Singaporean minister defends banning of library books that show 'non-conventional family life'

Politician Yaacob Ibrahim said the government must abide by 'community norms' following the banning of stories about two gay penguins and single parent adoption

A Singaporean politician has defended the withdrawal of three books from its national libraries that do not promote the notion of “conventional families,” following widespread criticism at the move.

The National Library Board (NLB) took three titles off the shelves in its children’s section following complaints from members of the public.

One of the banned items, ‘And Tango Makes Three’, is a 2005 illustrated book about the true story of two male penguins which raise a chick together.

The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption’ is a 2002 book that details the journey of a lesbian couple, a single mother and two married couples which travel to China to meet their adoptive daughters for the first time.

These two books, in addition to ‘Who's In My Family: All About Our Families,’ will be destroyed by the library authority following requests by parents.

The NLB said that it shares the concerns of its users and that it must ensure books are age-appropriate by taking a “cautious approach.”

In a statement, Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, said he wished to "explain the government's approach."

He said that the NLB's judgement is aligned with the social norms currently prevalent in Singapore and refutes the idea that it could help to “shift these.”

“NLB’s decision was guided by community norms. Public libraries serve the community and it is right that they give consideration to community norms,” Mr Ibrahim said in a post that was shared by the NLB on its Facebook page.

Yaacob Ibrahim defended the decision “The prevailing norms, which the overwhelming majority of Singaporeans accept, support teaching children about conventional families, but not about alternative, non-traditional families, which is what the books in question are about.

“Like in other societies, there is considerable effort by some in Singapore to shift these norms, and equally strong pushback by those who don’t wish to see change.

“Societies are never static, and will change over time. But NLB’s approach is to reflect existing social norms, and not to challenge or seek to change them.”

He added that the government is not telling children what to read as that is left with parents who can buy a particular book. He said that local government must instead decide “what books should be made readily available to children who are sometimes unsupervised” in the library.

The NLB faced intense criticism following the revelation that it had removed two of the books at the behest of a local resident.

According to Yahoo Singapore, this resident had posted on Facebook the library’s written response to him, before he implored others to “scrutinise the catalogue and not allow such children's books to go under the radar screen.”

The NLB has been facing a backlash since its letter went public, leading to two online petitions with thousands of signatures pleading with the library authority to reinstate the books.

A war of words has since erupted on social media between those who support the NLB and those who don’t.

One irked Singaporean resident said: “What right does NLB have to destroy precious books bought with taxpayers money? At such times our Govt needs to show it has leadership and not leave it to the NLB to decide on such an outrageous action that harks back to Dark Ages of book burning to suppress knowledge…. Where do the govt agencies and institutions draw the line if they start using the so called pro-family stance to defend their actions? … This is not the kind of Singapore that most Singaporeans want to have.”

Another, in opposition to the aforementioned view, said: “I fully support what NLB is doing. Do not be swayed by those anti-family deviant groups of vocal nuts. The family unit is basic building block or cell in a functional society. Whilst we do not interfere with their bizarre alternative lifestyle but pls keep it in their bedrooms. Openly parading their bizarre unnatural behavior is no go in our society. We don't want innocent minds to be poisoned by them. Period!”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence