I Love Children campaign is ‘scaremongering’

From ‘Fertility ads give birth to controversy’, 5 Feb 2016, article by Tan Weizhen, ST

A voluntary welfare group advocating early parenthood has defended an advertising campaign featuring four controversial cartoons.

The ads – which show sperm and eggs in situations such as rowing together in a boat or playing darts – were placed in train stations by I Love Children (ILC) this week, with slogans like “Even the best marksman could miss the target” and “Women are born with a finite number of eggs”.

The group hopes they will encourage people to conceive earlier while they are more fertile, but they have been criticised by some members of the public for being distasteful and insensitive.

Women’s rights group the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) has called the campaign “scaremongering“, saying it might have an emotional impact on women who might be infertile or who have had miscarriages.

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It’s not just married folks without children who’ll be irked by the naggy tone of the ads. Even those with curious kids who’ve seen the ad will have trouble explaining to them what a sperm is and where it comes from, before they start asking you whether those two happy creatures are new Pokemons.

Like all evangelical fertility campaigns, I Love Children only presents a one-sided rosy picture of childbearing, and with it being launched in perfect timing with CNY, it’ll only add more fuel to the fire for those having to face the traditional interrogation by pesky relatives during visiting. This sudden urgency to bump up baby stats is a far cry from the ‘anti-natalist’ movement in the 70’s, where you’re advised to ‘take your time’ before settling down. If you ‘take your time’ these days, you’ll get parents giving you dirty looks assuming you’re a ‘children-hater’. You can ‘take your time’ to choose the right primary school, the right career, the right house, but when it comes to babies, it’s ‘WTF are you waiting for already!’

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From ‘Fertility and the Family:An overview of Pro-natalist Population Policies in Singapore’ Theresa Wong, Branda S.A Yeoh

To be fair, it’s hard to come up with a fertility campaign with the right nuance. Some mild threatening is needed for it to be effective. Like ‘Children – Life would be empty without them’. This would make sense in the 90’s. Today, if you don’t have children of your own, there’s always Netflix and line dancing to fill the gaping void in your otherwise lonely, miserable existence.

In 2013, some NTU students came up with a ‘Singaporean Fairytale’, which featured ‘negative stereotypes’ in the form of a Golden Goose laying eggs, with the terrifying warning that your ‘egg making device may become rusty and old’. Again, the usual scare tactics of that timebomb ticking away in your oven. Time to put a bun in it!

In 2012, Mentos created ‘National Night’, urging you to ‘perform your civic duty’, and tapping your partner’s body like an ‘EZ-link card’. Cringeworthy, but for different reasons.

ILC, you don’t need to tell me what I already know. Jubilee Babies, SG50 baby bonuses, enhanced parental benefits. We already have agents out there, intentionally or unintentionally, promoting procreation for free ALL THE TIME. Not just the Government, parents and kaypoh aunties, but every father mother son who’s ever posted a montage of their bundle of flippin’ joy on Facebook. I’m reminded of putting my sperm to good use everytime I send a Whatsapp message to a friend with his baby as his icon.  If I see a baby dressed like Obi Wan Kenobi, I get the urge to impregnate the nearest womb I see. When I see a mini-series about families with 8 kids it gives me a newfound passion for harem-making.

So there’s no need for pro-lifers to hire graphic designers to draw cartoon sperm and ova rowing a boat, doing pole vaults or doing the Lambada to give us the warm, tingly  ‘AWWWWW..SO CUTE..LET’S HAVE SEX NOW’ moment. In fact, these ads do the exact opposite. Like a badgering aunty telling you so-and-so just had a fourth kid and still got that promotion at work. It saps the romance right out of any form of sexual intercourse, oral, vaginal or otherwise. Unless you people are telling me ‘Screw romance and do it like they do on the Discovery Channel!’

In short, money wasted, which could have been put to better use helping people struggling with kids so badly they resort to giving them up for adoption, accidental teenage mums thinking of throwing their neonates down the rubbish chute, or going into some fund for assisted reproduction for desperate couples. If you Love Children so much, help children that are living NOW, not play bedroom Peeping Tom, matchmaker, and midwife.

This is all we need.

