Why recent events at Aware concern all of us

Veteran leaders of Singapore’s prominent women’s group Aware were routed in their recent elections by a team of fresh faces who had only recently joined the association.  While I have no dealings with Aware*, I was concerned to read in today’s Straits Times that the newcomers said “questions about the new office bearers’ religion and their stand on homosexuality were not relevant.”  What has this got to do with the transsexual/transgender minority in Singapore?  Everything. 

Let’s not forget that back in 1996, transsexuals were granted legal recognition of their new status following sexual reassignment surgery thanks to the proposed amendments to the Women’s Charter.  While founding members of Aware may not have been contributed to the proposal, as the most prominent women’s group in Singapore, they may be consulted on future such issues, such as the rights of transsexual women in Singapore.  I’m concerned – and I’m inferring this from the ST article – that the majority of the new leadership do not seem to agree that their personal views on religion and sexuality/gender are matters of concern.  This throws up a series of questions: What informs their decision-making?  What aspects of women’s rights do they hope to champion?  To what extent will they be influenced by their religious beliefs?  I would like to call for greater transparency vis-a-vis the new committee members’ social backgrounds and beliefs.  Since the report casts doubts on their motives and the spectre of “orchestration” has been raised, these are some questions I, as a woman and concerned member of public, would like answers to.  Further to this, I would also like to call for the recent electoral process to be reexamined – should individuals who have hitherto made no contributions to Aware even be allowed to stand for election? 

If you think the recent events at Aware do not have any direct implications for you, near or far, think again.  I don’t want us to be caught in a future situation in which we ask ourselves, “Why didn’t we do something back then?”

Leona Lo

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