The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Thursday morning gave Singapore's SlutWalk organisers the green light to proceed without a police permit for their event this Sunday.
This follows some difficulty that the organisers had with the Singapore Police Force (SPF), which initially informed them that they would need to apply for one, even though organisers of previous events of similar nature were not required to do so before.
Addressing queries from Yahoo! Singapore, a spokesperson from the ministry explained that police required the group to apply for a police permit initially because of "the possibility of foreigners participating in demonstrations", since they had said that foreign attendees would not be excluded.
"We have since received the organisers' appeal where they have explained that foreigners would only be present as bystanders and there will be no foreigners speaking or demonstrating at the event," the spokesperson continued. "On this basis, we have acceded to the appeal and have kept the organisers informed of the latest development," she added.
In response, SlutWalk organising committee member Cher Tan told Yahoo! Singapore that the organisers were "extremely pleased" with the MHA's decision.
The 24-year-old added that representatives from the MHA had also assured them of the SPF's agreement not to impose a requirement for a permit.
The SlutWalk Singapore organisers first faced friction with the SPF when they were informed on 8 November of the need to apply for a police permit before Sunday's event could proceed.
Seven women aged between 21 and 55 are behind the SlutWalk event in Singapore. They seek to raise awareness about sexual assault, victim-blaming and slut-shaming. With its beginnings in Toronto, Canada, SlutWalk has been held in numerous countries over this year, including Peru, South Africa, South Korea, India and Indonesia.
Explaining the situation, Tan, who is among the seven, said that the group had been given approval by NParks in August to hold their event at Hong Lim Park and under the terms and conditions, they need not apply for a police permit.
On 8 November, however, the organisers were told by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) that they needed a separate permit. Unaware of the exemption clause, one of the group's members then went ahead to apply for the permit.
When organisers sought clarification from the SPF, the SPF said that the presence of foreigners would require a police permit, according to Tan, who showed the correspondence between SPF and the organisers.
Organisers then reiterated in their response that their version of SlutWalk will not be conducted as a protest or demonstration.
Sunday’s event will be “carnival-style” with performances, speeches and informational booths, without protests or formations, unlike those done in events such as Pink Dot, explained Tan.
“How do you define ‘participation’ (by foreigners in the event) in this respect? The definition of the term in the Public Order Act doesn’t refer to (them) being bystanders,” she argued, adding that organisers were puzzled over the need for a permit.
When the event draws closer, Tan said organisers will remind participants that SlutWalk Singapore is meant to be a gathering and not a protest or demonstration.
“We have already in all our publicity materials stated very clearly that it’s a gathering, so I believe the attendees will adhere,” she said.
SlutWalk Singapore will be held this Sunday at the Speakers’ Corner of Hong Lim Park, alongside SlutWalk events happening in Hong Kong, Bangalore and Mumbai. Click here for more information, or visit their website at http://slutwalksg.com.