Written by Ibrahim Ramthan

What happened? 

Minister for Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam paid a visit on the 2nd of October to The T Project Shelter, a safe haven for homeless transgender individuals in Singapore. The shelter was started in 2014 and is the first and only of its kind – providing peer counselling, corporate talks, food rations and shelter for transgender persons in dire straights.

In a Facebook post, Shanmugam shared photographs of him interacting with T Project founder and volunteers, along with a description highlighting the ‘enormous challenges’ the transgender community in Singapore faces.


Why does it matter? 

Singapore’s infamous 377A law has come under fire for institutionally criminalising a portion of the LGTBQ community. The move to open up discourse openly with a Transgender community is a huge step toward the reconciliation. This comes after another Facebook post from the minister highlighting that “Everyone, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, must feel safe in society”.  This rhetoric from the nation’s Minister for Law, which may signify a slow change in the currents of acceptance from the government as a whole.


Does it matter, really? 

However, critics have noted that while these sentiments are indeed progressive, they may just be the case of rhetoric over tangible action. This is further bolstered by the Singapore government’s treatment of LGBTQ individuals – from kicking a trans-woman and cis-woman couple out of their own home to labelling their queer identities as a ‘condition’ in the military.

Shanmugam has also echoed sentiments shared by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, stating that Singapore society is not ‘liberal on these (LGBTQ rights) matters’. He has also reiterated that while the law is there, there has been no prosecutions on private conduct of individuals.

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