March 11, 2005
Singapore government AIDS comment outrages gay activists
Singapore – Gay activists responded with outrage and disbelief on Thursday to statements by a Singapore official who said a gay and lesbian festival — dubbed Asia’s largest gay event — may have caused a big spike in Aids cases. The "Nation.04" party — a festival of international DJs, podium dancers, pumping music and muscular boys stripping off their tops on packed dance floors — had increased in size every year since it was launched in 2000.
Last August’s party could have allowed "gays from high prevalence societies to fraternise with local gay men, seeding the infection in the local community," junior health minister Balaji Sadasivan told parliament on Wednesday. Sadasivan said this was the view of an unnamed epidemiologist to explain a 28 percent rise in the number of new HIV/Aids cases in Singapore in 2004 to an all-time high of 311. " This is a hypothesis and more research needs to done," he said.
Gay activists such as Eileena Lee of People Like Us accused the government of promoting homophobia and being irresponsible.
" This is almost like paranoia," she said. "Statements like this can marginalise and stigmatise what is already a minority group." Fridae.com, which organised the event and runs Singapore’s main gay and lesbian Internet site, said the government must shoulder more responsibility for the rise in HIV because of its poor public health policies and laws which criminalise oral sex. Under Singapore’s Penal Code section 377A, acts of "gross indecency" between two men are punishable by up to two years in jail. The government has said it may decriminalise oral sex but only between men and women.
" In the past 25 years none of the public health campaigns have ever targeted the gay community. It’s really no wonder that the rates of infection are increasing," said Stuart Koe, chief executive of Fridae.com. " It’s very simplistic and dangerous of them to point the finger at one single event and say that that is responsible for the spike," he said.
Ninety percent of newly diagnosed patients were male and a third of them gay men, said Sadasivan, describing the new cases as "the tip of the iceberg" in Singapore where a total of about 2,000 people are diagnosed to be suffering from HIV/Aids. " For every Aids patient we have diagnosed, there are possibly two to four undiagnosed patients with HIV in Singapore. That means there could be, anywhere between 4000 to 8000, undiagnosed HIV patients in Singapore," he said. The "Nation.04" party — half of whose 6000 revellers came from other Asian countries and the United States to make it Asia’s largest known gay festival — is at odds with Singapore’s image as a strait-laced city-state.
But the government has turned a blind eye to the growth of an entertainment industry catering for homosexuals, quietly acknowledging the potential of the "pink dollar. " Gay activists have urged authorities to decriminalise homosexuality in the affluent, predominantly ethnic Chinese island of 4.2 million people to strengthen Aids awareness.
March 23, 2005
Singapore Nixes AIDS Concert Over US Gay Singers
by Peter Hacker 365Gay.com Asia Bureau Chief
Singapore – The government of Singapore is refusing to allow a local AIDS group to hold a fundraising concert because it would have featured gay pop singers Jason and deMarco. Safehaven, an AIDS support group, had planned to hold the concert on April 3. " Based on the duo’s website and reports of their performances in the United States, it is assessed that their performance will promote a gay lifestyle which would be against the public interest," the Singapore government said in a statement.
Singapore has one of the lowest HIV/AIDS rates in Asia, but over the past year the number of new cases rose by 28 percent. A third of the cases were in gay men. The government’s ban on the concert followed remarks earlier this month by a Singapore official who claimed that a gay pride event last August was responsible for the increase in HIV.
The rejection of Safehaven’s application for an event permit has angered AIDS and LGBT rights groups who say the concert was a means of drawing attention to the spread of AIDS within the gay community. Jason and deMarco are a monogamous couple for the past 5 years and regularly perform throughout the US and Canada. Jason toued for several years with the Christian Contemporary recording group TRUTH. DeMarco, who grew up in Canada, performed in concerts, festivals, and clubs in Los Angeles and across the country.
When the two met, found they had common music interests and then fell in love, they began performing together.
Last December Singapore police scuttled plans for an all-night Christmas dance party because they said it would attract a large number of gays.
Singapore, an ultramodern city-state of four million people, still bans gay sex, defining it as “an act of gross indecency” punishable by a maximum of two years in jail. There have been few prosecutions, however, the city state’s large Moslem community has been pressuring the government to crack down on gays. Earlier this week an Anglican bishop in Uganda refused a gift of more than $350,000 to fight AIDS because the Episcopal diocese in the US which offered it supported the election of a gay bishop in New Hampshire.
March 30, 2005
Singapore minister upholds ban on gay Christian concert
Singapore – Singapore’s information and communications minister has upheld a ban on a planned weekend concert organised by a local gay Christian support group, the media industry regulator said Wednesday.The Media Development Authority (MDA) said Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lee Boon Yang supported its earlier decision to deny a permit for the Affect05 concert scheduled for Sunday, to protect public interest. " The minister has carefully considered the appeal for the licence application for Affect05 and has decided to uphold the MDA’s position that such performances that promote alternative lifestyles are against the public interest," MDA said in an e-mail to AFP.
Susan Tang, spokeswoman for the concert organiser Safehaven, said the group was disappointed with the rejection of their appeal. The MDA said last week it turned down Safehaven’s application for a permit after reviewing past performances of the main performers, a Los Angeles-based Christian gay couple named Jason and deMarco.
" Based on the duo’s website and reports of their performances in the United States, it is assessed that their performance will promote a gay lifestyle which would be against the public interest," the MDA said at that time. Safehaven, which lodged the appeal, has said the aim of the concert was to raise funds for HIV/AIDS sufferers in Singapore and promote awareness of the illness.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is an incurable condition which is passed on by having unprotected sex, among other causes. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. Singapore’s gay and lesbian community has protested comments earlier this month by a senior health ministry official who said a sharp rise in new HIV infections could have been caused by an annual gay and lesbian party held in the city-state.
The annual Nation Party on Sentosa island is a key date in Asia’s gay festival calendar.
A record 311 people in Singapore contracted HIV last year, 28 percent more than in 2003, Senior Minister of State for Health, Balaji Sadasivan said. He said 90 percent of the people who contracted the virus last year were men, a third of them gay. There are now more than 2,000 HIV-infected or confirmed AIDS patients in Singapore, which has a population of about 4.2 million people including resident foreigners.
