With the best of intentions, the Government Feedback Unit REACH launched an online survey on Tuesday, 22 March, to get views on the recent 377A ruling by the Court of Appeal, as well as on the quality of life of LGBTQ+ people in Singapore.
Yet, within 24 hours, the site became inaccessible, leaving many to wonder if it might have been compromised by groups termed as “right wingers” or “zealots”.
The survey link now shows that it’s unavailable due to “an overwhelming response that far exceeds the usual number of responses received”.
The survey followed at the heels of the dismissal of the constitutional challenge to Section 377A of the penal code and the subsequent comments by Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam.
Comprising multiple choice questions and statements, the survey proved to be widely popular as more than 30,000 responses flooded the site before it was shut down at noon on Wednesday, 23 March.
Responding to the Straits Times, REACH said that this number “far exceeded the usual number that usually respond to our surveys, which ranges from several hundred to a couple thousand”.
As of 12pm today, the page merely says, “We have closed this eLP (electronic Listening Point) as there has been an overwhelming response that far exceeds the usual number of responses received in our eLP” instead of the original statement, “We wish to hear your thoughts about the LGBT+ community in Singapore. This survey is open to everyone regardless of your sexual orientation and/or gender identity.”
A follow-up to the Section 377A challenge
LGBTQ+ activist and semi-retired doctor Roy Tan, one of the three who mounted the constitutional challenges against Section 377A of the Penal Code, said that the survey was “one of the positive developments elicited by our achievement of the recent ‘unenforceable’ ruling by the Court of Appeal”.
Dr Tan felt that the “Government’s realisation of the currently untenable situation is what may have spurred REACH to launch the survey to garner feedback from the public regarding whether the majority want to keep gay Singaporeans criminalised”.
He speculated that “if the findings show that the public generally are conservative and do not want an erosion of the normative heterosexual paradigm, yet at the same time, feel that gay men should not be viewed as criminals in the eyes of the law, it would provide a solid reason backed up by statistics for the Government to repeal the law”.
He said this survey by REACH is “groundbreaking because it is the first major and large-scale Governmental initiative to gather feedback from the general public about attitudes towards the gay community” and even touches on questions regarding the law on the criminalisation of male homosexuality. Dr Tan added that previous surveys were on a smaller scale, carried out by private or quasi-governmental organisations.
But he cautioned against using surveys to shape policies as it pits the majority against the minority, with the minority groups always at the losing end.
Dr Tan said he is hopeful about the future, as “the younger generations are increasingly woke and have a greater sense of social fairness, so acceptance of the LGBT community is bound to increase as the years go by”.
“This can only have a beneficial effect on the eventual attainment of equality in all aspects of life for the community as the Government has already signalled its willingness to institute legal reform based on evolving social attitudes,” he added.
When approached by TheHomeGround Asia, REACH replied that the survey is “an e-Listening Point to gather feedback on Section 377A and other issues relating to the LGBT+ community in Singapore”, and that “the feedback will be shared with relevant agencies and could be used within the Government for policy updates and changes”.
Pink Dot SG
LGBTQ+ advocacy group Pink Dot SG had earlier shared in a social media post that “the survey is an opportunity for us to make our concerns known to people in power, even if they are imperfect tools in capturing the complexity and nuances of our lived experiences. Our contributions to this outreach can provide useful insights for our policymakers and help inform decisions that will impact all of us for years to come”.
However, Pink Dot SG cautioned against seeing the survey “as a numbers game”, as the survey is “not an opportunity for different groups to flex their power, size, or popularity”. “We should not use this survey as a battleground to picket, or to make any sort of public statement,” it said.
The group added that it is divisive to treat Singapore’s society as comprising of “majorities and minorities”, and hopes to “start having real conversations about the lives we lead here in this country, and how we are impacted by legal and social discrimination at home, in schools, and in the workplace”.
“Your stories matter. We urge you to seize this opportunity to be heard”, Pink Dot SG said.
While TheHomeGround Asia received a WhatsApp message sharing the survey link and specifically advised against sharing it on public forums such as social media, Wake Up, Singapore still posted the survey link on its Facebook page, adding a statement that “many had noted flaws with the survey – such as the possibility that one zealous person may submit multiple responses”.
Comments on social media regarding the survey have mostly been supportive of the LGBTQ+ community.
One Ivan H M Wong posted, “Done. Submitted. But doubt things will change for the better”, and Suze Shon Ng commented that “Love is love”. “We are laughing stock if still let this old century law exist. Not a nanny state still, are we?” she asked.
There were some dissenting views as well. In his short and sharp retort, Jonus Jun wrote, “Nothing to discuss, no room for pink dot here in Singapore.”
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