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Responsa to the Press Conference by AWARE’s New Exco

on . Posted in Feminism.

The past few days, after the new guard came out and declared their motivations and objectives, and revealed Dr Thio Su Mien to be their mentor, there have been a variety of responses from various sectors and individuals. We collect and republish for you, a selection of responses.

But first, we would like to remind all AWARE members that the EOGM on 2nd May will be held at SINGAPORE EXPO HALL 2. Official notices from AWARE states that Registration will begin at 12noon, EGM at 2p.m. Bring your NRIC for admission. Please check SAVE AWARE for the latest news.


Press Conference by the Old Guard

24th April 2009

We are glad that the truth is finally out. What happened at AWARE AGM on 28 March was a planned takeover by a group of women, guided by their ‘feminist mentor’ Dr Thio Su Mien, who have taken it upon themselves to, as they put it, ‘bring AWARE back to its original, very noble, objective’.

The issue is not whether AWARE has indeed strayed from its original aims. What is really at stake is the space for a diversity of views in our cosmopolitan and pluralistic society. Singapore is a multiracial, mulitreligious and multicultural society. As we progress, the diversity will grow. We have to be able to co-exist, to live with differing views on many issues.

What has happened at AWARE is a threat to Singapore’s pluralistic society. A ‘feminist mentor’ takes exception to some of AWARE’s programmes, decides to monitor the organisation’s activities, and then encourages women she knows to challenge AWARE; they could have invited AWARE to a seminar to discuss the programmes; they could have written to the media.

Instead, these women joined AWARE in the few months before the AGM and then voted their representatives onto the Executive Committee ‘ without giving any indication that they were acting together. They continued with this stance until Thursday when they finally told the truth.

The cannot be the way forward for Singapore. We cannot have people acting like moral vigilantes running around and taking over established organisations. If Dr Thio and her mentees feel that AWARE has strayed from its original aims, or that some of the programmes are unsuitable, then go ahead and criticize AWARE, but do so openly.

Better still, form their own organization to offer parallel programmes with what they see as the right messages, and let the public choose which they prefer. Their motives and actions will then be visible to all. There will be transparency and accountability.

Video of press conference



Personal Statement by Tan Joo Hymn, a former president of AWARE

As news reports get more sensationalised every day, I thought it would be helpful if you heard from directly from someone on the “inside”.

I joined AWARE in 1999 and have been on the Exco from 2000 to 2008. I was still active over the last year even though I’m no longer on the Exco, helping out in ad hoc projects etc.

To me, there are 2 separate issues here:

1. The way they took over the Exco
2. The allegations made by the new Exco about the old AWARE

1. From March 28 to 23 April, they claimed not to know each other before the AGM, and to have no agenda taking over AWARE. But what they said are full of contradictions. Please see for more details, and I include some choice ones below.

Yes, I agree that the Old AWARE had many areas for improvement, just like many other NGOs, but that does not mean that we deserve to be taken over. This matter is all the more sensitive because it appears that it was engineered by members of the same church. Not talking about religion here is a bit like not talking about the great big elephant standing in the room. Let me give you 2 hypothetical situations:

- A group of atheists decided that they have had enough of people worshipping what they think is a non-existent God. So, on Sundays, a large group of them go to a church and occupy most of the seats in the church, denying regular church goers the space to sit and listen to the sermon, and receive communion.

- A coalition of butchers think that Buddhists and Hindus are the reason that the sale of beef has gone down, so they carry entire carcasses of cows to Buddhists and Hindu temples demanding that the followers be now allowed to eat beef.

Far-fetched? But not really that different from what’s happened here:
A group of (Christian) women believe that homosexuality is a sin to be condemned and engineer a take over of AWARE to ensure that AWARE now sends a message that homosexuality, pre-marital sex and anal sex are now classified as negative (and presumably to say that abortion should be outlawed).

We live in a multi-religious, multi-cultural pluralistic society. It is very dangerous when a vocal minority is allowed to take over another group to silence them and to subvert their mission.

2. The allegations made.

The Comprehensive Sexuality Education is but one programme out of many that AWARE does. Homosexuality takes up all of 2 sentences (and less than 5 minutes) in a workshop that lasts 3 hours, 6 if you include the advanced module.

The 2 sentences that have so many people up in arms are: Homosexuality is normal – true. (discusses as a variant like left-handedness). Homosexuality as a word is neutral (not positive or negative).

Taken in the scientific context, these 2 sentences are accurate. We believe in providing as accurate and up to date information as possible for young people to make up their own minds. For eg. Christians believe in the Creation. But evolution is taught in schools. Are schools then teaching children not to believe in the Creation?!

We also tell the students that some religions have their own views about homosexuality and sex, and that they should respect their own religious and cultural norms, but not to impose it on others. Ie. We believe that it is up to parents and families to provide moral and spiritual guidance to students, while we give information.

In any case, this completely detracts from the 24 years of work done by AWARE. See


Response by the Ministry of Education with regard to the Comprehensive Sexuality Education:


April 28, 2009

Reply to Recent Comments and Claims About AWAREs Sexuality Education Programme in Schools

1We refer to recent claims and comments about AWARE’s sexuality education programme in schools.

2Sexuality education conducted in MOE schools is premised on the importance of the family and respect for the values and beliefs of the different ethnic and religious communities on sexuality issues. The aim is to help students make responsible values-based choices on matters involving sexuality.

3Core programmes are delivered by teachers but schools do collaborate with other agencies in delivering additional modules. However, in doing so, schools must ensure that any programmes run by external agencies are secular and sensitive to the multi-religious make-up of our society. Parents can choose to opt their children out of these programmes.

4Last year, 11 secondary schools engaged AWARE to run workshops for their students. The number of students involved in each school ranged from about 20 to 100, and each workshop lasted 3 hours. The objectives of these workshops were to provide students with accurate information on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)/HIV, to help students understand the consequences of premarital sexual activity, and to equip students with skills such as decision-making and resisting negative peer pressure.

5AWARE also conducted assembly talks, typically of 45-minute duration, for students in a few secondary schools. Some of the areas covered in the talks included body image, self-esteem, eating disorders, teenage pregnancies, sexual harassment and the role of women in today’s context.

6The schools that engaged AWARE found that the content and messages of the sessions conducted were appropriate for their students and adhered to guidelines to respect the values of different religious groups. The schools did not receive any negative feedback from students who attended the workshops and talks or their parents.

7In particular, MOE has also not received any complaint from parents or Dr Thio Su Mien, who was reported to have made specific claims about sexuality education in our schools. MOE has contacted Dr Thio Su Mien to seek clarifications and facts to substantiate her claims.

8If parents and members of the public know of specific instances where guidelines have not been adhered to, they should report them directly to MOE to investigate. MOE recognises that sexuality education is sensitive. In conducting these programmes, the views of parents will be respected and values taught should not deviate from the social norms accepted by mainstream society in Singapore.


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