Singapore has ordered the destruction of a children’s book inspired by a real-life story of two male penguins raising a baby chick in New York’s zoo after it was deemed inappropriate.
The National Library Board, which runs 26 public libraries in Singapore, pulled the book from the shelves this weekend and said it would “pulp” the copies of three titles, citing complaints their content goes against Singapore’s family values.
The books are And Tango Makes Three, about a male-male penguin couple in the Central Park Zoo, The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption, which involves a lesbian couple, and Who’s In My Family: All About Our Families.
“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,” said Yaacob Ibrahim, the minister of information.
He added: “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.”
It was not clear how and when the books will be destroyed. The decision triggered an online petition and an open letter to spare the books with thousands of signatures collected. Some are calling for a boycott of the libraries and their events.
In recent months, religious conservatives in the wealthy, multi-cultural city-state of 5.4 million people have become more vocal in opposing gay rights. On paper, gay sex remains a criminal offense in Singapore, although authorities rarely enforce the British colonial-era legislation.
Last month, Singapore witnessed its largest gay-rights rally with 26,000 in attendance.