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2019

Mr Leow Yangfa, executive director of Oogachaga, a non-profit community-based organisation that works with LGBTQ individuals, said likewise that religiously motivated violence is a “significant part” of the lives of many in the community, and it could come in the form of “forced religious conversion” and hate speech.

To Mr Leow, Mr Shanmugam’s statement is a “clear and unambiguous” signal recognising that the LGBTQ community has been targeted by religiously motivated violence.

The Explanatory Statement is also probably the first time in Singapore’s history where there is an explicit mention of the LGBTQ community as a minority group that is worthy of legal protection, he added.

“Knowing that this law provides such protection does provide some reassurance for the community. The next step is for the community to see the application of such law in future cases,” Mr Leow said.
— Today, 14 October 2019
Mr Leow Yangfa, executive director of Oogachaga, a non-profit organisation that works with LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) people in Singapore, says: “So, for example, if a non-binary person uses ‘they’ as their pronoun, we can say ‘My friend’s name is Pat. They identify as gender non-binary.’”

Non-profit organisations which support the LGBTQ community in Singapore, such as Oogachaga, TransgenderSG and The T Project, say they have observed a small increase in the number of non-binary people approaching them.

Mr Leow estimates that in the past two years, Oogachaga has supported around six to 10 non-binary persons a year through various counselling services.
— The Straits Times, 13 October 2019
It is no secret that rates of mental illness and suicide among LGBTQ people are much higher than the cis-het population. As Leow Yangfa, Executive Director at Oogachaga, explained at a recent conference organised by Samaritans of Singapore, the stigma, discrimination, bullying, shame and pain that LGBTQ people experience elevates our risk of suicide. This also has a direct relationship with drug addiction and unsafe sexual practices which increases the risk of HIV infection.
— Medium, 4 October 2019
According to Leow Yangfa, executive director of gay counseling group Oogachaga, the government has framed the debate surrounding LGBT rights as one where battle lines are drawn between “pro-family” and “pro-LGBT” groups. The fear of “social disharmony” is used as a reason to uphold the status quo. He does not see the government making any efforts to bridge those ‘fault-lines’ and reconcile opposite views.

“Perhaps what the LGBT community needs to do now, in addition to advocating for change, is to advocate for engagement — with the conservative and religious segments of Singapore that are resistant to change,” said Leow.
— The News Lens International, 4 October 2019
The same Penal Code also includes Section 377A, which criminalises sex between men.
Even with changes to the Penal Code, where men can be considered victims of rape, men who have been sexually assaulted by other men may not step forward to report it.
In April, Mr Leow Yangfa, executive director of LGBTQ support group Oogachaga, wrote that people it had counselled were afraid to make police reports, fearing prosecution under Section 377A. In 2016, the Sexual Assault Care Centre at Aware also said it found this to be the case.
— The Sunday Times, 25 August 2019
Leow Yangfa, the director of Singaporean NGO Oogachaga, which provides counselling and support services to the LGBT community, says young people questioning their sexuality may have trouble finding support.

“For a lot of young people, there will be issues of invisibility, meaning that there will not be many or any positive role models of LGBT adults, whether in their community or in local media,” he said.

“In our local mainstream schools there is very minimal or insufficient appropriate sexuality education that covers LGBT issues.”
— Malay Mail, 30 July 2019
At Oogachaga, a non-profit community-based organisation that works with LGBTQ individuals, demand for counselling services has doubled in the past five years.

Last year, Oogachaga’s counsellors handled a total of 2,012 counselling sessions, up from 974 sessions in 2013.

They included professional face-to-face counselling as well as counselling sessions conducted via phone, WhatsApp and email.

Sexuality, gender identity, relationship and mental health issues make up the bulk of the cases seen by its counsellors.
* * * * * *
Oogachaga’s executive director Leow Yangfa, a registered social worker, said that discriminatory experiences can occur at various life stages, and can affect LGBTQ people from all walks of life.

They may include homophobic slurs in school or religious community, family members disapproving same-sex relationships, social isolation of an elderly or disabled LGBTQ person or racism faced by LGBTQ people from ethnic minority backgrounds, Mr Leow said.
* * * * * *
On the other end, more social workers, counsellors, psychologists and other social service professionals have signed up for Oogachaga’s professional training workshops, which impart appropriate skills and information to help professionals better connect with LGBTQ clients.

