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Wintemute Unmuted

NUS, very surprisingly, organised a seminar called “The Legal Status of Gay and Lesbian People: International and Comparative Perspectives”. The speaker was Professor Wintemute, an academic and lawyer who has done much work in this area, especially for NGOs.

I knew about this seminar a month ago, and my mouth just dropped open when I saw the poster being casually displayed next to the elevator, and when I received the advertisement in my email. It very specifically stated only NUS students and faculty were welcome. It was pretty much right after the Douglas Sandlers talk was banned, hence my incredulity and delight. Ms R was equally surprised, and I was half-expecting another email to be sent to us, informing us that the event was cancelled.

But it didn’t, and on 12th September 2007, Ms J and I, along with Mr J and Mr S, filed into the seminar room [which, ironically, is where we have Singapore Legal System lessons]. They had to change the venue to a bigger one, due to the overwhelming response.

The audience was an interesting mix of notable faculty members and students of unknown origin. I am not sure how many of them were actually from law, as we learned later, the advertisement email was only sent to the law faculty and general staff. Very few of them actually pinged my gaydar, and there were more women than men.

Prof C began the seminar by asking us not to report the contents of the seminar, especially that of QnA, which I am quite rightly, not doing. Someone asked him the reason for the confidentiality clause, and he said “Let’s put it this way… I’d like to be able to come back to Singapore”.

In any case, the information he imparts can be found elsewhere very easily, just that he crystallises it all quite well. He said a few things I disagreed with quite strongly, and made a few other observations which were quite enlightening. He also went into his coming out story as a gay man, about being the only openly gay lawyer in his firm in the 1980s, about doing pro bono work for gay rights organisations etc. He cited a fair few cases in other countries, where the judges either struck down discriminatory law, or upheld them – possibly quite useful in its precedential value.

After the seminar ended, I went up and talked to him, with Mr J and Mr S. A simple question turned into a half-an-hour discussion about the various issues surrounding this, about inclusionary principles and semantics, and of the current situation.

All in all, quite an interesting event, and not in the least because of the content.

P.S. I’ve detailed notes of the entire event, including QnA, so if you are a friend of mine, you can ask me personally for the details.

September 13, 2007 - Posted by | Law | ,

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