More teenage boys cutting themselves

From ‘Rising trend of self-harm among the young’, 28 Dec 15, article by Amelia Teng, ST

More teenagers are cutting themselves on their arms or legs in an attempt to cope with emotional stress or frustration. The trend of self-harming is also becoming apparent in younger children and in an increasing number of boys, according to new data from the Singapore Children’s Society. Fifty teens reported self-harming last year, up from 44 in 2013 and 36 a decade ago.

The proportion aged 14 and below was 66 per cent in 2013 and 60 per cent last year, compared to 56 per cent in 2005. Last year, 36 per cent of those who injured themselves were boys, up from 28 per cent in 2005.

…Dr Carol Balhetchet, senior director for youth services at the Singapore Children’s Society, said: “The generation today is under a lot more stress to achieve and do well – not just academically but in their social status, peer groups and family units.

“Boys are also subject to the emotional stress and they don’t just channel their energy into physical behaviour like in the past.”

She cited an example of a 12-year-old who cut himself because he did not fare as well as he had hoped for in his Primary School Leaving Examination last year.

The emotional release from the act formerly known as ‘self-mutilation‘ has been compared to a ‘runner’s high’ according to psychiatrist Daniel Fung in 2008. Other experts explain that boys traditionally vent their emotions through ‘sports, drinking or smoking’. So what does Dr Carol imply when our boys don’t ‘channel their energy’ into physical behaviour anymore? Do they live out their killing fantasies stuck at home playing Grand Theft Auto instead of going out into the great outdoors chopping wood, hunting rabbits or climbing trees?

Today, ‘cutting’ has been ‘acronymalised’ as NSSI, or non-suicidal self-injury, and includes other forms of violence such as scratching or burning. Defined as the direct, repetitive, intentional injury of one’s body tissue, without suicidal intent, that is not ‘socially accepted’, NSSI has earned itself an inclusion in the DSM-5, or the official diagnostic handbook on mental disorders. So not only do we have suicidal teens, but we have non-suicidal, self-slashing ones with mental illness as well.

What complicates matters is when some kids do it for fun and to copy their peers because it’s ‘cool’. In the mid noughties, we feared an epidemic of ’emo-influenced’ cutting. A group of 12 year old girls forged a blood pact by cutting themselves in the school toilet. Emo bands like My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy and their black eyeliner continue to inspire fashionable melancholy in our teenagers. Today, the one making us cry in anguish is Adele. So perhaps not everything can be blamed on the PSLE. Sometimes it’s the fault of some goth fad that you hope teens eventually grow out of, when the scars on their wrists serve more as a reminder of the foolishness, rather than trophies, of their youth.

With a term as vague as ‘self-harm’, you’d need to list some exclusions. Tattoos and body-piercing, for example, cause extensive tissue damage, but isn’t a sign of madness (according to most people). Nail-biting and scab picking also do not fall under NSSI. If I’m a member of a satanic cult and I have to bite my finger and bleed into a bowl to make a sacrifice, it does not count either. I have this habit of biting or cracking my knuckles when I’m stressed, and poking fat zits and watching the pus ooze out gives me immense pleasure, but nobody’s going to admit me into IMH for self-harming. So technically, if I’m in need of some ‘release’ and get high jabbing the tip of my pinkie with the injector that diabetics use before testing their blood sugar, I would still be deemed as engaging in ‘self-harming’ behaviour because the NSSI doesn’t take into account how much actual pain I experience.

I’m not sure how the term evolved from self-mutilation to self-harm/injury. In early 20th century, ‘self-mutilation’ by cutting your own fingers off was a means of escaping conscription into the army. Or it could refer to you making an offering to a bloodthirsty deity. According to Google’s Ngram, the use of the term started picking up from the early 70’s, peaking just before the turn of the millennium, before dipping, presumably because it was making way for the less violent sounding ‘self-harm’.

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Worse, you could be ‘self-harming’ without actually realising it. Experts call this ‘indirect NSSI’, which entails being involved in abusive relationships, eating disorders, binge drinking and ‘risky or reckless behaviour’. For kids, it could be engaging in parkour and risk jumping to their deaths, deliberately provoking a violent parent and asking for a beating, or fooling around with strangers on the Internet.  In other words, ‘self-destructive’ behaviour.