From an average of 50 to 80 participants a year when it first started in 2008, Oogachaga’s professional workshops has seen around 100 to 120 participants yearly in the last five years.

However, there may be still some way to go in equipping mental health and social service professionals with skills to support people from sexual minorities here.

Mr Leow said: “In our experience working with LGBTQ individuals, couples and families for over 20 years, some of them reported that they feel uncomfortable or are not adequately supported by these professionals.”
Community booths were set up to provide information on the various LGBTI rights advocacy groups working for equality in Singapore.

Among them was Leow Yangfa, Executive Director of LGBTI rights group Oogachaga, who was busy handing out stickers and badges near his organization’s stall. Speaking to GSN, Leow brought up the apparent disconnect between on-the-ground civil rights activists and senior lawmakers in Singapore.

‘Sadly, Pink Dot still has a place in our local community because we need to continue to remain visible to remind our elected politicians that we exist and we need to fight for equality and justice,’ Leow said.

‘If only any members of the parliament and if only any cabinet ministers would step down here to Hong Lim Park to see here for themselves what it means to be at an event like this, and to hear some of the stories of very real LGBT experiences of homophobia and transphobia, they would know how irrelevant 377A is.’
— Gay Star News, 30 June 2019
Yangfa is also heartened by the younger generation. “Internet usage rates among queer youth in Singapore are really high. Everyone’s connected,” he says. “We’ve seen a lot of mobilisation of this space in the past 10 years by the community.”
— Independent, 17 May 2019
Mr Leow Yangfa, executive director of Oogachaga, a non-profit organisation working with the LGBT community, also called for a review of “outdated” policies, such as LGBT organisations’ inability to be registered as “they are seen as contrary to national interests”.
— Today, 5 May 2019
Leow Yangfa, executive director of Oogachaga, an LGBTI community support group, told GSN that he was not overly surprised by the survey’s results.

‘It is something we have observed in recent years, that slowly but surely Singaporeans, who are world-renowned for our pragmatism and ability to acknowledge reality, are truly embracing diversity and the reality that LGBTQ+ people exist and live among us,’ Yangfa said.

‘As our government has often remarked, it will look to the views of the people to make decisions on controversial issues such as repealing 377A or policies that affect the LGBTQ+ community.’
— Gay Star News, 4 May 2019
As a non-profit organisation working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and gender-diverse individuals, couples and families in Singapore for the past 20 years, Oogachaga has received reports of people being in similar situations where they may have been victims of crime.

They include transgender women who were sexually assaulted in public; queer women and gay men abused by their same-sex partners; sex workers cheated of their money and possessions; transgender employees harassed at work; and others who had had their HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) status disclosed without permission.
— Today Voices, 12 April 2019
However, Leow Yangfa, Executive Director of LGBTI community support NGO, Oogachaga, questioned the methodology of the findings.

‘It is somewhat inappropriate that the views of the majority should be considered as a benchmark to determine whether a minority – in this case, same-sex couples and the wider LGBT community – should have access to the basic human right to love and form consensual relationships, and not be criminalized,’ Yangfa told Gay Star News.

‘The survey completely ignores the reality of many LGBT individuals, couples and families who are themselves religious and belonging to a faith community.’

Yangfa added that any implication that there is a significant polarisation between religion and the LGBTI community in Singapore ‘cannot be further from the truth’.

‘Many LGBT persons we have worked with come from families and communities that are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist, and may turn to their religion, faith, and spirituality as important sources of guidance, support, and acceptance.’
— Gay Star News, 30 March 2019
‘Singapore, as a developed country, is shockingly backward in our lack of protections of the rights of individuals,’ Leow Yangfa, Executive Director of LGBTI community support NGO, Oogachaga, writes in an email.

‘The existing provisions in the Infectious Diseases Act serve only to protect the identities of persons living with HIV, not their rights,’ Yangfa adds. ‘And as we have seen last month, once the confidentiality of this information is breached, there are no other laws that protect individuals living with HIV from being discriminated [against] by employers, healthcare providers, etc.’
— Gay Star News, 3 March 2019
Social worker and executive director of LGBT counselling group Oogachaga, Leow Yangfa, said that given the “pragmatic reality of Singapore’s situation”, a “subtle combination” of action and inaction was probably the best approach.

