Breaking News: SENIOR lawyer Thio Su Mien yesterday revealed the key role she played in bringing about the change of leadership at the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE). Introducing herself as a “feminist mentor” to working women, she said she began monitoring AWARE’s affairs about a year ago. Disturbed by what she saw as signs that it was promoting lesbianism and homosexuality, she began urging women she knew to challenge AWARE’s attempts to redefine marriage and families. (ST, “Lawyer’s key role in AWARE coup“, 24 April 2009)
Written by Ng E-Jay
24 April 2009
If there is doubt left in anyone’s mind that the takeover of AWARE was orchestrated by a group of intolerant individuals bent on smearing the good name and reputation of the organization’s Old Guard, the press conference held by the new Executive Committee (Exco) on Thursday should remove it once and for all.
During the one-and-a-half hour event, the group introduced well-known corporate lawyer Dr Thio Su Mien as their so-called “feminist mentor“, in the clearest indication thus far that their moves had been coached by the powers-that-be. Dr Thio Su Mien is the Senior Executive Director of TSMP Law Corporation and mother of Nominated MP Prof Thio Li-Ann, and Senior Counsel Thio Shen Yi.
Another outspoken AWARE member Ms Angela Thiang Pei Yun, who told the mainstream press that “questions about the new office bearers’ religion and their stand on homosexuality were not relevant“, is also currently working in Thio Su Mien’s law firm, and had previously written an undergraduate Directed Research paper, “Pride and Prejudice: Law, Morality, and Homosexual Politics in Singapore”, under the supervision of NMP Thio Li-Ann. (See here.)
Despite Ms Josie Lau’s previous assertion on national television that her priority was to “reconcile the team which clearly has fissured“, the new Exco lambasted the old guard during the press conference for losing its focus and “steering AWARE into becoming a single purpose organisation“. (Channel News Asia, “New exco wants to bring AWARE back to its original cause“, 24 April 2009, 1:50am)
Even worse, the new leadership accused AWARE’s veterans of promoting lesbianism. They repeatedly raised examples, like how the old guard had backed the screening of the lesbian film “Spider Lilies” in 2007 and organised a lesbian-friendly Mother’s Day event in 2006.
According to Channel News Asia, when contacted for comment, former AWARE president Margaret Thomas said those comments were ridiculous and not deserving of any comment. I agree.
A quick glance at AWARE’s achievements, in particular, their work in recent years on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) — see here, and their ongoing work on human trafficking legislation and marital rape debunks the insinuation that AWARE has become a “single-purpose” organization out to glorify lesbianism.
The new leadership has also made the outrageous allegation that the old guard of AWARE used Comprehensive Sexuality Education (see here) as a front for promoting lesbianism and sexual freedom.
The truth about AWARE’s Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) programme can be found here. Far from it being a front to promote lesbianism and sexual freedom, CSE teaches youths to make informed decisions about sex, including the ability to say “no”. International reports have shown that comprehensive sex education is much more effective than abstinence-only education in encouraging abstinence, lowering the rates of unwanted pregnancies, and reducing STI transmission rates (see here).
A recently leaked series of emails that was originally posted on STOMP even suggests that some of the new members of AWARE were instigated to join the organization based on the vile propaganda that AWARE “encourages girls to express their full sexuality and this includes experimenting with other girls“. (See here).
So not only has the new leadership cast grave and misleading aspersions on AWARE’s existing programmes and the performance of the old guard, there is now new evidence which suggests that religious-minded folk were mobilized by outrageous anti-gay propaganda concocted by the powers-that-be to join AWARE and vote out the old guard.
The underhand tactics used by this bunch of intolerant individuals to promote their own selfish agenda and the misinformation that is being spread by AWARE’s new Exco is deserving of the strongest rebuke. Let us condemn this atrocity.
So much for “reconciliation”
Earlier on Thursday, it was reported on Channel News Asia that AWARE’s centre’s manager, Schutz Lee, had been fired without reason by the Exco at 8pm that night. (See here.)
The new Exco also tried to change the locks at the office, prompting some members of the old guard to turn up hurriedly at the scene, anxious over the confidential documents kept there.
Dana Lam, former AWARE president, said: “I walked in and there were three burly men sitting at the counter. It’s not something we encounter at AWARE because it’s a women’s centre and we are giving counselling sessions to women who have been abused … … The men have apparently been instructed by the president to change the lock in the centre. There is a vote of no-confidence going on here. By right, they have no right to make any changes. I am worried for my materials: 25 years of research material, including confidential material.”
Before Thursday’s news conference began, current Honorary Treasurer Chew I-Jin said that the new guard intentionally excluded her from the event.
She also said: “I’m utterly disappointed and disgusted because I’m meant to do a presentation alongside you, Lois (Ng, Exco member).”
So much for “reconciliation” indeed. The arbitrary, hostile and draconian measures taken by the new Exco makes a complete mockery of their claim that they want to mend ties with the old guard.
A wake-up call for all Civil Society Organizations
The new leadership of AWARE has, by its connivance and conspiracy, brought severe damage to the brand name of AWARE and the integrity of its existing programmes.
It may have even obtained confidential information and research material painstaking compiled by AWARE, going by the swiftness with which they took physical command of the centre and expelled existing members of AWARE.
This is a very painful and costly lesson for AWARE, and should also serve as a wake-up call to all Civil Society Organizations to structure their membership and voting eligibility criteria carefully, to avoid suffering a hostile takeover by organized forces who are not above exploiting loopholes within the system to further their own bigoted cause.