12 May 2005
Media release posted by Southern Cross University: Homosexual rights book earns national prize
Southern Cross University senior lecturer and Director of the Centre for Law, Politics and Culture Dr Baden Offord has been awarded the annual George Duncan Memorial Award for his book Homosexual Rights as Human Rights. The book (published in 2003), on homosexual rights as human rights in Indonesia, Singapore and Australia, was described as "groundbreaking" and "an important contribution to the struggle for equal rights worldwide" by the George Duncan Memorial committee.
The national George Duncan Memorial Award commemorates the murder, with no subsequent conviction for the crime, of law lecturer Dr George Duncan near the University of Adelaide in 1972. South Australia later became the first state to decriminalise homosexual acts in 1975. Dr Offord said receiving the award was an honour. He said he was 14 when Dr Duncan was murdered and remembered the news at that time. " Australia has come some was way in the past 30 years, but it would be incorrect to think that enough has been accomplished to end overt and covert discrimination in our society and families," he said.
" Sexuality, that dimension of being human which makes us most vulnerable, is still caught up in social and cultural apartheids."
In the foreword to Homosexual Rights as Human Rights, the Hon. Justice Michael Kirby compared the work to the pioneering studies of Alfred Kinsey and said Dr Offord pushed the boundaries of understanding, knowledge and acceptance. The award, in its second year, is presented for an outstanding piece of work contributing to legal reform and the betterment of the Australian lesbian, gay, queer, bisexual, transgender or intersex community.
The George Duncan Memorial Award 2005 was announced at a ceremony in Adelaid on Tuesday, May 10.
Media contact: Brigid Veale, SCU Media Liaison, 66593006 or m. 0439 680 748.
June 10, 2005
Nation Party moved to November 4-6 in Phuket, Thailand–Asia’s largest gay party announces new venue and dates after Singapore authorities reject permit
Asia’s largest gay and lesbian network, Fridae.com, will hold its signature Nation party — dubbed a "festival of international proportions" by Time Asia — in Phuket, Thailand from November 4th through 6th, 2005. Singapore authorities in April rejected an application to hold Nation, Asia’s most acclaimed gay and lesbian party, which had been held annually since 2001 in the city-state to celebrate the country’s National Day in August. In a faxed reply, the Singapore police turned down the license citing the event to be "contrary to public interest."
Fridae regrets the Licensing Division’s rejection of Nation’s license. "We are disappointed that the authorities have deemed a National Day celebration by Singapore’s gay citizens as being ‘contrary to public interest’ when it had previously been approved for four years without incident," said Dr Stuart Koe, Chief Executive Officer. "This is a direct contradiction to previous calls for embracing of diversity."
Despite the Singapore government’s attempt to curtail the public space enjoyed by gay Singaporeans and residents, organizers hope for the international gay and lesbian community to come together in creating a new "Nation" — free from discrimination and welcoming of all.
"The Nation party is evolving with the circumstances," said Dr Koe, "and we hope for it to be truly an event where gays and lesbians from all over the world can come together and celebrate their diversity and take pride in their community." For the first time, the three day event will see gay party organizers from four Asian cities (Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Taipei and Tokyo) involved in co-hosting eight parties to be held back to back over the weekend.
The last Nation party held in Singapore in August 2004 attracted an attendance of over 8,000 party revelers, of which 40 percent were international visitors. Tourist revenue generated over the three-day event was estimated to be close to US$6 million, based on unreleased data collected by an independent market research company at Nation in 2003.
Since 2001, the Nation parties had grown tremendously and garnered international media attention with extensive coverage by news agencies and leading publications including The Wall Street Journal, Far Eastern Economic Review, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Advocate, Time magazine and BBC radio.
Nation V is sponsored by Fortune 100 global communications leader Motorola for the second consecutive year and Subaru for the third. The carmaker is a well-known pioneer corporate sponsor of gay and lesbian athletic and community events in the United States and is represented by Motor Image in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and the Philippines.
" We are very disappointed that the government is sending a very strong signal that a big minority of its population is not welcomed. That is very homophobic," Koe told Reuters.
Singapore’s gay community has only recently enjoyed greater freedom after former premier Goh Chok Tong announced in 2003 that homosexuals could hold key positions in the civil service without fear of discrimination. But the gay community has come under fire in recent months after a junior health minister in Singapore said a gay and lesbian festival in August last year may have led to a surge in the number of local AIDS cases, a remark that outraged gay activists.
Although Singapore has one of Asia’s lowest levels of HIV infection, the number of new infections hit a record high of 311 cases in 2004, up 28 percent from 2003. A third of the newly diagnosed cases were gay men, the health ministry has said. Gay activists say the remaining two-thirds appeared to be heterosexual men who caught the illness from prostitutes in nearby Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia’s Batam island, which is just an hour’s boat ride from Singapore.
In March, the government rejected an application for an AIDS concert, citing concern over its gay performers. In December 2004, police threw out plans by gay activists to hold a Christmas dance party, saying the event went against the "moral values" of a large majority of Singaporeans.
July 15, 2005
Gay Singaporeans gather to pray in Christian church in country that outlaws homosexuality
by Wee Sui Lee
In a country where homosexual sex is punishable by prison time and the government bans gay-themed parties, the Free Community Church stands out. It is the only place of Christian worship willing to accept gays and lesbians in Singapore. " Each time, God seemed to use the people that didn’t fit in to bring salvation," church leader Clarence Singam, who is gay, said at a recent Sunday service. " I wonder how many of you don’t fit in, you don’t feel comfortable in your skin?" he asked the 100-odd members of the congregation, using John the Baptist as an example of the "odd one out."
The Southeast Asian city-state of 4.2 million considers gay sex as "an act of gross indecency," punishable by a maximum of two years in jail. The country also has banned Asia’s largest gay-themed party, Nation ’05, from its shores. High-ranking government officials said such same-sex parties may be the reason for rising HIV infections in Singapore. At the Free Community Church, however, the attitude toward sexuality is much different. " At this church, there are no prejudices, no preconceived notions," said Gary Chan, who left his old church when its leaders discovered he was gay and asked him to quit the church band. " Here, we look at people like they’re clean sheets of paper," he said.