I believe we all, at some point in our lives, have indulged in some self-destruction to varying degrees, otherwise we would not have lived. Who has not banged on a keyboard, kicked a piece of furniture or tried to impress someone by dashing across the road with a bunch of flowers? If these psychiatric experts had their way, almost anything we do may be a medicalised as a subconscious attempt to self-harm, directly or indirectly. Maybe, as Freddie Mercury of Queen put it, we’re all ‘one card short of a full deck’.

Kiasu parents compiling top PSLE scores online

 

From ‘Parents compile online lists of PSLE top scores’, 30 Nov 2015, article by Calvin Yang, ST

A move to stop revealing the names and scores of top performers at the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) to reduce the emphasis on academic results has not stopped parents from compiling their own lists of top scores.

When primary schools withheld the scores of their high-fliers after the PSLE results were released last Wednesday, some parents went online to assemble unofficial lists of aggregate scores attained by the supposed top pupils in their children’s schools.

They told The Straits Times that these lists give them some indication of whether their children have a shot at getting into “brand name” secondary schools here.

Engineer Daniel Yeo, 44, whose son got his results last week, said: “It is about managing expectations. At the end of the day, we don’t want our child to be disappointed if he can’t get into a particular school.

‘At the end of the day’, when results are out, no parent for all practical purposes, cares if MOE claims that the reason why top and bottom PSLE scores are not disclosed is to ‘align practices with the emphasis on holistic development and all round excellence’. 

Without official announcements from MOE, we now have instead rumour, speculation and questionable ‘crowdsourcing’ on education forums like Kiasu Parents. Now people don’t just make assumptions of what the ‘best’ schools are, but which among these unofficial lists are the ‘worst’. When it comes to the PSLE, there’s no limit to how creative our parents can get, even though ‘creativity’ is not something you’d associate most Singaporean kids with.

As a consolation to those who did not fare so well, the media gets famous people to confess their ‘terrible’ PSLE results to public. Like ex-gangster turned lawyer Josephus Tan’s middling 183 for example. Sometimes happy successful people are where they are now not despite their atrocious PSLE score, but BECAUSE of it. Maybe to get a more ‘holistic’ explanation of why the rest of your life is not determined by a 3-digit number, they should interview not just winners at life but disgraced failures too, people who are obviously very smart and can ace the PSLE with one eye closed, but end up as storybook villains, like folks from a megachurch going to prison for corruption. So you can tell your kid that spending your education in a ‘middle-class’ school doesn’t mean you won’t descend into a life of sin and debauchery.   In any case, you’re still giving undue attention to The Score, which is exactly what MOE does not want.

This isn’t the first time people obsessed with PSLE ranking bypassed the MOE’s gag order. You can also gauge how good a secondary school is by ranking their cut-off scores. Despite not divulging top scorers, schools continue to honour kids who score ‘above 250’, which already tells you that anything less than 250 is mediocre. And then there are braggy-ass parents who insist on telling the world on Facebook how well their children did, which eventually will draw other FB parents into a heated T-score comparison war. My kid went up on stage but yours didn’t. HAHAHA.

Not many parents are willing to groom their children into artists like the Holycrap family. The urge to keep up with the Jones’s is part and parcel of not just the Singaporean but human psyche, so for the rest of us, with perfectly average children with no special talent to exploit, the PSLE is the proverbial trial by fire that allows parents and their kids to express and exaggerate that survival instinct, more so in a potboiler society where high office candidacy is still restricted to degree holders, and children have nothing much to live for other than homework and CCAs.

It’s dog eat dog, winner takes all, and the T-score is the golden snitch, the battle scar, the trophy on the shelf. I don’t care if that guy on stage in the top 1% is a douchebag, his score is an aspiration. And that’s what the PSLE, and the MOE’s futile diversions from it, is doing to us all. We celebrate a top score as if the kid has just won in life, while other kids with non-academic accomplishments like musical or sporting talent are given a brief nod, not a standing ovation. We’re engrossed in the numbers game to the point that we even make PSLE jokes of the PSI when it hits the 290s.

