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‘Disappointed’ MP criticises HPB for its FAQ on sexuality

‘Disappointed’ MP criticises HPB for its FAQ on sexuality
Screenshot from HPB website.

‘Disappointed’ MP criticises HPB for its FAQ on sexuality

SINGAPORE — A Member of Parliament has become the latest to weigh in on the Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) posting of an FAQ section on sexuality on its website, which has drawn polarised reactions — including petitions both for and against the board’s move — after it went viral last weekend.

Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan yesterday hit out at one of the responses, which said homosexual and heterosexual relationships are not too different. Writing on his Facebook page, he said: “I cannot agree that ‘A same-sex relationship is not too different from a heterosexual relationship’. The two relationships are different and they go against the Government’s policy of promoting heterosexual married couples to have healthy relationships and to build stable nuclear and extended family units.

“I am utterly disappointed at the HPB’s stand in issuing such a statement,” said Mr Lim, who has also filed a question asking the Health Minister to clarify his ministry’s stand on the board’s online resource when Parliament next sits on Feb 17.

The FAQ section, which HPB said had been developed with input from professional counsellors, was one of its initiatives to “educate youths on sexually-transmitted diseases”.

The resource started making its rounds online after generating positive buzz for the answers to topics such as homosexuality. However, it has since triggered a debate, culminating in a petition started on Monday against the board’s posting and which called for the Health Minister to conduct a “thorough, non-biased, comprehensive review” of the “one-sided” and “pro-homosexuality” information.

Pastor Lawrence Khong of Faith Community Baptist Church also wrote, in the capacity as Chairman of church network LoveSingapore, a seven-page response against the “pro-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) view” in the HPB’s FAQ section, which was yesterday put up on the church’s website and Facebook page. These were countered by another petition started on Tuesday in support of the board’s move, though it also called for the board to reinstate to the resource links to LGBT support groups that had allegedly been removed.

Yesterday, Mr Lim told this newspaper he learnt about the FAQ section a few days ago when he received it in his email. He decided to make his Facebook posting because he felt the FAQ section “sends a wrong signal”.

Noting that the bulk of the FAQ seemed to suggest that a homosexual relationship “is quite normal”, he added: “If we say a homosexual relationship is quite normal, then people get confused because that’s not the state’s pro-family position”.

In response to TODAY’s queries, the HPB said it had noted Mr Lim’s feedback and reiterated that “family remains the basic building block of our society”. The board added that it would take into consideration relevant inputs it had received to see how it could further improve its communications as well as to better reach out to Singaporeans in their health promotion educational materials.

Mr Lim also felt that some of the answers in the FAQ seemed to present opinions as facts. He cited the answer provided to the question “Can homosexuals have long-lasting relationships?”, which was: “Yes, homosexuals can certainly have long-lasting relationships. A homosexual relationship, like any other relationship, is based on values like trust, love, commitment and support.”

Mr Lim said there were no conclusive studies supporting this statement and added that it could have captured the diverse views on the issue. “From what I have read, there are really diverse opinions on it, so when there are diverse opinions, you have to be honest about it — that some people feel it this way, some people feel it the other way — and let readers judge for themselves,” he said. Nevertheless, Mr Lim said some answers, such as the definitions of gender identity and sexual orientation, were informative.

Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng also told TODAY he was “a bit surprised” when he saw that the HPB had posted the FAQ section. “It’s a bit bold of them to take this approach,” said Mr Baey, who previously had expressed support for the repeal of Section 377A, which criminalises sex between men. While he found some of the answers objective and explained in a clinical way, Mr Baey felt there were some that were too simplistic and may lead to people making judgements that are not as well-informed.

“For example, this point about the differences between same-sex and heterosexual relationships, I felt that the answer lacked another dimension, which is about the Asian values of family,” he said. He added that some social norms, such as how same-sex couples are not able to get married here, could have been reflected in the answers.

“I think the HPB tried to take a neutral stance. But (by) being neutral, it would not have included certain social norms or mainstream values that are still quite prevalent in our society, so I think that is what irks some quarters of society.”