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31 Aug 2013

Russian embassy in Singapore rejects petition calling for repeal of homophobic laws

Officials of the Russian Embassy in Singapore have refused to accept a petition signed by 200 members of the LGBT community and their allies when four activists visited their premises on Friday morning, say petition organisers.

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The following is a statement issued by one of the co-organisers Jolovan Wham on Aug 30, 2013:

Officials of the Russian Embassy in Singapore have refused to accept a petition signed by 200 members of the LGBT community and their allies when four activists visited their premises on Friday morning, 11am Singapore time. Instead, the embassy called the police and the activists were interviewed for almost an hour before they left the scene.

The petition was signed at an event last Saturday (24 August), ‘To Russia with Love’, held at Hong Lim Park as one of a series of activities organised by Indignation, Singapore’s annual LGBT pride festival.

‘To Russia with Love’ was organised in response to the Russian parliament’s adoption of legislation banning the dissemination of information on “non-traditional” sexuality. The Russian government claims that the law will protect children and young people from information and propaganda that are harmful to their well-being and development. There has also been an increase in the number of violent incidents, assaults, harassment and bullying of Russian LGBT people and their allies since the passing of this law. At least two people were reported to have died as a result of homophobic attacks.


From left: Zan Thang, Jolovan Wham, Vincent Wijeysingha and Leow Yangfa
 outside the Russian Embassy in Singapore



According to one of the activists present, 9 officers in uniform and civilian
clothing can be seen in this photo while another 4 uniformed officers had
already gone inside the embassy. Photos by Jolovan Wham.

Vincent Wijeysingha, who was the first politician in Singapore to come out as gay said: "This small act will not change the mind of the Russian government. But it should be left in no doubt that people the world over hold it in contempt."

Russia will host the Winter Olympics next year and its government has banned demonstrations and rallies in the city of Sochi where the games will be held, in a move that was denounced by rights activists.

Last week, an email was sent to the Russian Ambassador requesting a meeting to deliver the petition. The Head of the Consular Section, Bulat Dondukov, replied with this message:

The Embassy has received and considered your request for a meeting with an Embassyofficial with the purpose of submitting a petition from Singapore’s LGBT community.

We believe that your protest is prompted by gross misconception and is ill-advised. You have misconstrued developments in Russia.

First of all, we want to remind that discrimination of any minority is legally prohibited inRussia by the Constitution. Unlike the former Soviet Union homosexual behaviour is not punishable by the Criminal Code. The recently adopted law has one well-defied purpose – to ban promotion of homosexuality among minors, but not “promotion of homosexuality”, as you claim. The law prohibits promotion in aggressive forms of non-traditional sexual practices among minors.

Law enforcement officers now have the right to detain persons who violate the law intentionally (for example, by conducting public actions near schools and other children institutions). And last, but not least: violation of this law is an administrative, not criminal, offence.

In a joint statement, the four activists said: "We have been pressing the bell outside the embassy for the last thirty minutes and obviously nobody is coming out to receive us even though they have just let the newspaper man in. So clearly, they are ignoring us which is rather telling, because Putin appears to be a tough man in his own country but his representatives abroad don’t even have the courage to come out to accept nothing more dangerous than a letter. So, we will leave the letter here and go away, but we would like to tell our LGBT friends in Russia from here in Singapore that we support you, and this is done in friendship across the many miles."

An account of the event with pictures can be accessed here: http://iwillsurvivesg.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/would-we-survive-in-russia

A video documenting the delivery of the petition can be accessed here:

Reader's Comments

1. 2013-09-01 09:56
I am so proud of these four heroes and the brave hundreds who gathered and signed the petition. Thank you for caring for the plight of the oppressed in Russia. Even though Singaporean LGBTs are still criminalised, but arguably better in some ways, we still make place in our hearts to care for others. That generosity unites us, gives comfort and hope, making better the dark days. I appreciate you all.
Comment #2 was deleted by its author on 2013-09-01 10:00
Comment #3 was deleted by its author on 2013-09-01 09:59
Comment #4 was deleted by its author on 2013-09-01 09:58
5. 2013-09-01 12:16
Applause to Dr. VW, Jolovan, Thang and Leow for their tenacity and courage. How many of us would take time off on a Friday afternoon on a matter of principle?

The Russian ambassador may have refused to meet with them but I'm sure he or she got the point - demonising homosexuality is just as bad as, if not worse than, criminalising it so, even though Russia hasn't criminalised homosexuality, it certainly has turned mainstream Russian society against homosexual Russians. It's more INSIDIOUS than the criminalisation of homosexuality because the lives of homosexual Russians are constantly at risk, not at the hands of the government, but at the hands of fellow Russians. If there ever was a portrait painted of Satan, I'd say he'd look pretty much like Vladimir Putin.

Comment #6 was deleted by its author on 2013-09-01 12:18
Comment #7 was deleted by its author on 2013-09-01 17:28
8. 2013-09-01 17:49
Always entertaining to be confronted by twisted Singaporean thinking.
9. 2013-09-04 19:08
by the way the law in question only bans propaganda of homosexuality among the minors (e.g. adult gay cannot talk about it to a person below age of 18/ gay groups are not allowed to target minors during their campaigns/ parades directly or indirectly). It all has limitations but you probably have no idea gay life in Russia was slowly, gradually improving right until the point where the West decides to fast track it. Apparently American model did not work in Russia- completely opposite American model alienated Russian gays and totally responsible for implementation of anti-gay law and served as catalyst for it. Russia is different from the West and if without Western "help" Russian LGBT community managed a very slow and steady but PROGRESS now Western irresponsible involvement ruined all that Russian LGBT achieved in the last 20 years. Thanks to the West now they have to start it all over from the scratch. And this happens every time West gets "involved" or when West "liberates" some nation in the East. Very heavy-handed or deliberate. They (Americans) do everything to create precedent and then use it for own political gain. Good leverage against Russia. Who pays? Russian gays!
Comment edited on 2013-09-04 19:15:15

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