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Singapore's National Library Board has pulled three children's books from libraries, including one about penguins. Why, you ask? (Via Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0)
The books are about penguins and humans living alternative lifestyles — a highly controversial subject in the relatively conservative country.
One of the books is based on a true story of two male penguins at a zoo raising a baby penguin. Another book includes a lesbian couple in the story line, while the third book is about a biracial couple and their family. (Via BBC)
It's not clear exactly what caused the government board to make the decision, but Time reports it might have followed a library user's complaint.
On its Facebook page, the National Library Board defended its action saying: "[The] NLB takes a pro-family and cautious approach in identifying titles for our young visitors."
A Forbes contributor who grew up in the country criticized the decision saying: "Singapore has long upheld religious tolerance and racial harmony as a core tenet of the country. But to pretend a section of society doesn’t exist, reeks of intolerance to me."
On top of that, a lawmaker in Singapore told the South China Morning Post she thinks the decision was made too quickly: " ... what is questionable here is that the authorities have decided to pulp the books based on a complaint, with no further review or consideration for other points of view."
The removal of the books has brought attention to some of the more repressive policies in place in that part of the world — specifically geared toward gays. Gay sex is illegal in Singapore, for example, although multiple outlets say it's rarely prosecuted.
Overall, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission says treatment of lesbians, bisexual women and transgender people in Asia includes: "electro shock treatment as aversion therapy, threats of rape to make you straight ... police kidnapping, family violence and media stigmatization."
Late last year in Dubai a firefighter was on trial for what was described as a gay handshake with a fellow firefighter. The Huffington Post reports it was described that way because the firefighter shook the other man's hand while "tingling it with his middle finger."
In Singapore over 4,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the books to be put back on the shelves, but, according to the BBC, the government says the decision is final.