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Singapore: Protesters decry banning of gay-themed books

Several writers have pulled out of festivals supported by National Library Board

One mother, Jaxe Pan, posted a Facebook letter addressed to Singapore’s information, communication and arts minister in protest over the National Library Board’s decision to censor books that feature “nontraditional familes.”  Credit: facebook.com

Approximately 350 people, including parents and children, turned out for a reading protest in the atrium of Singapore’s National Library Building July 13 in response to the withdrawal of gay-themed books.

The books — And Tango Makes Three, The White Swan Express and Who’s In My Family — all focus on same-sex families and were pulled from shelves by the country’s library board after a complaint was lodged by a Facebook group. 

While a number of people have written letters to the board to protest the withdrawal of the books and a petition has been circulated calling for the titles to be reinstated, the NLB has indicated there are no plans to put the books back on the shelves. The board has also said it is not planning to sell or donate the censored titles, even though an offer to buy them has been made, while other groups have sought to take the books off the NLB’s hands, The Straits Times reports.

The Times quotes the NLB as saying that it would usually destroy books it has pulled.

Organizers of Sunday’s protest have said that parents and children should be able to access resources that reflect their realities.

In a statement condemning the NLB’s actions, a local group called Rainbow Parents says, “Our families do not fit into the conventional mould of 1 father, 1 mother and 2.1 children. These books exist to educate children about the diversity of life on our planet. NLB’s act sends an extremely negative message to all children in uncommon family structures that nothing apart from the prescribed model is acceptable.

“We are appalled an established and esteemed library like NLB would choose to remove and destroy books because of complaints from a select few,” the group’s statement continues. “The best libraries carry many controversial books and it is the parents’ responsibility to provide guidance and encourage children to read with a critical mind. For parents who want to control everything their children read, they will need to accompany their children when browsing books, instead of depriving other families of the diverse reading experience the library has to offer. There are parents who want their children to understand diversity in families.”