The status of the church says something about the place of gays and lesbians in Singapore. Though in practice homosexuality is often tolerated, gay sex is illegal here, and gay groups are unable to register as legitimate organizations. The church, however, has managed to circumvent regulations by registering itself as a company, meaning the worship sessions are considered private gatherings. The group has moved several times, meeting in a pub, a theater and now at a low-rise commercial building.
Leaders say they still get hate mail. " They say that this church exists that is going out, reaching out, trying to make people gay," said Susan Tang, a married housewife with three children and the only heterosexual on the church council.
Former Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said in a 2003 interview with Time magazine that the straight-laced city-state was now more tolerant of homosexuals and the administration was "not going to chase you all over the place." But Goh, now senior minister, also warned homosexuals in the same interview not to "flaunt your gay rights." The Free Community Church is not recognized by the influential National Council of Churches in Singapore, which represents Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians, among others. NCSS vice president Robert Solomon said in a statement that "the practice of homosexuality is clearly incompatible with the teachings of the Christian faith." In terms of membership, the church is a mishmash of people from various Christian denominations and its services have elements from several worship styles —- there’s a communion service, and also a Christian rock band, for instance. The congregation has no pastor, so different people preach every week. " We cover the whole spectrum," Tang said.
At once recent service, most people in the church were ethnic Chinese, who constitute around 80 percent of the country’s population. Most of Singapore’s people are Buddhist, followed by Christians. The nation’s other main religion, Islam, is also against homosexuality. Tang acknowledged the church has members who defy Singapore’s conservative culture with a party-loving and promiscuous style, but added the church has counseling sessions to advise them to "behave responsibly."
The church’s chairwoman, Jean Chong, said the church offers a place for gays and lesbians to finally find acceptance. "It took me a long time to figure out that it’s OK to be gay and Christian in Singapore," she said.
October 28, 2005
Singapore bans gay Web site, fines another
Singapore has banned an overseas-hosted gay Web site after receiving complaints it was recruiting underage boys for sex and nude pornography, and promoting a promiscuous homosexual lifestyle.
The city-state’s media watchdog, the Media Development Authority (MDA), said on Friday that it had also slapped a S$5,000 fine on a local gay Web site, titled "Meet Gay Singapore Friends", and warned the operators to remove offensive content.
" The MDA has always adopted a light-touch approach and encourages the industry to practice self-regulation. But in this instance, we received several public complaints and we have to act on the feedback," MDA spokeswoman Casey Chang told Reuters. The banned overseas site — which saw its membership jump over five times to 330,000 this year from 60,000 a year ago — contained pornographic pictures and videos, as well as substantial homosexual content focusing on Singapore.
It flashed explicit advertisements recruiting underage boys for sex, facilitated the trading and exchange of nude photos of underage boys, listed places to meet others for casual sex and provided information about organized mass orgies, the MDA said. The local site had nude pictures and videos of gay men having sex which have since been removed. The MDA said both sites had violated the Internet Code of Practice which prohibits Web sites from depicting "nudity or genitalia in a manner calculated to titillate", and host materials advocating homosexuality or pedophilia.
Details of the overseas Web site have been referred to the police for investigations, the MDA said. The legal age of consent for sex in Singapore is 16 and homosexuality is illegal in the wealthy Southeast Asian city-state known for its tough laws and strict social controls.
While the government has said that it does not discriminate against homosexuals, it has stated repeatedly that it would not tolerate an open gay culture, such as hosting gay parades or legalizing homosexual sex, saying that would offend conservative Singaporeans. The MDA currently has a list of 100 banned Web sites — of which 98 contain pornographic content and two which are deemed to promote religious extremism.
November 4, 2005
Thailand wins as Singapore’s brief gay fling grinds to a halt
by Connie Levett Correspondent in Bangkok
When South-East Asia’s largest gay party, Nation ’05, kicks off today in Phuket, Thailand, it will officially mark the end of Singapore’s flirtation with the pink dollar.
For four years, Singapore dallied with a more liberal policy towards gay lifestyles, warmed by the money that flowed from it and emboldened by research that showed cities with an active gay community were more creative, productive societies. However, the rise of the new Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, has been accompanied by a waning of government support for the gay population.
" The Prime Minister, in his own words, has said the gay community should not oppress others in Singapore," said Nation ’05’s organiser, Stuart Koe, a Singaporean who runs South-East Asia’s largest gay web portal, Fridae.com. " The Government decided it didn’t want gay parties in Singapore. They said it was contrary to the conservative mainstream and there would be a number of people who would find something like that very offensive."
The Prime Minister made the comments to Singapore’s Foreign Correspondents Association on October 6. "We were surprised they would take such a strong stand," Mr Koe said. "The party had been held without incident and has been an economic success." In the years after 2001, the Nation party on Singapore’s Sentosa island grew from a small gathering to a dance party attracting up to 8000 guests and generating $A8 million for the Singapore economy.
The first inkling of change came when organisers were refused a licence to host a smaller Christmas party last December.
" It seems to be coming right from the top," Mr Koe said. " There seems to be a media gag order on any gay issues in the newspapers. Letters are no longer getting into the press. Before, it had been a topic of discussion."
Mr Koe said there would be strong negative repercussions for Singapore. "One very tangible consequence was Warwick University in the UK [which] was recently granted a licence to set up a campus in Singapore but the faculty and students voted not to," Mr Koe said. "One of the reasons cited was Singapore’s stance against the gay community. They felt there was no freedom of speech.
" The Prime Minister said it was not homophobia, but they had to be sensitive to people who find gay people offensive." Singapore’s loss has been Thailand’s gain. "Singapore has a ways to go in maturing as a society, where Thailand has a long history culturally [of accepting gay lifestyles]," he said.
Phuket will host the three-day party, from today to Sunday, at eight venues with DJs and artists from the US, Thailand, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong. " It will be smaller, cozier – 1000 to 1500 people – because there is no domestic Singapore crowd," Mr Koe said. "Everyone is a tourist, but we are sold out."
January 16, 2006
Perspectival shift: How can gays and lesbians be accepted as "regular" people and not as subversives?
by Alex Au
How can gays and lesbians be accepted as "regular" people and not as subversives?
