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Singapore bans one of Asia's largest annual gay parties (The Advocate / AP)
9 Jun, 2005

Singapore has banned one of Asia's largest annual gay-themed outdoor parties because it is "contrary to public interest," police said on Wednesday. The decision came a few months after a senior official in this tightly controlled Southeast Asian island nation blamed such parties for the rise in HIV infections among gays.

Hong Kong-based Fridae.com, an Internet-based community of gays and lesbians in Asia, had applied through its Singapore subsidiary, Jungle Media, for a permit to hold its annual "Nation" beach party in August. But the application has been turned down because "police assessment is that the event is likely to be organized as a gay party, which is contrary to public interest in general," a police statement said, without elaborating. The past four "Nation" parties were held in Singapore. At least 8,000 revelers attended the last one, generating an estimated $6 million in tourist revenue, organizers say.

On Fridae.com's Web site, organizers said they would hold this year's three-day "Nation '05" on Thailand's resort island of Phuket instead.

In March, Singapore's junior health minister, Balaji Sadasivan, suggested that a rise in HIV infections among gays in Singapore was linked to gatherings like the "Nation" parties, which, he said, "allowed gays from high-prevalence societies to fraternize with local gay men, seeding the infection in the local community."

Fridae.com chief Stuart Koe said on the Web site that he was disappointed by Singapore's rejection of the license application. "This is a direct contradiction to previous calls for embracing of diversity," he said.

Singapore, a country of 4 million people, has taken some steps to loosen its notorious social controls. But it bans gay sex, defining it as "an act of gross indecency" punishable by a maximum of two years in jail. There have been few prosecutions, however. The number of new AIDS cases in Singapore reached 311 in 2004, nearly 30% more than in the previous year. (AP)

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