Update (19 April, 0830 SGT): The campaign has surpassed its goal, raising USD 54k.
Update (23 April): The campaign has raised USD 84k so far, over half of the total legal fees, which amount to USD 150k. The organizers have also clarified that while there’s some overlap, the team does not consist of exactly the same members as the Pink Dot committee.
Gay sex is a crime in Singapore. Yes, in a supposedly cosmopolitan city that is attracting a talented global workforce, the so-called Section 377A, a holdover from Singapore’s colonial era, forbids one male from committing an “act of gross indecency” with another male.
While not actively enforced, gay activists are now taking the fight to the courts with a legal challenge, hoping that the judge will strike 377A down as unconstitutional.
However, an unfavorable judgement was passed last week that passed the buck to the Singapore Parliament, which debated the issue years ago and concluded that the law must stand for fear of upsetting conservative Singapore.
The activists are not deterred however. Instead, they have decided to file an appeal, and in an unprecedented move, taken to global crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to defray legal costs. Unlike rival platform Kickstarter, Indiegogo allows users to fund causes of all kinds.
In less than a day, the campaign has raised USD 54k, smashing the USD 50k target. Indiegogo will collect 4 percent of the fees should the goal be reached, with an additional 3 percent deducted for credit card processing. The deadline is still two months away.
Crowdfunding has emerged organically in Singapore in recent months as a viable way for entrepreneurs, artists, and now activists to raise substantial money to fund their projects.
Last year, singer Inch Chua got USD 15,510 to fund the production of her new album, while indie cafe The Pigeonhole secured USD 9,025 to pay their outstanding rentals and move to a new location.
This year saw new highs for Singapore’s crowdfunding scene when Silverline and Bamboobee, both entrepreneurial projects with a social bent, received USD 53k and USD 39k respectively.
The use of crowdfunding for a social initiative is probably the first of its kind in the country.
But regardless of how much is raised, it’s unlikely that the government will capitulate to the campaign’s demands, despite countries like New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam making significant moves recently towards anti-discrimination.
Nonetheless, the activists are showing how the internet has become an effective enabler for anyone pursuing a cause.
The success of this campaign isn’t an accident. For years, its organizers have been building a strong social media platform called Pink Dot to advance LGBT-friendly initiatives. The movement, which has an impactful offline component, has even spread to Utah.
This latest campaign is the culmination of years of organizational work, tapping on a genuine desire for change among a large swath of the population.
The Pink Dollar has truly arrived in Singapore.