One Jurong West Secondary School principal exposed the hypocrisy behind the dictum ‘every school is a good school‘ by asking how many of our elite actually put their children in neighbourhood schools. Every school will want to distinguish themselves from the rest. Every school has its own tradition of excellence, however you want to define it, in academia or otherwise. That’s all part of the ‘branding’. Even if I say to hell with the PSLE and decide to push my child towards Wushu mastery, I would have to choose carefully. I’d go for one with a track record of winning competitions, just like how a kiasu parent who wants his child to become a rocket scientist would track PSLE scores in addition to how their science team fares in Robot Olympiads.

If the MOE wants every school to be as ‘good’ as the other, then it’ll have to do much more than playing hide and seek with PSLE scores, which desperate parents have the means to sniff out anyway.  It has to come down hard on schools known for their ‘exclusivity’ to a certain class of Singaporeans. It has to do away with this mindset that top dollar gives you top education. It has to review the entire GEP scheme. The top brass should have no shame telling people that their kid is working part time at McDonalds’ to pay for an education in arts or drama. We’d have to find a cure for this tuition epidemic. We’ll need to stop rich people from moving house just to get a better chance at securing the school ‘of their choice’. If we continue to jail parents for lying about their addresses, then the ministry has failed in its mission.

Yet at the same time, we shouldn’t succumb to the ‘Zuckerberg’ myth that results are not important, that you could drop out of school and become a internet multibillionaire. And we shouldn’t bring everyone down to the common denominator like some socialist utopian state. Ultimately, we don’t want to hear if this school is as ‘good’ as that school. What we want is this – It doesn’t matter which school you go to or how well you did. It’s what you made of your education, and who you are that’s most important.

Unfair treatment of single mums a deterrent to unwanted pregnancies

From ‘Unequal benefits for single unwed mums a matter of deterrence’, 3 Aug 15, Voices, Today

(Sum Siew Kee): I agree with the writer of “Unwed mums did make choices that led to their situation” (Aug 1), and I wish to add a point. Some people argue for more benefits on the grounds that the child is innocent. While this is true, the child is also the parents’ responsibility.

For something to be a strong disincentive, it often must go beyond affecting the person himself. Nothing is more motivating than preventing harm from coming to the people one loves. For example, jail terms are a deterrent not only because of the unpleasant confinement, but also the loss of income, which may create hardship for the offender’s family.

Likewise, loan sharks ask for their client’s address because they can incentivise their clients to pay their debt by inflicting some pain on their family. Kidnapping a person and asking for ransom would work better than torturing him directly. Terrorists, criminals and the justice system understand this principle.

In the case of benefits for single mothers, if we intend to deter people from unwanted pregnancies, we must make good on the threat of inadequate support for a child born out of wedlock, otherwise the deterrent will not work. In conclusion, the matter is a balance between social justice and setting the right incentives.

The writer sounds like he holds a Masters in Criminal Psychology, using hard economics to justify why not treating single moms as we would typical parents is a form of ‘social justice’. What’s missing from this simplistic view of an ancient human predicament is the apparent failure to appreciate the emotional aspects of unwed motherhood. It’s such gnawing stigma about how single moms ‘asked for it’ that drives some to give their kids up for adoption, or worse, abort the baby before it has the chance to grow into a curious toddler asking Mommy ‘Why don’t I have a Daddy like my friends in school?’.

We leave those who choose to discard their foetuses alone, but when a mother decides to rear a child herself, we shake our heads, wag fingers and think ‘shotgun’. In the case of this Mr Sum, he uses the yardstick of kidnapping ransom and incarceration to make the disconcerting point that some form of ‘soft punishment’ of this bastard child of an illicit union not sanctioned by thy Heavenly Father must exist. Remove the scarlet ‘A’, and we’ll have fatherless babies crawling all over the place.

There are other ways to deter unwanted pregnancies besides the ‘threat of inadequate support’ of course. Sex education and knowledge of the various contraceptive measures available, for example. Or slapping charges on fathers who run away from personal responsibility. If unwed parenthood isn’t in your opinion socially acceptable as a ‘lifestyle’ and those who embrace it should not be granted equal parental rights, it follows that we shouldn’t make life easy for ex-convicts, divorcees, gamblers, morbidly obese people, prostitutes, smokers or people who are HIV positive either. All these folks ‘made their choice’. It’s our choice if we want to be humane or not.

