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23 Aug 2013

Singapore: Gay man seeks court declaration that gays are equally protected under the constitution

A gay man, who had brought a suit against his former employer last year claiming that he was harassed to leave his job because he is gay, has today filed an application at the High Court for constitutional protection against workplace discrimination of gay men.

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A senior executive, who had previously brought a suit against his former employer in 2012, has filed a new case seeking a court declaration that Article 12 of the Constitution which guarantees all persons equal protection of the law will also apply to gay men. Article 12(2) currently states that “…there shall be no discrimination against citizens of Singapore on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law…”

Lawrence Wee

Last year, Wee Kim San Lawrence Bernard brought a suit against his former employer Robinsons, a well-known chain store in Singapore, alleging he was harassed into leaving his job because he is gay and discriminated against on the grounds of his sexual orientation.

Today, Wee, who is represented by human rights lawyer M Ravi, made an application to the High Court for a declaration that the Constitution of Singapore prohibits discrimination against homosexual men on account of their sexual orientation in the course of employment.

In the application, the 40-year-old described the biased and prejudiced treatment he faced at the workplace – until he left in August 2012 – as a result of his sexual orientation and stated that his only wish was to be “allowed to prove my worth at work, without fear that an immutable characteristic of mine becomes a millstone around my neck”.

In the affidavit, Wee said that he had worked for the company since 2006 had no issues when he was working primarily with the General Manager of Administration and Finance Shia Yew Peck, and Chief Executive John Cheston at the time until a new Acting CEO Jim McCallum was appointed in April 2011.

In March 2012, Wee recalled his former boss Shia asking him whether he had ever considered "turning straight" as it would be “more acceptable at work and makes life easier.” Wee however replied that he is “comfortable with his sexuality” and sees “no reason to change and pretend to be someone else.”

In May, Shia told Wee that the Acting CEO’s biasness against him seemed "deep-rooted" and hasn’t changed, and advised him to keep an eye out for a new employment opportunities. A month later, Shia told Wee that his efforts to correct the their boss’s prejudice was unsuccessful and added that there would be no future for him at the Robinsons Group as long as the Acting CEO’s is around “as he wanted (Wee) to leave.”

From the time Wee joined Robinsons in 2006 as a senior manager of its cards department to when he left in 2012, his monthly salary had more than doubled from S$7,200 to more than S$16,000. In the affidavit, Wee said that the company had recognised his good preformance and he played a key role in increasing the store's corporate sales from $20 million in revenue a year to over $32 million a year due to "key strategic accounts" that he had brought on board. In November 2011, Wee was credited for helping the company avert a $200,000 shopping voucher scam and his involvement was mentioned in a Straits Times report.

Wee said his attitude and work ethic had served him well throughout his life since he had to take up various odd jobs since he was 9 to support his family however the prejudice and discrimination he faced while working at Robinsons left him feeling "very aggrieved" and "flew in the face of everything (he) believed in about Singapore being a fair and meritocratic society".

Due to the lack of any legislation prohibiting employment discrimination against gay men, he was not able to seek any form of recourse from his employer despite believing that he was been arbitrarily treated on account of his sexual orientation.

Robinsons has denied all of Wee’s claims as reported by Asiaone in February 2012. The company denied Wee's claims that he was unfairly harassed by his boss Jim McCallum or that Wee's had increased corporate sales for Robinsons from S$20 million to over S$32 million a year. It also denied that Wee had "performed well" in his job, and had received increments and bonuses as "an acknowledgement of (his) excellent service".

When contacted by Fridae, M Ravi confirmed that this is the first case of its kind, on the grounds of sexual orientation, in Singapore although he knows of several other similar cases involving gay men who have face workplace discrimination.

“A number of gay men have approached me recently on such cases of discrimination in employment but they are afraid to come out publicly to fight for their rights and hence suffer in silence.” He added: “With this case my client is seeking to take a significant step to secure equal rights for all homosexual men. Even if the Court of Appeal strikes down section 377A, it does not guarantee equal protection for gay men who face discrimination in employment. This constitutional challenge seeks to achieve equality and dignity for gay men."


"Singapore’s employment legislation provides recourse for employees who feel they have been unfairly dismissed, including on the grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity": Singapore government to the UN

In May 2011, when asked about what the state is doing to address "prevalent and systematic discrimination against women based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the social, cultural, political and economic spheres" ahead of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) review,  the Singapore government told the United Nations: “The principle of equality of all persons before the law is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, regardless of gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The government went on to say: "Besides the adoption of fair employment practices promoted by TAFEP [Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices], Singapore’s employment legislation provides recourse for employees who feel they have been unfairly dismissed, including on the grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity and they have recourse to appeal to the Minister for Manpower for reinstatement to their former employment."


Reader's Comments

1. 2013-08-24 12:39
Good for you & Thank you for taking the steps that others are too afraid too. Everything starts with a firsst step, 1 person, loving in China, I get fed up of hearing: "But this is China . . .", & it always will be, if you let it, women don't get their feet bound any more . . . .
2. 2013-08-24 12:40
Good for you & Thank you for taking the steps that others are too afraid too. Everything starts with a firsst step, 1 person, loving in China, I get fed up of hearing: "But this is China . . .", & it always will be, if you let it, women don't get their feet bound any more . . . .
3. 2013-08-24 12:43
Good for you & Thank you for taking the steps that others are too afraid too. Everything starts with a firsst step, 1 person, loving in China, I get fed up of hearing: "But this is China . . .", & it always will be, if you let it, women don't get their feet bound any more . . . .
4. 2013-08-24 20:54
Absolutely agree with #1. I applaud Lawrence Wee for his courage and tenacity as I applaud M.Ravi for his dedication to the cause of freedom and equality. Thank you, Lawrence Wee and M.Ravi.
5. 2013-08-25 04:13
I would hope this man gets rewarded for his endeavors to get the laws adjusted to the right and fair balance. He should be compensated for being wrongfully removed from his job. Robinsons should pay him a wage with average wage increases and all benefits that went with the job for the rest of his life. Plus a BIG settlement for pain and suffering. Nobody should be treated this way.

