**Editor's note on January 26, 2021 at 11:15pm: The police have issued a statement regarding this case.
A protest by five people was held outside the Ministry of Education (MOE)'s headquarters at Buona Vista on Tuesday (Jan. 26) afternoon.
Protest against transphobia
The purpose of the protest, which started at around 5pm, was to speak up against transphobia in Singapore's education system.
According to a tweet by Singaporean activist Kirsten Han, five protesters were seen holding up signs and flags outside MOE.
Today: A protest by Singaporeans against transphobia in the education system. pic.twitter.com/ZRy14e9nHZ— Kirsten Han 韩俐颖 (@kixes) January 26, 2021
Han added that "within minutes", security officers showed up at the area to ask the protesters to leave.
Two of them left, but the remaining three did not.
Han also stated that some "plainclothes police officers" arrived at the site and took down the protesters’ particulars.
They also told the protesters to leave.
The police are now taking down their particulars and issuing them an order telling the protesters to leave. pic.twitter.com/8wkKzOX8sX— Kirsten Han 韩俐颖 (@kixes) January 26, 2021
At around 5:30pm, Han said that the three protesters were arrested.
The three protesters have been arrested. pic.twitter.com/5lQ73WlbTX— Kirsten Han 韩俐颖 (@kixes) January 26, 2021
According to Yahoo, the three protesters are Elijah Tay, Lune Loh, and Kokila Annamalai.
They were escorted into a police van after about 30 minutes of protesting.
In a subsequent tweet update, Han said that one of the protesters who had left earlier and was not arrested will now need to go to the police station for questioning.
UPDATE: Averyn, one of the two protesters who chose to leave early on (and therefore wasn't arrested), has been informed that she needs to present herself at the police station for questioning today. #FixSchoolsNotStudents— Kirsten Han 韩俐颖 (@kixes) January 26, 2021
Mothership has reached out to MOE for a statement, and will update the article when we receive a reply.
Urged MOE to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ students
Tay, Loh and Kokila had issued a press release on the day of the protest.
According to the release, which was seen by Mothership, they called on education minister Lawrence Wong to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ students by MOE schools, so as to "uphold the fundamental right of all students to education within a safe and supportive school life".
They had also said that they would stage a "peaceful demonstration" outside MOE to convey their message.
"Discrimination and harassment against LGBTQ+ students is a long standing issue in our schools which damages their wellbeing and denies access to safe and supportive education. Most of us demonstrating today have experienced this first hand.
Students themselves, human rights and civil society groups, as well as educators, counsellors and other professionals working with young people, have raised concerns about discriminatory and intrusive practices by schools, which hurt both LGBTQ+ students, as well as heterosexual and cisgender students, by undermining privacy, bodily autonomy and well-being."
Recent case involving MOE and transgender student
The protest comes after a transgender student claimed that MOE has barred her from receiving hormonal therapy.
MOE released a statement on Jan. 16 denying that it had not interfered with the student's medical treatment.
MOE's statement received criticism for using the wrong pronouns to refer to the student.
Here's the full statement:
MOE later issued a separate joint statement with the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), saying that "the school is committed to providing the education support the student needs to graduate, including via home-based learning".
In response to MOE's statements, the press release by the protestors wrote:
"Your recent statements on this matter have not acknowledged the harm your schools have done to trans students, nor committed to concrete actions to alleviate this harm. You have merely stated that your current practices are good enough when it is abundantly clear from the testimonies of trans students that they are not. MOE seems more invested in defending itself than in caring for the well-being of trans students.
The cost of MOE’s failures in eradicating these harmful practices is the health, well-being, and sometimes, the lives of LGBTQ+ students. And that is too great a cost for us to bear.
We urge MOE to acknowledge and apologise for the harm done by schools to LGBTQ+ students through their schools’ discriminatory practices, and to clearly and explicitly commit to end such discrimination in the education environment. This must include working closely with students themselves and LGBTQ+ groups to understand their concerns, and to draw on and implement their existing concrete ideas and expertise."
Top image via Kisten Han/Twitter.