Of all the conservative folk who frown on single motherhood, the worst culprits are policy-makers. In 1984, then Trade and Industry Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore was still a fairly conservative society and ‘would not welcome’ unmarried mothers. 10 years later, we remain just as conservative, with PM Goh Chok Tong declaring that the acceptance of unmarried motherhood as a ‘respectable’ part of society was WRONG. Echoing the letter writer’s incentive theory above, he went on to say that ‘removing the stigma’ may encourage more women to have more babies out of the wedlock. In other words, the shame of being an unwed parent, and omiting them from housing policies, is necessary so that others won’t think it ‘fashionable’ to bear the child of some dark and handsome stranger after a torrid one night stand. Like Terence Cao for instance.

So much for an inclusive society. Incidentally, the 90’s saw the release of a ‘single mother’ anthem, Heart’s ‘All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You’, which tells the tale of a woman conceiving with a stranger after a rainy night of ‘magic’ and giving birth to a child with ‘his own eyes’. Damn these Western soft-rock bands and their illegitimate love-child fantasies. 20 years on and they continue to threaten our ‘Asian values’.

Parents sending kids to psychologists for IQ tests

From ‘Ensure we don’t create elitist mindset’, 19 June 2015, ST Forum

(Jeffrey Law Lee Beng): AFTER reading yesterday’s report on parents having their children tested for “giftedness”, I cannot help but wonder if we are creating an exclusive society (“Gifted? More kids sent for psychology tests”). I find it unacceptable that toddlers are subjected to psychological tests, the findings of which some parents claim can help them tap their children’s potential.

Equally deplorable is the fact that some parents send their children for the tests to join high-IQ society Mensa so that their young can be in “like-minded company”. In other words, children at such an impressionable age are encouraged to form a class of their own.

This may not be healthy as they could turn into a generation of intellectual snobs, having the notion that they are extraordinary. Instead of comfortably ensconcing themselves, children should be accustomed to interacting with other children their age, regardless of their personal backgrounds and IQ scores.

This helps them to expand their horizons and further enrich their lives when they become adults. It is, thus, crucial that parents not overreact to their children’s high-IQ status with a “high and mighty” attitude. Instead, they would do well to teach their children that there is more to life than being born gifted.

The youngest MENSA member is 2 years and 6 months with an IQ of 142. While it seems like the most natural thing for parents to find out if their kid is a genius, others forgo the testing entirely and sign them up for GEP tuition classes directly. Unless there is a real need to get your kid’s brain checked by a doctor, I don’t think parents should get over-excited and start calling up psychologists whenever their kid starts exhibiting signs of ‘giftedness’, like reciting a Bible passage by heart or Pi to 20 digits. In some extreme cases, like a sudden familiarity with an ancient language, an exorcist may be more useful than a mental healthcare professional.

Mensa, Latin for ‘table’, was founded in 1946, and was set up as an exclusive club for people with ‘high intelligence’. Its Singapore chapter was established only in 1989, and restricted members to 8 years and above. Today, 5% of the 1000 plus members are 6 years and below. What in blue blazes is a toddler doing in a society still made up mostly of  adults, one that counts not just science gods like Isaac Asimov among its alumni, but has also embraced unlikely personalities like Geena Davis (of Cutthroat Island fame) and PORN STAR Asia Carerra? Your MENSA fellows may all have the exact same IQ score, but you guys will still have nothing much to talk about. Well, unless you’re an adult film star with a brain as big as your..never mind.

To call Mensa ‘elitist’ would be like saying that the X-men are ‘freaks’. MENSA is basically a fancy interest group, just like how we have interest groups for people addicted to bodybuilding, Lego enthusiasts, bus-spotters, birdwatchers or vintage sock collectors. In a way, we’re all ‘snobs’ in what we’re passionate about, be it intellectual pursuits, sporting excellence, cafe-hopping or competitive Monopoly. Like Game of Throne geeks, these ‘geniuses’ just need a platform for conversation where they can be on the same wavelength as others like them, and not feel oestracised by the man on the street with the reptilian IQ of 100, though what exactly MENSA has done for humanity remains to be seen. They sure as hell ain’t the Justice League.