I for one will not shop at that store anymore. I wish more brave people could come forward and blow the whistle on these companies that discriminate against people for their sexual orientation. Then the public could boycott these companies and force them to change their policies to accommodate all workers without any discrimination what-so-ever.

When people are united in a cause then things change. Good luck to this brave young man!!!
6. 2013-08-25 04:31
I think the best thing he could do is go to work for the competition, as opposed to suing the company. I would not wish to work for a company with such a hostile environment. In fact I chose to leave my last place of employment because of concerns over negative remarks about homosexuality in general (in part, other reasons led me to leave too). I chose to become self-employed and now I do not have to worry directly about my sexuality and employment creating a conflict. The nice reward is I now have a much more secure future and a more pleasant working environment.
7. 2013-08-25 10:59
I hope Singaporeans can claim their worth, their rights or even the opportunity to lead, which our forefathers had strove to give us by 1965.
When will the locals learn to pat themselves on their own backs and not continue to serve the fats of their labor on silver plates to 'foreigners talents' who seemed to come 'acting' in such case and how dare to exercise such bigoted views here. Sad..
8. 2013-08-25 12:25
Dear friends, thank you so much for the kind words and support. It means a lot to me. Yes, we should never allow others to belittle and discriminate us. Their actions are shameful and we need to stand up so that such acts of bullying stops!
9. 2013-08-25 12:25
Dear friends, thank you so much for the kind words and support. It means a lot to me. Yes, we should never allow others to belittle and discriminate us. Their actions are shameful and we need to stand up so that such acts of bullying stops!
10. 2013-08-25 12:42
Two thumbs up!!!
Comment #11 was deleted by its author on 2013-08-27 08:34
Comment #12 was deleted by its author on 2013-08-27 08:34
Comment #13 was deleted by its author on 2013-08-27 08:34
14. 2013-08-26 07:56
Keep it up...Gays contribute so much to Singapore, yet are never recognised. Fight for this Discrimination Rights must succeed.
15. 2013-08-26 09:32
I'm on the same page as #5 - in fact, I had stopped buying stuff at Robinsons ages ago. Now, it's a full on boycott. I hope the rest of the LGBT community acts in solidarity with Lawrence Wee and M.Ravi. If we want to make their act of courage count, let's BOYCOTT the entire Robinson's-John Little's chain.
Comment #16 was deleted by its author on 2013-08-26 09:34
17. 2013-08-31 00:04
Thumbs Up all the way Lawrence.
That type of manager ought to be banned from SIN.
And that company ought to be banned by PLU.I1m in with #4 all the way.
18. 2013-10-04 23:46
For someone who is getting that kind of pay, he must be performing right? The "step-in" management removing a performing staff because of his sexuality is just plain stupid and unprofessional.

I think it's really great that Lawrence is standing out for his rights and very brave of him too.

Let's hope this sets a milestone in Singapore's human rights movement!
19. 2013-11-16 23:09
Please donate the campaign here:
http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/article-12-campaign-for-lgbt-workplace-equality/x/5329636
Comment #20 was deleted by its author on 2013-11-16 23:12
21. 2013-11-20 17:38
I have 2 brothers. 1 religious, 2 non religious.

The one who was religious never asked me anything but busy with his Religion activities.
Brother No.2, non religious often see me and asked me.
- Have u eaten today?
or - Do you have enough money for living?
He often brought me manythings.


I also got Dog bitten 2 days ago.
The dog owner said that the dog have children, Bite me from distance was to protect the children.

So, what difference between Dog, my brothers and court?
Who will protect people or LGBT?
Who will responsible for people or LGBT in nation?

Right is about Law.
so, first, u need to understand what court is.
Do you think that court is person who know everything or all laws?
Does court know what is aerospace law? cells law?
and many others law that i do not mention here.
How court know about law? from school?
from holy books?
or Gay can go to library to see law books?
Whatever the darkness of court, Gay should forgive.

positively, Gay is not object of discrimination of court.
But as witness for court.
Witness that Person who responsible to protect all citizen or people did not perform well indicating by Discrimination.
See again how dog protect the children.

So, in my opinion, donation for US$30, 000 should be come from court or Person who responsible to protect all citizen.

Remember, if you have US$30,000. LGBT will be better to invest on business in other countries.
Remember, we are gay, LGBT all over the world is one nation.
We are all LGBT in the world are brothers-sisters.


Why LGBT still very weak?

I met one gay from USA in Thailand. His business got bankrupt.
None help him. He must struggle alone.
Why you did not care about? is it caused by your stomach full?

If you got US$30,000. what next?
will you think about other in distance?
So, people who will donate also should know about it.

I met one gay from Germany, spending holiday in indonesia.
He always walking alone, none came to him because He was poor.
May be, many gay would come him if He was rich.

Look, many LGBT in other countries need help too.

I still hear gay/LGBT steal gay Tourist property: money, mobile phone and many things.
Why?
I think that it caused by LGBT has Religion background /education that made them did not realized why We, LGBT had been created.

You must know that many LGBT had been brainwashing by Religion to hate each other or to hate others include Heterosex by difference.
That is the principal of Imperialism by Religion.

Holly book look like having proposal that other creation created by God are wrong. Wrong creation.
And correct creations were what had written by Hollybooks authors.
That is satanic
because no respect to God.
They pretending talking about God and love loudly to attract followers.


















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