SINGAPORE: The National Library Board (NLB) has received 11 complaints from the public in the last four years over titles with homosexual content, said Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran in Parliament on Monday (Sep 10).
In response to a question from Nominated Member of Parliament Kok Heng Leun, Mr Iswaran revealed that eight were eventually moved to sections for older readers and three were assessed as suitable to stay put in the section for children and young adults.
NLB also received feedback on 23 titles due to race, religion and “other topics”, he added.
For these, seven were moved to sections for older readers and eight remained in their original locations. The other eight were Malay children’s titles - Agama, Tamadun Dan Arkeologi (or Religion, Civilisation and Archeology) - which were withdrawn in June last year due to “controversial religious content”.
The latter series was alleged to have contained material insulting religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism.
Three of the books with homosexual content were initially set to be destroyed in 2014 in a move that attracted global reportage. But after national backlash in the form of petitions and protests, two were moved to the adult section instead: And Tango Makes Three, about two male penguins raising a baby and The White Swan Express, which features children adopted by gay parents.
Who's In My Family?, which mentions gay couples, was pulped.
The illegality of sex between men in Singapore has re-emerged as a hot-button topic after India repealed a similar British colonial-era legislation last week. Law Minister K Shanmugam and veteran diplomat Tommy Koh have spoken on the matter and thousands have signed petitions to either scrap or keep the penal code provision known as "377A".
Mr Iswaran said the NLB selects titles “based on a collection policy which aims to provide age-appropriate and diverse reading material”.
“The NLB seeks to balance the need for a wide-ranging library collection with sensitivity towards our community norms,” he added. “Beyond its team of book selectors, the NLB also relies on pre-publication information from publishers and vendors, and reviews from library journals. In some instances, review copies are requested so that the NLB can assess these books in greater detail.
“In addition, the Library Consultative Panel, comprising citizens from a wide cross-section of our society, was established in 2015 to provide diverse community perspectives and recommendations to NLB on books which are being reviewed due to content concerns raised by members of the public.”