Alex Au delves into how a perspectival shift can help even as we hope for Asian societies to "get used to" gay people without having to be too confrontational. In an extraordinarily erudite article in the New York Times, January 1, 2006, Kwame Anthony Appiah, a philosopher teaching at Princeton University, said the sea change in the way Western societies have come to regard homosexual persons is not a "story about reasons." It is a "perspectival shift."
If there is truth to the belief that many Asian cultures place a high value on discretion and privacy, are gay men and lesbians in this region more likely to remain in the closet and avoid the topic of sexuality in any conversation? If so, do the public in these countries get less opportunity to ”get used to” gay people? " Over the last 30 years or so, instead of thinking about the private activity of gay sex, many Americans and Europeans started thinking about the public category of gay people."
In effect, telling people why they should accept gay people in their midst had less to do with the outcome than just having gay people in their midst. "I don’t deny," he wrote, "that all the time, at every stage, people were talking, giving one another reasons to do things: accept their children, stop treating homosexuality as a medical disorder, disagree with their churches, come out. "Still, the short version of the story is basically this: People got used to lesbians and gay men."
One can quibble with some of the finer points he made, but he is essentially right. However, let’s get the quibbling out of the way first. It’s true that almost all homophobia against gay males, on closer inspection, is an outgrowth of heterosexual distaste for the very thought of homosexual intercourse, but it also arguable that homophobia against lesbians sprout from different roots. One seldom sees the same, visceral distaste for lesbian sex as for gay male sex. Instead, I would suggest that lesbians are subconsciously seen as disobedient to male superiority and the submission that is expected.
The other tiny thing some readers may have noticed is that talking about coming out was included among the less important reasons for the attitudinal change. This may strike some people as odd, for if gays and lesbians had not come out, how could the getting used to them have taken place?
Yet, he’s also right. Very few gays and lesbians came out because they weighed the reasons for and against and then decided to do so. They came out when they themselves became used to being gay and lesbian, when they themselves got used to seeing other, happily out, gay people.
The foregoing aside, there are two questions that spring to mind from Professor Appiah’s comments.
If there is truth to the belief that many Asian cultures place a high value on discretion and privacy, are gay men and lesbians in this region more likely to remain in the closet and avoid the topic of sexuality in any conversation? If so, do the public in these countries get less opportunity to "get used to" gay people?
Indeed, many have remarked that Asian cultures put a premium on avoiding confrontation and this induces a certain degree of self-censorship. Western societies, particularly American, are less tortured about being frank and on occasion, "in your face."
January 17, 2006
Singapore government awards S$100,000 grant to group with ex-gay affiliation
by Sylvia Tan
A group which plans to help gays and lesbians "understand" their sexual identity has received a S$100,000 (US$61,500) grant from the Singapore government. Fridae has however uncovered that the group is an advocate of reparative therapy and is linked to an international Christian group which dedicates itself to "correcting" homosexuality.
Twenty-five-year-old John Yeo was happy and felt a sense of comfort when he heard on the news that the government is funding a non-profit group to “help gays and lesbians understand their sexual identity.”
Leslie Lung, the founder and executive director of the group, has been featured several times in various newspapers as an ex-transsexual who changed his mind three days before his sex-change operation in 1984 after having a spiritual encounter. He is also the author of Freedom of Choice, a collection of 20 essays about how people ”overcame” their struggles including homosexuality.
According to a Channel News Asia (CNA) report last Friday, Liberty League (LL), has received a S$100,000 (US$61,500) grant from the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre which is funded by the Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports. The group which aims to “promote gender and sexual health for the individual, family and society” as stated on its web site, hopes to conduct sexuality talks in schools, organise support groups for parents of homosexuals and to work with organisations such as the Girls’ Brigade to educate teenagers on sexuality and biology.
It also reported that 70 per cent of LL’s “clients” are gays, lesbians and transsexuals who are “grappling with their gender identities.”
It is the first time a grant and public “recognition” has been given to a non-profit group for its work in this area.
Yeo’s initial thoughts that gays and lesbians might have finally been accepted came to an end after he learnt from an Internet discussion group that the founder and executive director of the group, Leslie Lung, is an advocate of reparative therapy.
Observers were quick to point out that Lung, 41, has been featured several times in various newspapers as an ex-transsexual who changed his mind three days before his sex-change operation in 1984. He claimed that he had a spiritual encounter despite being professionally diagnosed as being a transsexual and having lived as a woman for four years prior to his scheduled surgery. He said in a 2003 interview in the Straits Times about the turning point: “One of the key thoughts of the Bible is that a man shouldn’t put on woman’s clothes. I’ve always thought that ridiculous but suddenly I saw the principle behind the commandment. God is telling us not to do the opposite. Suddenly I knew that the operation would not be right.”
He also cited attending a self-help group after meeting Sinclair Rogers, a Singapore-based American pastor who himself “came out of transsexualism” and later founded Choices, an ex-gay ministry directly affiliated to Exodus International, the largest ex-gay organisation in the world.
Lung is also the author of Freedom of Choice, a collection of 20 essays about how people “overcame” their struggles including homosexuality, transsexuality and masturbation. When asked if the group “champions gay and lesbian rights,” Lung told CNA that they “champion human rights really.”
“It’s about people being able to say, I’m human and sexual orientation is so wide. Being gay and lesbian is part of it; coming out of it is part of it as well."
Some in the gay community have however highlighted that being a former transsexual does not qualify one to counsel others about their homosexuality. He is a “former transgender person, who now claims to be ex-gay… transgender doesn’t equal homosexual. I can buy that he used to live as a woman, and now lives as an effeminate man, gender can be fluid like that, but that has nothing to do with homosexuality.” One wrote in an Internet discussion group.
Lung said in the interview, "This is very much based on the Alcoholic Anonymous self-help principles. So people come; it’s an environment that is friendly, warm, based on friendship, encouraging people to take small steps to talk about the issues, recognise why they are doing certain things, find resolutions."
