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On 4th December 2014, the European Union Delegation to Singapore is organising a half-day seminar to mark and raise awareness of Human Rights Day (10th December). The event this year aims to reflect on the role of the judiciary in the promotion and protection of human rights. Former Nominated Member of Parliament Dr Thio Li-Ann has been listed as one of the speakers with the topic "International Human Rights Law and National Courts in Asia”. Dr Thio is no stranger to the Singapore's LGBT community and is known infamously for her "straw up your nose" comment in the Parliament. The following is a statement issued by various members of the civil society expressing concern of her representation at the seminar.

We, the undersigned, write to express our disappointment at the choice of Prof Thio Li Ann as a speaker for the Human Rights Day seminar hosted by the EEAS European Union Delegation to Singapore.

It is a matter of public record that Prof Thio: –

1. believes the LGBT community is not entitled to the protections of human rights with respect to issues of sexuality, even between consenting homosexual adults.

In 2007, Prof Thio argued, in the Parliament of Singapore, in favour of the continued criminalization of adult consensual same sex relations in Singapore. She asserted that:

“Human rights are universal, like prohibitions against genocide. Demands for ‘homosexual rights’ are the political claims of a narrow interest group masquerading as legal entitlements….You cannot make a human wrong a human right.

2. deliberately used graphic language to engender repugnance against homosexual adults in her 2007 speech:

“Anal-penetrative sex is inherently damaging to the body and a misuse of organs, like shoving a straw up your nose to drink. The anus is designed to expel waste; when something is forcibly inserted into it, the muscles contract and cause tearing; fecal waste, viruses carried by sperm and blood thus congregate, with adverse health implications like ‘gay bowel syndrome’, anal cancer. ‘Acts of gross indecency’ under 377A also covers unhygienic practices like “rimming” where the mouth comes into contact with the anus. Consent to harmful acts is no defence – otherwise, our strong anti-drug laws must fall as it cannot co-exist with letting in recreational drugs as a matter of personal lifestyle choice.”

3. characterizes attempts by LGBT activists and their allies to promote non-discrimination on grounds of gender and sexuality as a conspiratorial attempts to subvert law, order, community and public morality.

In the same parliamentary speech of 2007, she asserts that: –

“Homosexual activists often try to infiltrate and hijack human rights initiatives to serve their political agenda, discrediting an otherwise noble cause to protect the weak and poor.”

And again,

“Conversely, homosexual activists lobby hard for a radical sexual revolution, waging a liberal fundamentalist crusade against traditional morality. They adopt a step­by­step approach to hide how radical the agenda is.”

4. continues to speak of homosexuality as a “gender identity disorder” from which individuals can be “reoriented” and characterizes any scientific research which calls her perspective into question as “politicised pseudo science”.

The EEAS should note that she explicitly endorses a position which runs counter to the professional standards of internationally recognized mental health associations including the World Health Organisation, the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, The Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK, and the Chinese Psychiatric Association amongst others.

An invited speaker is a position of honour and prestige and conveys significant legitimacy to the speaker. With this in mind, we are concerned about the underlying principles and values being communicated to the public with the EEAS’s invitation to Prof Thio to speak at a Human Rights event, given her public statements against the LGBTQ community. Under these circumstances, some may construe this invitation as an implicit endorsement of the speaker and her views by the organizer.

Article 13 of the EC Treaty and the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights explicitly prohibits discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Moreover, the Commissioner for Human Rights recommends that authorities in Council of Europe member states should:

  • Take a strong public position against violations of the human rights of LGBT persons and promote respect on issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, for example through human rights education and awareness-raising campaigns.
  • Take steps to encourage factual, objective and professional reporting by the media on LGBT persons and issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
The European External Action Service lists one of its key roles as “Human rights defender”.

We are profoundly disappointed and we urge the EU and the EEAS to explain how inviting Prof Thio as a speaker for a Human Rights Day seminar is consistent with its own stated role as a defender and advocate of human rights.

Adrian Heok Jacob Ma Otto Fong
Alan Seah Jayet Ng Ovidia Yu
Alex Au Jean Chong Rachel Zeng
Alex Serrenti Jennifer Teo Raksha M
Alina Ng Jeremy Tay Sabrina Lee
Alison Kumar Jeremy Tiang Sangeetha Thanapal
Alvin Tan Joe Wong Sayoni
Benjamin Xue Joel Tan Seelan Palay
Bjorn Yeo Jolene Tan Sharon Pereira
Brendon Fernandez Jolovan Wham Shelley Thio
Celestine Alvina Sun Joshua Chiang Song Jiyoung
Celine Lim Kamal Ramdas Sun Koh
Cheryl Leong Karen T Tania De Razario
Christine Chia Kate Tan Tanneke Zeeuw
Dana Lam Kay Omar Tara Tan
David Lee Kenneth Chee Teo Elaine Thanya Marie
Emily Heng Kenneth Tan Teo Soh Lung
Eugene Tan Kirsten Han Teo Youyenn
Faeza Sirajudin Lee Xian Jie Teri Tan
Fikri Alkhatib Lim Jialiang Think Centre
Gary Lim Lisa Li Thomas Ng
Gillian Seetoh Lynn Lee Trevvy
Goh Li Sian Mathia Lee Venessa Victoria
Gwyneth Teo Miak Siew Wong Pei Chi
M. LEOW Ng Yi-Sheng Wu Ling
Jaclyn Chan Nigel Ng Yuyung Wahyuningrum


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