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Asia's biggest gay party starts in strait-laced Singapore (Agence France-Presse)
8 Aug, 2004

three-day gay and lesbian festival that organisers have claimed is the largest in Asia got off to a rousing start in Singapore -- where homosexual acts are still illegal.

At least 6,000 partygoers from across the region danced from Saturday night into the early hours of Sunday at the opening event of Nation.04, organiser and regional gay website Fridae.com said.

The second leg of the festival, to take place on the eve of Singapore's 39th independence day, takes place Sunday night on Sentosa island, with revellers urged to dress up in Singapore's national colours of red and white.

Half of the revellers at the opening party in the Suntec City Convention Centre were mainly from neighouring countries like Thailand, Taiwan and Japan, the website said.

"It was a very good night," Stuart Koe, chief executive of Fridae.com, told AFP Sunday. "Based on what people are saying, they can't wait for tonight so I think this is a very good sign."

Sunday's event will feature visual effects with US club veteran Billy Carroll and his Taiwanese counterpart David Sung providing the music.

Some 8,000 people are expected at the Sentosa party, Koe said, adding that it was deliberately timed to coincide with the eve of Singapore's independence day so that everyone could celebrate regardless of their sexual orientation.

"We are Singapore citizens too and we have a right to celebrate National Day and it has grown to such a scale that we have foreigners coming in," Koe said.

Homosexual acts are still outlawed in Singapore even though the government has taken a more tolerant approach to the community and more gay-friendly facilities and shops have opened.

The city state has refused to decriminalise homosexual acts due to opposition from the conservative majority Chinese population as well as from Malay Muslims, while it maintains a ban on gay groups registering as societies.

Fridae.com has organised every Nation party since its inception in 2001 but this year is the first time that the party will stretch over three days.

The final party will take place on Monday at the city's Zouk Club.

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