July 4, 2019 / 7:21 PM / a month ago

Gay DJ pulls out of Singapore TEDx talk over censorship

KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A school in Singapore - where gay sex is banned - said on Thursday that a gay radio DJ pulled out of a TEDx talk after he was asked not to make “sensitive” comments about his sexuality.

The latest case has sparked criticism of censorship of discussion of LGBT+ rights in the socially conservative city-state, where support for gay marriage is growing.

Joshua Simon said on Facebook that he planned to talk about coming out to his father at the event, which took place on Saturday, as thousands took part in Singapore’s annual gay pride rally and called for gay sex to be legalized.

“Joshua Simon was advised that certain references to his sexuality might be sensitive, given the diverse profile of the audience,” a spokeswoman for Singapore Polytechnic, which offers pre-university courses, and hosted the event.

“The organizing committee had then suggested that Joshua Simon consider reviewing how these mentions are expressed in his script ... Unfortunately, he decided not to speak at the event at all,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a statement.

Under a British colonial-era law, a man found to have committed an act of “gross indecency” with another man could be jailed for up to two years, although prosecutions are rare.

There has been a push to overturn the ban since India decriminalized gay sex in a landmark court ruling last year.

A poll in May of more than 4,000 Singaporeans by a local think-tank found opposition to gay marriage had fallen to 60%, down from 74% in 2013.

On Facebook, the 29-year-old DJ said he had chosen to withdraw from the talk because he did not want to hide his story and set a “hurtful precedence” to other LGBT+ people.

“To hide my struggles and sacrifices is to be ashamed of them,” he wrote in a post that has been widely shared.

“Our stories matter. The fight to have them told continues.”

A spokesman from Singapore’s education ministry said it was not aware of the event and was not involved in the decision.

Local media reported that another Singapore gay rights activist was barred from speaking last year at a TEDx talk, which is organized independently under a free license from TED.

Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org

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