The question is whether we’re depriving such young children of a ‘normal’ childhood by rushing them into a club for geniuses before they even develop the minimal set of social skills, like making friends, reading expressions, knowing what’s right from wrong, or even grasp mundane knowledge like why people grow old and die. More importantly, a sense of compassion and humility. Can they grow up and live ‘normally’ despite an insane IQ without being booted out of the village constantly like Brainy Smurf? By labelling toddlers as ‘gifted’, we risk having them fixated on their newfound ‘powers’ relative to their lower IQ peers, giving them high hopes and the illusion that they are destined for success, or worse, Greatness.

7 year old MENSA member George Yeo, for instance, is already sounding like the smart-aleck every kid in school wants to punch in the face. He reportedly told his parents not to ‘waste money’ on school because he already ‘knew everything’. One thing MENSA doesn’t test is your EMOTIONAL intelligence, which could make the difference between someone who becomes a pioneer quantum physics, and the weirdo with the crazy hair building a killer robot monster in his hidden lair.

Primary school kids too young for KK trip

From ‘Rethink rationale for overseas school  trips’, 8 June 2015, ST Forum

(Ramesh Niedu): IN THE light of news of the ill-fated Mount Kinabalu school trip (“9 S’poreans feared dead in quake”; yesterday), I urge the Ministry of Education to seriously reconsider its rationale for overseas trips for students, particularly those at the primary and secondary levels who are too young to go on such trips, especially a mountaineering one.

Such trips should be only for students at the junior college or tertiary levels, who are older and more safety-conscious. I am a parent with young school-going children, and I experience much anxiety whenever they go on overseas school trips.

If the rationale is that overseas trips contribute to character development, then such trips should be for cultural exchanges, for instance, rather than for physically demanding mountaineering expeditions at dangerous locations. Such trips should also be confined to our neighbouring countries, so as to keep costs low.

It’s not true that the older you are, the more ‘safety-conscious’ you become. Just recently, a 21 year old man fell off a Bali cliff after being hit by a wave while taking photos. Besides, even with the most rigorous of preparatory training, no one, young or old, would be able to fend off the onslaught of a natural disaster.  The writer above recommends ‘cultural exchanges’, which I suppose entails playing ice breakers in the security of a hotel, in the heart of the city next to a police station, in a country where no terrorist would ever think of carrying out a bomb attack. Oh, not to mention in a building that’s fireproof, tsunami and typhoon-proof. Wait, scrap that, let’s just do Skype and Facetime from the air-con comfort of the classroom instead. More cost savings, less risk of being sent hurtling from a mountain towards certain death.

During the bird flu epidemic in 2005, people complained about kids being sent to be community work in a Vietnam orphanage. Others griped about flu vaccines not being given to some kids travelling to China. More recently, a parent questioned why there was no travel advisory for MERS when her son was sent to Medan (More stringent travel advisories needed for overseas school trips, 21 May 2014, ST). To be fair, the Ministry has done a decent job making sure that none of our children got exposed and bring deadly bugs back into the country. But alas, we only remember the nasty trips when shit happens, taking for granted all the many other uneventful ones where kids actually come back in one piece, whether they’re scaling mountains or participating in Maths Olympiads, thanks in part to the care and dedication of their teachers, who may very well be more stressed over their charges than some parents themselves.

Thousands of children have been sent abroad, with parents accusing some ‘exchange’ programs of being unnecessarily extravagant, like Kinderland sending toddlers to Japan during autumn for example. Most come back with nary a scratch, while others who remain school-bound get goddamn Hand Foot Mouth Disease. The KK incident is a tragic anomaly, and no amount of advisories or protection could have saved the kids from this merciless act of God. Or in the case of the Sewol ferry sinking in South Korea, a case of human ‘gross negligence’. That doesn’t mean we should cut back on overseas trips that have the slightest hint of rugged adventure, when even a joyride down a river, or the building of a house, could end up in catastrophe if fate wills it.

