Friday, May 1, 2009

Can Feminists Take Back Singapore's AWARE From An Antigay Church?

Big happenings in Singapore tomorrow.

For the last quarter century, the leading organizational advocate for the cause of women has been a group called AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research). AWARE has functioned tirelessly and effectively for equality in marriage rights, citizenship, the treatment of foreign domestic workers, and disenfranchised women across the island state.

Amazingly, AWARE has just been taken over in a coup by a group of conservative Christian Singaporean women concerned that AWARE was too "pro-gay".
It's a pretty crazy situation. A few months ago, a bunch of right-wing activists got many female members of the antigay Church Of Our Savior to quietly sign up as AWARE members. Dozens of them suddenly showed up at a general meeting and voted church members onto the Executive Committee. Then they fired staff and replaced them with church members, dismissed volunteer subcommittee chairs, excluded the former president from meetings, and literally changed the locks on the building. The church members' most significant motivation was to eliminate a force for gay rights in Singapore, but if a conservative church manages to take over a feminist organization, there's going to be a whole bunch of badness.

Tomorrow there's going to be another general meeting, and lots of people (including at least one of my students and a colleague in the department) have been trying to get women they know to go to the meeting. The plan is to hold a vote of no confidence in the right-wing activists who are now on the Executive Committee, and if that passes, have them replaced with better people. But it's fairly unclear how the meeting will go at this point -- there's some possibility of parliamentary trickery to avoid a vote of no confidence. Unfortunately, I'm going to be giving my moral philosophy class an exam during that time, so no on-the-scene liveblogging. But I'll keep you updated, and let's hope the real feminists win.
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