Hundreds in Singapore joined a vigil Tuesday for victims gunned down in a US club amid growing tensions between conservatives and gays in the city-state.
The shooting, which killed 49 in a popular gay club in Orlando, Floria, hit home for many in Singapore’s local LGBT community, said vigil organiser Nicholas Lim.
“In Singapore, there aren’t any sanctuaries or safe havens for gay people to come out and explore their sexuality at a safe place where they won’t be charged,” Lim told AFP ahead of Tuesday’s vigil.
Sex between men is banned by law in Singapore, a holdover from colonial rule that is not strictly enforced.
In heavily regulated Singapore, politically or socially sensitive public gatherings can only be held in Hong Lim Park, the country’s sole official protest area, but are subjected to strict rules.
On Tuesday evening, organisers said around 700 gathered and sang, forming a giant heart with their glow sticks and electronic candles -- no naked flames are allowed in a public park.
One participant Syafiq Khai, 23, said the Orlando attacks were a result of homophobia being tolerated.
“Recent events will only make our resolve stronger to push for LGBT rights in Singapore... We have to urge our fellow countrymen to accept that LGBT are part of society,” he said.
The vigil follows several incidents that have left Singapore’s gay community feeling vulnerable.
Earlier this month the government warned foreign firms against sponsoring Pink Dot, an annual gay rights rally. Last weekend, news broke that a local staging of Les Miserables was forced to cut a scene with a kiss between two male actors because of public complaints.
Singapore’s leaders have had to maintain an uncomfortable balance between increasingly vocal conservatives and gay rights supporters.
In 2014, Singapore’s top court upheld the law criminalising sex between men, and children’s books with gay themes were moved to the adults section in public libraries.
In an interview with journalists last year, Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong said the country was not ready to legalise same-sex marriage, but added that the local gay community was not harassed or discriminated against.