May 31, 2017 / 10:13 AM / 2 months ago

Singapore's gay pride rally attracts record sponsorship despite curbs

Participants shield themselves from the sun under a rainbow-coloured umbrella before taking part in the forming of a giant pink dot at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park in Singapore June 28, 2014.Edgar Su/Files

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's gay pride rally has attracted sponsorship from a record number of companies this year despite tighter government regulations aimed at stopping foreigners from supporting it, organisers said on Wednesday.

Organisers of the Pink Dot rally have raised S$253,000 ($183,000) from more than 100 Singaporean companies for the July 1 rally at a "Speaker's Corner" in a downtown park.

Last year, 18 companies contributed, 13 of which were multinationals like Alphabet Inc's Google and Facebook. Organisers declined to say how much was raised last year.

Days after last year's rally conservative Singapore's government announced that foreign firms would no longer be allowed to sponsor or participate in the rally.

Foreigners have never been legally allowed to join rallies in the city-state, but many have got around the restriction by "observing" such events.

But changes to the law announced in October removed the distinction between "participants" and "observers", organisers said, leaving them "no choice" but to bar foreigners.

Darius Cheung, a Singaporean executive who led the funding drive, said the rally had gained recognition and this year's sponsors were mostly small- and medium-sized enterprises.

"The more important part is to engage local companies to finally cement the position that the LGBT community is very well respected and accepted here and I think we did it," Cheung told Reuters.

The event has been celebrated since 2009. People attend dressed in pink and shining pink flashlights.

Under Singapore law, sex between men is punishable by up to two years in jail, though prosecutions are rare.

Adeline Yeo said she was disappointed that she would not be able to attend with her Polish girlfriend.

"I feel let down ... we were looking forward to attending together," Yeo said.

"But this has definitely made us stronger," she said, referring to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

"It's all the more reason to pull all your friends and colleagues together for the Pink Dot."

The LGBT movement in other conservative Asian countries has faced pressure this year.

In neighbouring Indonesia, two men were last week publicly caned after being convicted by a sharia court of engaging in gay sex. In another part of Indonesia police have set up a special force to investigate LGBT activity.

Police in China briefly detained nine gay activists on Sunday after they tried to organise a gay rights conference, one of the activists told Reuters.

But a court in Taiwan, in a first for Asia, last week legalized same-sex marriage.

Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Miyoung Kim, Robert Birsel

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