November 9, 2006
Singapore to legalise anal, oral sex – but only for heterosexuals
by News Editor
As part of Singapore’s first major penal code amendments in 22 years, anal and oral sex in private among between consenting heterosexual adults will soon be decriminalised but the law criminalising sexual acts between men will remain. Anal and oral sex will no longer be a criminal offence in Singapore but this will only apply to consenting heterosexual adults while sexual acts between men will remain a crime, the government said on Wednesday.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said it has conducted a detailed review of sexual offences in the penal code. The review was first announced in November 2003 after a huge public outcry erupted over the injustice of convicting a police constable for consensual oral sex with a teenager who was thought to be of legal age until later. A relic of British colonial rule, Section 377 – which criminalises sexual acts ‘against the order of nature with any man, woman or animals’ and provides for life imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment and a fine – will be repealed while Section 377A, which criminalises "gross indecency" between males whether in public or in private and prescribes up to two years’ imprisonment, will be left as is.
Britain, Hong Kong and Australia have since repealed laws prohibiting sex between men in 1967, 1991 and 1997 (in the state of Tasmania, the last Australian state to do so) respectively. An "explanatory note" issued by MHA to official newsrooms after office hours on Tuesday, which was obtained by Fridae, read: "The law on sexual offences deals with sexual relationships and embodies what society considers acceptable or unacceptable behaviour.
"When it comes to homosexual acts, the issue is whether Singaporeans are ready to change laws to bring them in line with heterosexual acts. Singapore remains, by and large, a conservative society. Many do not tolerate homosexuality, and consider such acts abhorrent and deviant. Many religious groups also do not condone homosexual acts. This is why the Government is neither encouraging nor endorsing a homosexual lifestyle and presenting it as part of the mainstream way of life."
The news has enraged the local gay community. Miak, who is an active member of several gay groups, said: "What is the arguement for the decriminalising of non-vaginal sex between heterosexuals but not for homosexuals? Is it about how conservative Singapore society is, and how some people find homosexual sex deviant, offensive, repugnant? I think that the same people might also find non-vaginal – meaning oral/anal sex which will soon be legalised – deviant, offensive and repugnant too!"
"The law hasn’t been used to prosecute in recent times – so what is the point of retaining it? To maintain a facade of moral standards?" While welcoming the repeal of Section 377, gay and lesbian advocacy group People Like Us (PLU) said that the "assurance" that it "will not be proactive in enforcing the section against adult males engaging in consensual sex with each other in private" is inadequate as it cannot be relied upon legally.
In a statement issued on Wednesday to call on the government to repeal both Section 377 and 377A, PLU said: "The retention of s.377A, even if not enforced, will signal to many that homophobia is justifiable and acceptable and has the support of the State. "If the government aims for an open, inclusive society, it should be doing all it can to overturn prejudice and discrimination, rather than give people reason to remain closed-minded through retaining s.377A for symbolic purposes."
Subhas Anandan, president of the Association of Criminal Lawyers in Singapore, questioned the rationale for not repealing Section 377A in a Channelnewsasia interview: "If you are a homosexual or a lesbian, I think you can get into trouble. We are talking about an inclusive society and being more broad-minded. Why do we want to keep these people away, out of the circle? I think we should be more broad-minded, more sympathetic and allow these people to be included in our society."
Other proposed amendments include new laws to combat child prostitution, sex tourism, strengthened prosecution of credit card fraud and the extension of several offences to the electronic media including the Internet as well as a clarification of the definition of an unlawful assembly. In total, the proposed changes would add 19 new ones, affect 19 existing offences, and review penalties, and will now be open to public feedback for a month via reach.gov.sg.
Reply from GlobalGay.com:
The failure to legally equalize sexual behavior among hetero and homosexual citizens in Singapore smacks of gross legislative incompetence and irrational emotional prejudice. That Singapore prides itself on its high quality of life and superior civil society makes it’s sexual inequality statutes all the more absurd and surreal–a mote in the clear eye of humanistic values that supposedly guide enlightened people toward a better future for Singapore.
This blatant legalized discrimination against an entire segment of Singapore’s otherwise-full citizens is over-the-top puritanical arrogance gone awry and into perniciously bigoted irrationality. Homosexually inclined people are as genetically ‘natural’ as those who are heterosexually inclined. Allowing a squinted, punitive and archaic British law to have such sway over modern thought and legislative decisions is nothing short of ludicrous.
It is that law itself, based on vague historic, unsupportable religious guesswork and mistranslation, that deserves embarrassed scorn from anyone who lives in modern times and thinks of oneself as enlightened and seriously thoughtful. It is that law itself that is reprehensible, merciless, foolish and, indeed, criminal in its disregard of the natural varieties of human nature.
Homo-affinity occurs in all forms throughout the entire spectrum of the human/animal kingdom. Trying to parse out and eliminate one fundamental aspect of human ‘being-ness’ because of its sexual nature is like trying to break the sun up into segmented rays of good and bad light. Undo the ridiculous, artificial, prurient and ignorant law and get real. This is the 21st century. Would you rely on a ox-cart repair kit to correct a malfunction in your BMW?!
December 1, 2006
What the MSM community can do to stop the spread of HIV
by Dr Tan Chong Kee
HIV/AIDS is hitting Asia in a big way, and MSM are now bearing the brunt of it. Dr Tan Chong Kee urges all MSM to ask ourselves what we can do to stop the spread of HIV among the community. In July 2004, Dr Bates Gill, the Freeman Chair in China Studies from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, testified to the Asia and the Pacific subcommittee of the US House of Representatives’ Committee on International Relations. He entitled his testimony “The Coming ‘Second Wave’: HIV/AIDS in Asia.”
When Dr Gill sounded that alarm more than two years ago, HIV/AIDS among Asian MSM (men who have sex with men) was not considered a serious issue. He made no mention of it in his testimony. In just two short years, the situation has completely changed. HIV infections among MSM in many parts of Asia are now showing a sharp rise.
Dr Gill states that: “The center of gravity of the global epidemic is shifting perceptibly eastward from Africa and increasingly affects Eurasia.” This shift that Dr Gill noticed is now in full swing. The most recent update released by UNAIDS, published on 21 November 2006, show that South and Southeast Asia is now in second place behind only Africa with a total of 860,000 new infections in one year, and about 7.8 million persons living with HIV/AIDS. Let’s take the smaller figure of 860,000 and think what it means. It means almost one new infection every 36 seconds. By the time you’ve read this far, two more people have already become HIV+ somewhere in South and Southeast Asia.
