Singapore warns U.S. embassy over webinar with LGBT group

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FILE PHOTO: Participants of Pink Dot, an annual event organised in support of the LGBT community, pose for a photo at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park in Singapore

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Socially-conservative Singapore on Wednesday said it "noted with regret" that the U.S. embassy in the city-state had co-hosted a webinar with a local LGBT support group earlier this week.

Multi-ethnic Singapore has strict laws regulating public assembly. Foreigners are prohibited from participating in events dealing with a political cause.

"Ministry of foreign affairs has reminded the U.S. Embassy that foreign missions here are not to interfere in our domestic social and political matters, including issues such as how sexual orientation should be dealt with in public policy," it said in a statement.

"These are choices for only Singaporeans to debate and decide."

The May 17 webinar marked the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia and focused on the economic advantages of LGBTQI+ equality and inclusion around the world, the U.S. embassy in Singapore said.

LGBTQI refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and/or queer and intersex.

"The U.S. Embassy regularly works with civil society partners on a wide range of issues to build awareness and advance the human rights of all persons," it added. The event was co-hosted with support group Oogachaga.

Under Singapore law, sex between men is punishable by up to two years in jail, though prosecutions are rare. Previous attempts to overturn the colonial-era law have failed.

Oogachaga's Executive Director Leow Yangfa said the organisation "notes with surprise" the Singapore government's statement.

Leow said none of the speakers in the invitation-only webinar discussed how sexual orientation should be dealt with in public policy.

(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Martin Petty)

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