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Published: Thursday July 17, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday July 17, 2014 MYT 7:18:15 AM

Literary judges quit over decision to destroy books on gay

A censorship row es­­­­calated when judges of a literary prize quit over the national library’s plans to destroy three children’s books deemed to be pro-homosexual.

In a statement, the three judges of the non-fiction category of the biennial Singapore Literature Prize condemned a National Library Board (NLB) decision last week to pulp three titles that went against its “pro-family” stance.

“We condemn in the strongest terms NLB’s decision to remove and destroy these books, given that it is responsible for the dissemination of information rather than its destruction,” said T. Sasitharan, Romen Bose, and Robin Hemley.

They are prominent figures in Sin­ga­­pore’s small but vocal arts and lite­rary community. The Singapore Li­terature Prize is considered the most prestigious writing award.

The state-funded NLB last week confirmed that three titles would be destroyed following complaints by a parent and an internal review.

They include And Tango Makes Three – a true story about two male penguins in a New York zoo that raised a baby penguin – and The White Swan Express, which features children adopted by straight, gay, mixed-race and single parents.

The third book, Who’s In My Family, discusses different types of families, including references to gay couples.

The decision to destroy the books was supported by Information Mi­­nister Yaacob Ibrahim, who said the NLB was “guided by com­­munity norms” which do not sup­­port teaching children about “al­­ter­­native, non-traditional families”.

Singaporean writers, however, slammed the NLB for partaking in “book burning” and censorship.

Some 400 people, including pa­­rents, gathered at a library branch on Sunday to read the banned books to their children as a show of protest.

A group of writers scheduled to speak at an NLB event on Sunday about humour also pulled out in protest.

In the statement yesterday, the three judges said the planned destruc­tion of the books was “bigoted and sets a very worrying precedent that it is acceptable to discriminate against anyone who may hold diffe­ring values and opinions”.

The move was “unbecoming of an institution entrusted to protect and preserve learning and literature and to provide accessibility to information”, they added.

The books episode has sharpened the split between Singapore’s religious conservatives and its growing gay-rights lobby. — AFP

Tags / Keywords: Regional, singapore, regional, censorship, literature

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