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16 Sep 2003

singapore: asia's new gay capital?

Yes, according to Agence France-Presse which reported that the tiny city-state, where sex acts between members of the same sex is still illegal, is slowly emerging as Asia's gay entertainment hub.

Echoing recent articles in the Singapore Straits Times on 17 August and Time magazine (Asian edition, August 18-25), an AFP report titled "Singapore emerging as Asia's new gay entertainment capital" promoted Singapore as a hip and fun destination for gay travellers - and highlighted a growing number of gay-friendly clubs, saunas, restaurants and fashion outlets.

Fridae's chief executive, Stuart Koe said that Singapore which is commonly viewed as a conservative country and better known for the government's tight rein on social values, is now the focus of "enormous buzz and excitement" for Asia's gay community, and almost rivals Bangkok's reputation as the undisputed gay capital of Asia.

Sam Chan, a 28-year-old Masters graduate who said that he has many foreign friends "who think it is getting exciting here (in Singapore)" and locals can finally find shops that cater to their needs, expressed a similar view.

"I have (Singaporean) friends who used to have to go to Bangkok to shop for clothes and go clubbing there," Chan said.

While Bangkok implemented regulations last year with aims to 'clean up' the city and ordering bars and discos to close by 2am, Singapore has recently relaxed its entertainment laws such as lifting the ban on bar top dancing and allowing some establishments to close later than 3am.

"Singapore's previous image was a conservative and strict society where you get caned, you cannot chew gum and jaywalk, but people are now hearing how fun it can be... the momentum is only going to build with positive roll-offs.

"Mainstream tourists will hear about Singapore from gays, and how it is a lot more hip," Koe said.

The article which was carried (with edits) by Singapore's Today, Malaysia's New Straits Times, India's Sify news site and South Africa's only queer news and resource site, Q, also highlighted Singapore's Nation party, held annually on the eve of the city-state's national day holiday since 2001, as being increasingly "regarded as Asia's answer to the gay Mardi Gras events in Western countries."

The event is also said to be "fast becoming a signature celebration for gays in Singapore and elsewhere in the region."

Of the 5,000 revellers, an estimated 1,200 were mostly tourists from Asian countries including Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan and Korea.

Aside from the growing number of businesses openly catering to gays and lesbians in Singapore in recent years, Koe also added that mainstream businesses in Singapore were also gradually becoming more open about pitching their products and services to gays and the pink dollar industry is tipped to boom over the next five years.

Do you agree that Singapore is emerging as Asia's new gay entertainment capital? How does Singapore compare with Bangkok as a gay destination? As a (potential) visitor, does the fact that gay sex is punishable (although it has not been used on consenting adults in recent history - as claimed by the authorities) deter you from visiting? Click on the forum link below and contribute your comments.


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