Liberty to Love
As Singaporeans, we pride ourselves on valuing harmony. We are after all a melting pot of races and religions. Yet amidst this vibrancy, there is a disenfranchised community of people. Like everyone else, they pay taxes and have their individual dreams and aspirations. Unlike the heterosexual members of society, many in the LGBT community often find their lives lingering in limbo. They are unable to legally marry their partners, buy shared government housing, or start a legally recognized family. Society is tolerant enough, of course, but just enough. It is an uneasy compromise with the state and there is little room for discourse.
Fighting the Good Fight
As a well-known LGBT activist and lawyer, Indulekshmi Rajeswari is no stranger to the hurdles and challenges that the LGBT community faces. She is one of the founders of Sayoni, a social organization for queer women, and was part of the efforts to challenge the constitutionality of s377A of the Penal Code. She often found herself having to advise her friends who do not know of LGBT friendly lawyers about the law and their relationship.
Concerned by the critical knowledge gaps and the barriers in access to justice the LGBT community faces, Indulekshmi was inspired to create a legal guidebook to help the LGBT community navigate their relationship with the law. In November 2015, she put together a team of lawyers, law students, and volunteers to set the project in motion.
Thus the Legal Guidebook for LGBT Couples & Families was born.
Aiming to bridge the gap between LGBT people and access to legal information, the project will cover marriage and cohabitation contracts, property and finances, wills and inheritance, medical decisions, children, and other miscellaneous topics like sexual assault and domestic abuse. The guide will also include a directory of LGBT-friendly lawyers so that the community can then seek professional advice without fear of discrimination.
After one and half years, the Legal Guidebook for LGBT Couples & Families is in its final stages of proofreading, and will be ready for print in the middle of the year.
In Search of Support
In order to fund the printing and operational costs, the team needed to raise funds. Not being a registered charity, they could not source for funds from corporate donors. Thus, they decided to turn to crowd funding. To them, crowd funding also serves to garner community support and buy-in for their cause.
As GIVE.asia is designed as a platform for social movements and charitable causes, it was an obvious choice for them to launch their fundraising campaign here.
A Resounding Response
With an initial goal of SGD10,000, they launched their project on the GIVE.asia platform. Support flooded in, and the campaign raised its target amount within 24 hours!
Exhilarated by the response, Indulekshmi is “happy that both LGBT people and allies understand how important this project is, and have donated accordingly.” She expresses that the team is moved and humbled by the outpouring of support and that it has really encouraged and affirmed all their effort.
The campaign has found continued support, and has achieved SGD21,928, as of 31st March 2017, surpassing their target. As such, they are no longer looking to raise more funds. The team plans to use the additional funds raised to broaden the reach of their project. Such a reception ascertains that the information the Legal Guidebook for LGBT Couples & Families provides is critically needed. There is a long way yet to achieve equal rights and liberties, but every step forward is a step in the right direction.
Threads of Hope
Contributor, Timothy Seow, comments, “Structural barriers are still there — this doesn’t remove them, but makes living more tolerable. More than anything, it’s the taking action that’s encouraging.”
Certainly, there is hope yet. It matters that our late Minister Mentor expressed that sexuality is a matter of “genetic variation”, and questioned “so why should we criminalize it?” It matters that the voice of an informed and engaged population is increasingly amplified, and that around us there is a changing tide in the perception of same-sex marriage. With neighbors, South Korea, Thailand, Nepal, Japan, and Taiwan expressing support for LGBT rights, Singapore must surely adjust our constitution in time. Until then, we rely on the efforts of individuals with hearts of giants, like Indulekshmi and her team, and the contributions of everyday movers and shakers; there is no action too small.
All humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights. — Article 1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Join the cause.