I never had the chance to venture to even Sentosa when I was in primary school, and the closest I had to ‘outdoor’ activity was camping in the school’s football field, where the only skill I learnt was how to pee discreetly when no one is looking. If I had to weigh the risk of getting crushed by a boulder, drowning in a sinking vessel or getting sucked into the sky by a tornado vs a once-in-a-lifetime adrenaline-rush experience enduring physical hardship with friends, character-building or not, I would choose the latter. And then make sure I’ve got really good travel insurance.

RIP, young ones.

‘Bishan gay’ molesting boy in J8 toilet

From ‘Man gets 12 months for molesting boy in toilet at Bishan Junction 8, appealing’, 8 May 2015, article by Elena Chong, ST

A part-time tutor who sometimes refers to himself as “the Bishan gay” was sentenced to 12 months’ jail on Friday for molesting a 12-year-old boy in a mall toilet. Cheng Hoe Huat was found guilty after a two-day trial of touching the student’s private parts in the male toilet of Bishan Junction 8 shopping centre on Nov 13, 2013.

The 52-year-old, who was unrepresented, is appealing. Bail of $30,000 was allowed. During the trial, the prosecution called 13 witnesses, including the victim, his four friends, a child psychologist and teacher.

Cheng had approached a group of boys, including the victim, to “conduct a survey on sex education“. The victim accompanied him to the toilet as he thought Cheng, who was using a walking stick, needed help.

…The maximum penalty for molesting any person under 14 years old is five years’ jail, fine and caning.

Daniel Cheng, or known to wary schoolboys as ‘the creepy Bishan uncle’ or ‘Bishan gay’, was actually interviewed by the ST in 2008, when he was found snapping photos and stealing looks at boys in fast food joints and flashing them his ‘signature smile’. He claimed that RI was his ‘alma mater’ then, and his activities were out of ‘love’ for his Bishan hometown and that he felt ‘responsible’ for the well-being of the kids.

Then regarded as nothing more than a middle-aged, otherwise harmless weirdo and something of an ‘urban legend’ in the area,  the RI deputy headmaster called for students to refrain from ‘calling him names‘, so it’s unlikely that Cheng would “refer to himself as ‘The Bishan Gay'” as the ST reported. It’s like admitting to the police that you’re the Serangoon Slasher or the Punggol Peeping Tom.

For years Cheng has been ridiculed and villainised on social media as a potential sex fiend, like a resident village ogre that townsfolk hurl stones at to keep him away from their livestock. No self-respecting teenager from RI, Catholic High or SJI could step into Coffee Bean in J8 or take bus 156 without looking out for some leery-eyed uncle snapping photos of him as a personal keepsake, or giving him a ‘scary, gay’ smile that sends chills down the spine. Parents may even have taken advantage of the situation, telling their boys to come home by 9pm, otherwise they may get kidnapped and made to be some basement sex slave by the ‘boo-gay-man’ of Bishan.

Some kids tempt fate by getting up close and personal with the icon himself. The photo below would be just as creepy if you replaced Cheng with the silhouette of a ghost. Note that he was facing THE BACK of the bus.

Others, like this ‘thegreenyellow’ blogger, chatted with the man out of curiosity in 2007, and discovered that he was actually a ‘nice dude’ who speaks ‘good English’.

Just last year, a man was caught on Stomp ‘ruffling’ boys’ hair in McDonald’s at J8. Speculations were rife that this was THE Bishan Gay taking his antics a step further, or perhaps this was just a ‘Phase 1 experiment’ of his ‘sex education survey’. It appears that Cheng exhibits more of paedophiliac tendencies rather than scientific inquisitiveness,  so calling a stalker obsessed with schoolboys as a ‘Gay’ may be considered derogatory by the LGBT community. You can say a shirt ‘looks gay’ or a song ‘sounds gay’ without offending most homosexuals, but not if you use it in reference to a child predator. The correct term should be ‘Bishan Paedophile’. Unfortunately, ‘Bishan Paedo’ just doesn’t have the same ring as ‘Bishan Gay’ does.

Now that he’s facing jail time and all is peaceful in Bishan once more, maybe it is indeed time for some sex education for our schoolboys, so that any uncle who happens to be lounging around swimming pools staring at boys in tight trunks isn’t automatically labelled as a dangerous, creepy ‘gay’.

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