The situations in some of the hardest hit countries are staggering. In India, 12.5% of MSM in Mumbai are HIV+ while in Andhra Pradesh it is 18.2%. In Phnom Penh Cambodia, HIV prevalence among MSM in 2003 was already estimated to be 14.4%. In Indonesia, 22% of transgender sex workers (Waria) are HIV+. In Bangkok Thailand, more than 1 in every 4 (28.3%) MSM you meet is likely to HIV+. MSM also contribute to a disproportionately large amount of new infections. Being no more than 5-10% of the total population, they contribute to 22% of new infections in Singapore. In Japan HIV infections among MSM has recently seen a 64% increase.
If we compare the prevalence rate among the general population and among MSM, the difference becomes even more stark. In Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam, a MSM is 20 times more likely to be HIV+ than his heterosexual counterpart. In Hong Kong, MSM are 25 times more likely to be HIV+. In Japan, 44 times more likely. In China, 46 times more.
An even more worrying trend is how hard new infections are now hitting MSM youths. In Thailand, prevalence among youths between 16-21 years old rose from 13% to 23%. In Myanmar, prevalence among adult is 1.3% but among young people 15-24 years old is 2.2%. In Singapore, STD and HIV prevalence among youths are also rising sharply.
These high prevalence rates are the result of low rates of condom use among MSM. In Myanmar, 60% of young men use condom consistently. In Singapore only 42% of MSM use condoms for anal sex. In Thailand only 20-30% of sexually active young Thais use condom consistently. In Shenzhen China, authorities report that less than 20% of MSM use condom consistently. In Siam Reap Cambodia, MSM condom use rate is only 16%. In Philippines, only 6% of sex workers use condom with all their clients. In Japan, MSM anal sex is so ignored by the Japanese government that there is no data on MSM condom use. As a rule of thumb, consistent condom use needs to be 80% or more to prevent the rapid spread of HIV in a population.
If that is not scary enough, many governments across Asia are still dragging their feet in facing up to these staggering numbers of MSM afflicted by HIV/AIDS. Deep seated prejudice and stigma are causing many governments to refuse launching full-scale outreach and safe-sex public education programs for MSM or to impede those launched by NGOs. For example, police raids on saunas in Malaysia have caused owners to ban outreach workers.
This is extremely shortsighted because the cost of prevention is several orders of magnitude less than the cost of caring for an HIV+ patient, even before taking the loss of productivity into consideration. Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS puts it very bluntly: “Asian nations face a choice. They can act now or pay later… There is no question about what needs to be done to fight AIDS in Asia. The only question is whether the governments and people of Asia will have the courage to do it.”
Government inaction on the one hand is exacerbated by the invisibility of MSM on the other. As the Therapeutics Research Education AIDS Training (TREAT) report on Asia (published Aug 2006) noted: “Safe sex practices are adopted and maintained only if they become normative behavior that is embraced by a community. But what if there is no MSM community to embrace them?”
In parts of Asia where MSM behaviours are still stigmatised, e.g., China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, etc., apart from a younger generation of gay identified men, many older MSM in rural areas are married and engage in sex with men surreptitiously. They do not identify as gay nor admit to their extra-marital sexual practices. They are also less likely to practice safe sex. And they cannot be targeted for MSM outreach in the conventional way because they blend into the general population. This means that the many lessons learned in the West for outreach to gay-identified men are not easily applicable in such regions.
The state of Andhra Pradesh in India is now the leader in the race to find an effective prevention strategy suitable for Asia. Hindustan Times reported in August 17, 2006 that: “People in Andhra Pradesh recently woke up to find that the morning paper wasn’t the only thing being slipped under their doors. Along with it was a message of safe sex, a free three-pack of condoms. Looking for ways to popularise condom use in the face of the alarming spread of HIV/AIDS in the state, health officials had the condoms delivered along with the daily paper to 50 villages and four towns in the backward Telengana district.”
This is a brilliant strategy because it is a cheap way to deliver safe-sex public education to large segments of the population. The public education message can include information on all forms of safe-sex practices. In that way, even MSM who are hidden among the general population can be reached.
As the experience of America shows, if we ignore the HIV/AIDS epidemic among MSM, the result is the spread of the virus into the general population. The same pattern has already happened in Asia. The TREAT Asia report notes: “Many countries that neglected MSM prevention efforts are now struggling to contain HIV everywhere.” Politicians and the general public are reluctant to face the reality that sex happens across class, education, race and all other social divides. No social class can be an island. When the “It cannot happen to me” syndrome is influencing public health policy, it puts the whole country at risk.
Speaking at the Opening Session of the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto in Aug 2006, Bill and Melinda Gates challenged the world’s politicians to see sex workers not as vectors of HIV infection but as essential allies and crucially well-placed educators. Similarly, instead of blaming MSM, seeing us as essential allies and crucially well-placed educators will go a long way in preventing the kind of tragedy in Africa from descending onto Asia.
The key question for MSM all across Asia now is to ask ourselves what we can do to stop the spread of HIV among my community. Each of us could contribute in our own ways. Some of us could put pressure on our government to learn from Andhra Pradesh and act. Others could volunteer in their local HIV/AIDS agencies. Still others could talk about it with their friends and family to engender a ground swell of awareness to galvanise action. But above all, every one of us must start practicing safer sex consistently, tell all our friends of our conviction, and advise them to do the same. Yes, talk about safer sex with all your gay or MSM friends as often as you can. They might not listen to an outreach worker, but they certainly will listen to you. Tell them, in your own words, why you think it is important and why you are now doing it. It is up to each one of us to drive the condom use rate in our countries up to 80% and beyond.
We all know what must be done to prevent the spread of AIDS from crippling our community. So now go and do it!
Dr Tan Chong Kee holds a Ph.D. in Chinese Literature from Stanford University in the United States and is one of Singapore’s best-known figures in civil society activism.
December 1, 2006
Singapore launches new HIV committee, keeps old mindset
by Alex Au
Starting 1 Dec 2006, World AIDS Day, a new national policy committee – chaired by Dr Balaji Sadasivan – will work to combat a rise in the number of HIV cases and provide guidance on all policy matters related to HIV/AIDS. Alex Au questions if the absence of gay representation on the panel will prove to be a serious weakness. The Singapore government is forming a new National HIV/AIDS Policy Committee, starting 1 Dec 2006, to better co-ordinate the fight against the disease. Announcing this, the Health Ministry said the committee is meant to "provide guidance on all policy matters related to HIV/AIDS, including public health, legal, ethical, social and economic issues."
