National Coalition Against Censorship (USA), freeDimensional
and PEN International
July 17, 2014
As organizations committed to freedom of speech and to the universal human value of artistic and literary production, the USA-based National Coalition Against Censorship, PEN International and freeDimensonal are deeply concerned about the decision of the Singapore National Library Board to remove and pulp three children’s books: And Tango Makes Three, The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption, and Who’s In My Family: All About Our Families, reportedly over their portrayal of families with same sex parents. The decision comes shortly after three other children’s books about sexual health by Robie H. Harris, the author of Who’s in My Family, were also removed from the library system.
The removal of these books not only shows disrespect towards the citizens of Singapore, who should be allowed to make their own decisions about what to read, it also goes directly against Article 19 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as Article 14 of the Constitution of Singapore, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech. Physically destroying the books harkens back to the Nazi destruction of books about homosexuality, which has been universally condemned.
It is hard to imagine the true story of two male penguins at a zoo who adopted a penguin chick, a story about Chinese orphans being adopted by a mix of straight, gay and single parents, or a book which portrays many kinds of families, including those with same sex parents, would somehow present a threat to public order and morality. Indeed, ignorance and intolerance are likely to pose a greater threat to public order and morality than access to books about the realities of today’s families.
The widespread opposition to the ban is indicative of the books’ importance to parents and children within Singapore. While some parents may choose not to have their children read those books, it is not the role of the library, which is a repository of information, to impose that choice on everyone else: it is consumers who should decide what they choose to view. If a parent, educator or anyone else comes upon something they disagree with in a book, they have the right to close the book and express their opinion.
We strongly urge the Singapore government and the National Library Board to reverse the decision to ban and pulp the books.
National Coalition Against Censorship
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