SINGAPORE: A Singapore gay activist said Wednesday she was barred from giving a TEDx talk at a prestigious school, sparking fresh criticism of conservative attitudes towards homosexuality in the city-state.
Rachel Yeo, the research and advocacy director of the Inter-University LGBT Network, told AFP she had been invited to speak at the TEDx event organised by St Joseph's Institution last week.
TEDx events are independently organised under licence from TED Talks, which showcases lectures by influential figures from around the world that are widely streamed online.
TED speakers have included former US president Bill Clinton and late British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.
But a day before the event at the independent Catholic school, the 23-year-old student said she was contacted by organisers informing her she could no longer participate due to education ministry regulations. The ministry has denied it had any involvement in the decision.
While Singapore is vibrant and ultra-modern in many ways, critics say that attitudes towards homosexuality remain conservative.
"This incident reminds us that there remains much work to be done to foster a truly inclusive society for all Singaporeans, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity," said a statement from the Inter-University LGBT Network.
The organisation brings together groups representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
The school said in a statement that speakers had been selected by students and the teacher in charge did not check before the list was finalised. Yeo was dropped after reviewing the relevance of speakers to the event, it said.
The education ministry said in a statement that it was "neither involved in nor informed about (the school's) deliberations on the... programme and selection of speakers".
Support for gay rights has been growing in Singapore, although activists say challenges remain. Sex between men remains technically illegal under a law dating back to British colonial rule, although the statute is not actively enforced.
Foreigners have been banned from participating in the city-state's annual Pink Dot gay rights rally. The 10th edition of the event attracted huge crowds at the weekend.