Dr Balaji Sadasivan , who already holds two portfolios as Senior Minister of State – in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts – will chair the new National HIV/AIDS Policy Committee. Chaired by Dr Balaji Sadasivan , who already holds two portfolios as Senior Minister of State – in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts – the committee is being touted as an inclusive, broad-based body.
Where HIV policy used to be a matter for health-care professionals, the Ministry said in its statement, the new committee will comprise representatives from seven ministries, three health-related government departments and two non-governmental bodies.
One of them is Action for Aids and the other is the Aids Business Alliance. There are no representatives from the various communities that are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS; there is no gay representation on the panel. The way the committee is structured, heavy with bureaucrats, it looks more like a vehicle for implementation than policy development, despite the stated intentions. Singapore bureaucrats are not known for thinking out of the box and speaking their minds, especially on social issues when the "Singaporeans are conservative" mantra has been given the weight of official dogma, but they can be very efficient in execution when they’ve been told what to do.
These representatives will come from ministries of Defence, Home Affairs, Youth and Sports, Manpower, Education and Information, beside the Ministry of Health. The three government departments are the Communicable Diseases Centre, the Health Promotion Board and the National Skin Centre (which also looks after other sexually transmitted diseases). There seems to be very little provision for bottom-up voices from affected segments of the population, such as the gay community. Out of 149 new HIV-positives reported in the first half of this year, 39 (26%) were homosexual, 88 (59%) were heterosexual and 6 (4%) bisexual. Seven cases were infected through intravenous drug use, while nine cases were of uncertain transmission route.
This lack of representation from the community is likely to prove a serious weakness, because it is often non-governmental groups that have novel perspectives on issues, with the guts to say so. If they don’t have a voice, then the committee will suffer from both a lack of fresh ideas as well as a real feel of the ground. For example, gay sauna owners are right there at the frontline in the battle. The way they provide or not provide condoms, lube and information can make a critical difference. What are their difficulties in doing so? What are their concerns?
Do we know whether they remain concerned about whether the police will use the presence of condoms on premises as evidence that homosexual activity is taking place there, something that remains illegal under Singapore law? And there’s the rub: Because the law remains in place, it will be very difficult for ministers and bureaucrats, however well-intentioned, to engage with people who either provide for, or do homosexual sex. Engaging would put them at variance with policy laid down by their political masters, surely not the best career move a bureaucrat can make.
On the other side, the law disincentivises gay people and sex-related businesses from wanting to dialogue with the committee and the government generally, for they may perceive that doing so would either be a waste of time, or even put them at risk of prosecution. It’s hard to imagine how the committee can really "provide guidance" to policy if they remain disconnected from the ground. In any case, Dr Balaji seems to have made up his mind as to the strategy to be implemented. He wants to treat HIV/AIDS as an infectious epidemiological problem like any other, with an emphasis on testing and contact tracing. He told The Straits Times that people are waking up to the fact that standard disease control methods have to be applied to AIDS to bring it under control.
"Imagine we had SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome]," he explained, "and… we mustn’t know who has SARS, we can’t contact trace how SARS is spread… and you try to control SARS; you will not control it." He was referring to how people have been extra-sensitive about HIV testing and disclosure in the past. He realises that for his pet strategy to work, he must combat stigmatisation of People With Aids which may explain the fact that the Aids Business Alliance has been invited to be on the committee.
Its representative, Mr Zulkifli Baharuddin, said his role would be to look at how to reduce discrimination against Aids sufferers in the workplace, and to find ways for the authorities to help businesses with afflicted workers cope. Yet, before that, at the prevention stage, there is also the question of the stigmatisation of gay people. This is what makes the community hard to reach in terms of educational efforts, hard to persuade to come forward for testing, and hard to do contact tracing, should that be necessary.
Why? Because societal homophobia imposes a cost on gay people should they identify themselves as gay; thus they avoid revealing their identities when socialising sexually – so no plan for contact tracing can work – and they may even think that testing puts their privacy in jeopardy. This is especially as the government has just signalled its intention to keep homosexual sex between men a crime. So here we have a Minister that wants to destigmatise issues relating to HIV/AIDS, even as his own government is making a deliberate decision to keep it on the law books, thus giving support to a homophobic climate.
This is one of the many conundrums that the committee charged with policy development must sort out, yet the chances are that, without gay representation on board, they won’t even know of the problem.
Straight Singaporeans do not make the connection between the anti-gay law and HIV-prevention efforts. They do not see how repeal can be any help in the latter. This is one of the key findings I will be presenting at the upcoming Singapore AIDS Conference. In a way, this is not surprising because with the relative invisibility of gay characters in media due to censorship, Singaporeans generally have no idea of what it feels like to be gay. Without any opportunity to see life through a gay perspective, they do not have any clue what it feels like to be discriminated against sexually, or to live in the closet.
So when gay Singaporeans say the law is one of the hurdles to a more effective HIV policy, it is met with disbelief. And without a gay voice in the Dr Balaji’s committee, this uncomprehending attitude is likely to persist.
Alex Au has been a gay activist for over 10 years and is the co-founder of gay advocacy group People Like Us. Alex is also the author of the well-known Yawning Bread web site. He will also be speaking at the Singapore AIDS Conference on Dec 2.
December 5, 2006
The challenge and the hope
by Ng Yi-Sheng
The 5th Singapore AIDS Conference was themed "HIV in Singapore: The Challenge and the Hope." Fittingly, speakers seized this opportunity to challenge the government and the public to liberalise laws and attitudes towards MSMs and the HIV-positive community. The 5th Singapore AIDS Conference, held on Saturday, 2 December 2006, was themed "HIV in Singapore: The Challenge and the Hope." Fittingly, speakers seized this opportunity to challenge the government and the public to liberalise laws and attitudes towards MSMs (men who have sex with men) and the HIV-positive community.