“What is more important is that as a community, we do not descend into having divisive views about what is right and best,” the 43-year-old said.
— South China Morning Post, 6 February 2019
Mr Leow Yangfa, executive director of Oogachaga, a non-governmental organisation that works with the LGBT community, told TODAY that it “does not support any form of legislation that treats people unequally”.

“The easy and reactionary thing to do right now is impose further restrictions and penalties on persons living with HIV,” he added. “This current crisis presents to us an opportunity — for the Singapore Government to take the lead in erasing these inequalities and ensuring greater, just protection for all, including gay men and all persons living with HIV.”
— Today, 31 January 2019
‘This data breach is quite possibly the worst thing that could happen to someone living with HIV in Singapore’ executive director of LGBTI support group Oogachaga, Leow Yangfa, told Gay Star News.

The social worker said many people were distressed and emotionally affected.
— Gay Star News, 29 January 2019
Shin Min Daily News, 29 January 2019

Shin Min Daily News, 29 January 2019

Mr Leow Yangfa, executive director of Oogachaga, a non-governmental organisation that provides counselling and educational services to the LGBT community, said: “Those of us who live without HIV cannot begin to imagine the shock, distress, pain and betrayal (that persons living with HIV) must be going through right now”.

Affected individuals can access Oogachaga’s confidential and anonymous hotline, WhatsApp and email counselling services, Mr Leow added.
— Today, 29 January 2019
LGBT+ campaign group Oogachaga, which has set up an online and phone counseling service, said LGBT+ people who have yet to come out publicly were most vulnerable from the leak.

“It can only be expected that they are all under some distress,” Leow Yangfa, its executive director said in emailed comments.

Leow warned against a rise in “hateful comments” and that it would further stigmatize LGBT+ and people living with HIV.
— Reuters, 29 Janaury 2019
Mr Leow Yangfa, 44, executive director of Oogachaga, a non-profit organisation that works with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer and gender-diverse (LGBTQ+) community, told The New Paper that the immediate emotional impact of the leak will also be huge.

”In particular, LGBTQ+ persons living with HIV who have not disclosed their HIV status to those around them, including family members, employers, and friends, or are still closeted about their sexual orientation are most vulnerable,” he said.

”This latest leak will contribute to an additional layer of fear - the fear of their HIV status being exposed to others without their consent, when they have been trying so hard to keep it protected.”
— The New Paper, 29 January 2019
Oogachaga said LGBT people who have not disclosed their HIV-positive status to their family and friends, or who are still “closeted” about their sexual orientation, are most vulnerable.

“This reminds us of the insufferable stigma, fear and discrimination that continues to surround people living with HIV in Singapore today,” said Oogachaga executive director Leow Yangfa.

“Those of us who live without HIV cannot begin to imagine the shock, distress, pain and betrayal they must be going through right now.”

The organisation said it is offering support to those affected by the data leak via its confidential and anonymous hotline, email and WhatsApp counselling services.

“In coming days and weeks, as the full impact of this is felt, we will continue to make our counselling services available to all those who need it,” said Mr Leow.
— CNA, 28 January 2019
Leow Yangfa, a spokesman for LGBT charity Oogachaga, said the group was concerned people who have not disclosed their HIV status to employers, family or friends could face repercussions due to the leak.
”This reminds us of the insufferable stigma, fear and discrimination that continues to surround people living with HIV in Singapore today,” Yangfa said. “Those of us who live without HIV cannot begin to imagine the shock, distress, pain and betrayal they must be going through right now.”
— CNN, 28 January 2019
Oogachaga director Leow Yangfa said personal, identifiable data of HIV patients diagnosed since 2010 was leaked.

He told Gay Star News three gay men living with HIV in Singapore had contacted the organization about the data leak so far.
— Gay Star News, 28 January 2019
An LGBT rights advocate has filed a case against the Attorney-General, stating that Section 377A of the Penal Code - which criminalises sex between men - is “inconsistent” with portions of Singapore’s Constitution, and “is therefore void”.

Mr Choong Chee Hong, better known as Bryan Choong, filed it at the Supreme Court in November last year.

Mr Choong, 41, is the former executive director of Oogachaga, a non-profit organisation working with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
— The Straits Times, 22 January 2019