On 15 August 2018, I went for an interview with Afa’s executive director, Sumita Banerjee. The aim of this interview was to clarify the potential difficulties that they have faced as a non-state actor and whether or not they recognise the rising legitimacy of non-state actors in Singapore. Surprisingly, she stated that Afa had never faced any conflicts with the government and has always gained support from them since the beginning. This was surprising to me because I assumed that there would have been some barriers being a non-state actor in Singapore. (Especially knowing the difficulties that organisations like PinkDot are facing.)
Moreover throughout the interview, she provided me with interesting insights. For instance, she argued that the stigma around the LGBT community and HIV/AIDS exists in Singapore because it is a collectivist society. In contrast to the Western individualist societies, collectivist societies such as Singapore, Japan or South Korea expects one to conform to the societal ‘norm’ of one marrying the opposite sex and creating a family. Hence, I was able to acknowledge the relevance of cultural relativism, when analysing stigma in a certain society.
Furthermore, this interview was helpful for me to figure out the reasons for the Afa and PinkDot’s contrasting relationship with the government. Afa’s main focus on health enables the government to be cooperative with Afa and provide them with a seat when discussing the policies about HIV/AIDS. On the other hand, PinkDot’s advocacy of LGBT rights makes the government perceive their work in a negative light.
I also asked the reasons why the number of volunteers has been increasing over the years. She stated that the younger generation is more aware of human rights issues and Afa targets issues such as; equality, medicine, biomedical technology, human rights, LGBT rights, access to healthcare, etc. Then I became curious if she thinks the rising support results as rising legitimacy of the organisation. Interestingly, she argues that Afa has always been legitimate and has been perceived legitimate or well-established from 1988 (year of establishment).
Therefore, the interview provided me with interesting insights and made me recognise Afa’s strong ties with the government.
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