: "I can no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to attend on February 6, especially since most of the meet-ups can not be made private in time."

Part of the controversy stemmed from what Mr Valizadeh had written on his website in February last year.

To prevent rape, he had advocated making rape legal on private property, among other controversial statements.

Mr Valizadeh had also said then: "...Consent is now achieved when (a woman) passes underneath the room's door frame because she knows that (the) man can legally do anything he wants to her when it comes to sex."

Naturally, some in Singapore were concerned about the planned meeting of "like-minded" people who shared Mr Valizadeh's views on the opposite sex.

One of them, a dating coach from Modernman Dating Academy who wanted to be known only as Mr Gate, told The New Paper: "He shouldn't be allowed to enter Singapore if he encourages rape. It is wrong to treat women as sex objects and that's not what I teach my clients."

Similarly, Ms Lydia Gan, co-founder of dating agency Clique2click, said: "What he (Mr Valizadeh) is advocating is dangerous, not only to women but to young people who might buy into his ideas."

Under the Immigration Act, Mr Valizadeh can be considered an "undesirable immigrant" and not allowed entry into Singapore.

In November 2014, self-proclaimed pick-up artist Julien Blanc was not allowed into Singapore to hold seminars. His methods suggested the use of physical violence and emotional abuse against women to persuade them to have sex.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said that Singaporeans should affirm their values and make a stand against bigotry.

Mr Tan said on Facebook: "Never heard of the guy (Mr Valizadeh) but having read up on him, I think we'd just have to stand up to misogynists like him and others who will come in various forms. He is the more obvious kind and it's easy for us to respond with disgust."

The police said they were aware of Mr Valizadeh's online call to hold meetings in a number of cities.

They would like to remind the public that "organising or participating in a public assembly without a police permit in Singapore is illegal and constitutes an offence under the Public Order Act".

Two lawyers also told TNP that if Singaporeans were to attend the meet-up at Fort Canning Park, they would be violating local laws.

Said lawyer S. Balamurugan: "It is unlikely that a permit will be granted for a meeting of such nature as it is likely to be considered to be against public interest to allow the event to proceed."

TNP understands that nobody had applied for a permit.

Even discussing how to commit rape may be deemed unlawful, said Mr Balamurugan.

He added: "Persons who gather to discuss the possible perpetration of rape could be held liable for taking part in a criminal conspiracy to commit rape under the Penal Code."

Those found guilty can be jailed up to 20 years, fined or caned.

Lawyer Ramesh Tiwary said that most people have a moral compass and know when not to cross the line.

Mr Tiwary said: "It's a fact that men go to bars to pick up women. But most stop short of sexually taking advantage of women, especially if the women are comatose (from too much drinking).

"It's a worrying trend if people today think that rape is all right."

Although the public meet-ups have been cancelled, some may be tempted to hold private meetings in homes or start discussions online.

Mr Balamurugan, however, warned that the authorities can charge the creators and disseminators of any online discussion supporting the "pro-rape movement" as it breaches the Protection from Harassment Act.

Meanwhile, others believe that Mr Valizadeh's movement will fizzle out and not gain a foothold in Singapore society.

Aware's (Association of Women for Action and Research) programmes and communications senior manager Jolene Tan, 33, said: "There isn't much sign this abhorrent group has a real presence here. It's easy to put out a list of cities, (but) much harder to actually organise gatherings.

"Let's starve this attention-seeking troll of the oxygen of publicity."

Who is Roosh V?

He calls himself a neo-masculinist, one who advocates that "men should be masculine and women should be feminine".

The self-styled "pick-up artist", whose real name is Daryush Valizadeh, has published 15 books on how to "pick up women" and posts tips on his website on how to get them into bed.

The 36-year-old American's abhorrent views have led to widespread outcry around the world.

Mr Valizadeh has said that "a woman's value significantly depends on her fertility and beauty".

He has also advocated for rape to be legal if "done on private property".

In a post on his website titled "How To Stop Rape", he said that if his proposal is accepted, "consent is now achieved when (a woman) passes underneath the room's door frame because she knows that (the) man can legally do anything he wants to her when it comes to sex".

Following criticism, Mr Valizadeh posted a tweet deeming the article as "satire".

Many advocacy groups have initiated efforts to ban him from their respective countries.

One petition on calls for Mr Valizadeh to be blocked from entering Canada.

Another has seen more than 53,000 people sign a petition to stop him from "being allowed to promote his hateful violent views" in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Feminist society plans counter rallies

The Edinburgh University Feminist Society (EUFS) calls the cancellation "a giant victory".

"Thank you to everyone who was willing to stand up to this sort of behaviour and come out to challenge misogyny," EUFS member Maia Almeida-Amir, 20, said in a Facebook post.

Mr Daryush Valizadeh's followers were expected to gather at the Grassmarket in Edinburgh and Glasgow's George Square.

EUFS members were planning to also hold rallies at those same places in hopes of letting "women in the area know of these dangerous men".

They were also hoping that businesses would refuse to host Mr Valizadeh's followers.

Miss Almeida-Amir told The New Paper in an e-mail interview yesterday that even with the cancellation, her group will continue with their rallies - in case people still show up for Mr Valizadeh's meet-up, and because it's "a great opportunity to spread love and respect in place of hate and misogyny".

Mr Valizadeh, who had announced the gatherings early last month, said the meet-up was an "opportunity for other like-minded men" to get together in their cities so they could continue even if he was forced to "shut down".

This article was first published on February 05, 2016.
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