From left: Bryan Choong, Oogachaga; Paul Toh of Action for AIDS; Ho Lai Peng, a Medical Officer from Tan Tock Seng Hospital; Dr Stuart Koe, CEO of Fridae.com and gay activist Alex Au. This began with the Welcome Address by Co-Chair of the Conference and President of AfA (Action for AIDS) Dr Roy Chan. In front of the crowd of 600, he condemned Article 377A of the Penal Code, which makes acts of "gross indecency" between men illegal. "This legal barrier has made it impossible to target MSM (men having sex with men), and made us unable to address it within schools," said Dr Chan. "It is the main reason for stigma and pushes (the issue) into the closet. It is not surprising that more young gay men are getting infected."
Some believe these comments were directed at Guest-of-Honour Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts. In his previous capacity as Senior Minister for Health, Dr Balaji has professed support for AfA and is a third-time Guest-of-Honour to the Singapore AIDS Conference. He has been criticised, however, for his failure to support subsidies for HIV medicines or acceptance of homosexuality. In his speech as Guest-of-Honour, Dr Sadasivan gave a fairly formulaic response to Dr Chan, saying, "The committee will take this into consideration."
Yet the issue was not laid to rest. In the Keynote Address which followed, UNAIDS Regional Programme Advisor Dr Swarup Sarkar reiterated the position that "sodomy" laws should be repealed in both his native India and Singapore. These constituted "gaps in prevention," as they made it impossible to communicate a clear message from the government on safer sex. When interviewed, he elaborated that allowing such laws to remain nominally in the books was not an option, as future officials and governments would able to revive such laws as they pleased.
Such declarations of support for the repeal of sodomy laws were all the more remarkable considering the public nature of the biannual conference. Traditionally organised by the AfA and Tan Tock Seng Hospital, this year marked the first time the Health Promotion Board had joined as organiser. The event was held centrally in the Suntec Convention Centre with low registration fees, and the 600-strong audience was a varied group, consisting of activists, health workers, civil servants, volunteers and members of the concerned public, including several schoolchildren involved in the Red Cross.
Dr Chan also discussed the weight of social stigma associated with the disease, leading many HIV-positive individuals to only seek diagnosis and treatment when they had reached terminal stages of AIDS. The twin themes of challenges from institutions and challenges from public perceptions of HIV were to persist throughout the discussions of the day. One symposium dwelt specifically on problems encountered promoting HIV-awareness amongst women. This was illustrated by Chommad Manopaiboon from the Global AIDS Programme in an earlier plenary, noting that many young Thai women were more afraid of the risk of pregnancy than the risk of contracting HIV. Another speech by Lionel Lee of AfA dwelt on the problems of heterosexual male clients of sex workers, many of whom remain unwilling to associate themselves with the thought of HIV risk and are consequently prone to unsafe sex.
Thankfully, "Hope," the second half of the conference’s theme, also received significant attention. Dr Patrick French of the Mortimer Market Centre, London, shared with the audience information on the effectiveness of HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy), which has radically increased life expectancies of HIV-positive individuals. Medical professionals appeared in force to discuss new advances and applications of HIV treatment. Many, however, noted the obstacle of convincing world governments that treatment programmes should receive government funding, making them affordable to all.
The 5th Singapore AIDS Conference also featured, for the third time, a symposium on men who have sex with men (MSM). A summary of papers presented at this symposium may be viewed on the next page.
The 5th Singapore AIDS Conference included a symposium on the MSM community. It focused on the MSM community with theme on Stigma and Discrimination, and was chaired by President of Singapore Psychological Society Clarence Singam and Associate Professor Khoo Hoon Eng.
2006 MSM KABP (Knowledge, Attitude, Behaviour and Practices) Survey Results
Dr Stuart Koe, CEO of Fridae.com, began by presenting the results of his 2006 MSM KABP survey. The survey, conducted among Internet-savvy MSMs from Singapore, indicated extremely high awareness of HIV services in Singapore, as well as a very high proportion – 81% – of men having undergone HIV tests.
Condom usage is increasing, yet it remains inconsistent. Moreover, no correlation was shown between having had an HIV test and displaying consistent condom use; HIV+ individuals even displayed higher tendencies to practise unsafe sex. This counters the conventional wisdom that promoting HIV tests will also encourage safer sex practices. Dr Koe recommended a more focussed message on condom use and HIV prevention in public programmes.
AfA MSM Programme
Paul Toh of Action for AIDS summarised the work of the MSM Prevention Programmes. This includes outreach to saunas and bars, an MSM drop-in centre, interactive theatre, hotlines, campaigns and meetings and seminars with MSMs in English and Mandarin. New initiatives included Internet outreach, through the infiltration of gay chatrooms by MSM volunteers who explain safe sex queries online.
Counseling and Support for MSMs in Singapore
Bryan Choong, who oversees the Oogachaga MSM Hotline service, presented on the theme of counselling and supporting MSMs in Singapore. He noted the relevance of this theme to HIV as non-acceptance of sexual identity and low self-esteem is often correlated with unprotected sex behaviour in MSMs. Oogachaga’s new phone counselling service now provides support for MSMs who desire to remain faceless. However, challenges to counselling remain, including difficulties in outreach to non-gay identified and less educated MSMs and distrust from the closeted gay community.
AIDS Related Stigma/Discrimination
Ho Lai Peng, a Medical Officer from Tan Tock Seng Hospital, spoke on HIV-related stigma and discrimination. She emphasised the problem of HIV existing as a social phenomenon as well as a physical disease, turning HIV+ individuals into social outcasts and discouraging them to lead healthy lives and seek treatment. Even educated professionals show high levels of misconceptions and irrational fear towards the HIV+. She noted that in order for HIV+ people to be accepted and gain equal rights in employment, more must go public, refusing to remain a faceless community.
Overcoming Barriers to HIV Prevention for MSM
Gay activist Alex Au shared the results on his online study amidst politically aware young people. Worryingly, the majority did not regard HIV as a serious issue for Singapore. HIV infection was also associated as stemming from the actions of others, not as the consequence of one’s own behaviour. Heterosexuals also found it harder than gay men and women to understand how laws against homosexual acts have a direct bearing on HIV infection rates.
In a question-and-answer session, Alex Au and Dr Koe expressed concerns that the National AIDS Council includes no grassroots representation from at-risk communities like MSMs. They urged audience members to write in to schools and newspapers to correct misinformation on HIV prevention, such as misreported statistics on condom effectiveness. They concluded by asking those present to extend their acceptance to the HIV+ and to spread awareness of the issues by all means possible.