377A repeal: Singapore turns page on dark LGBT history

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12/03/2022

Standing in Singapore’s tranquil Esplanade Park, Russell Heng pointed to the spot where he was once caught by the police – just for being gay. It looks like any other tree-lined corner in the city. But back in the 1980s, before the age of the internet and Grindr, it was a popular meeting spot for gay men in a country where homosexuality was effectively criminalised. Nicknamed the Feet of Five Trees, the spot’s towering raintrees provided cover and seclusion, recalled Mr Heng, a playwright and activist. “We were roaming about that night. And then suddenly, there was a loud voice – a plainclothes policeman – who started shouting at us,” he said. The men were forced to line up in a row as the policeman fiercely berated them. “He said ‘You should be ashamed of yourself’. “We were just walking in the park,” he said. “You felt psychologically that maybe you did something wrong… basically it was bullying.”

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