5 controversies that shook Singapore in 2018

Influencer Daryl Aiden Yow passed off stock pictures as his own photographs.

By Isabelle Liew

While there was no shortage of incidents that set tongues wagging in 2018, these five were lightning rods for controversy.

  1. Instagram plagiarism exposé

Local photographer Daryl Aiden Yow found himself in the middle of an Internet storm when an online story about his use of stock images on Instagram – either photoshopped into composite images or passed off as his own – went viral. Although the 27-year-old deleted the images from his account and apologised in a lengthy post, the revelations sparked outrage and parodies from local photographers and bloggers.

  1. Ruffled feathers over chicken artwork

A drawing by Singaporean artist Vincent Leow was removed from its third-floor exhibition spot at the Esplanade after complaints about “bestiality” from Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family (SDMF). The sketch, which had been on display for nearly two months, appeared to depict a nude human figure atop a rooster-like creature. The arts community rallied behind Mr Leow, while SDMF kept up its attacks on both the artist and venue even after the sketch had been removed.

  1. SGInstaBabes solicits InstaCash on Patreon

SGInstaBabes, an Instagram account that posted pictures of scantily-clad girls sparked controversy after it started a Patreon page to fund its content. Sponsorship started at US$3/month, with perks increasing with the amount committed, from appreciation and access to photo shoots to a monthly yacht party for “the Ultimate Sugar Daddy” parting with US$3,750/month. It caused an outcry against the objectification of women, which amplified after SGInstaBabes founder Lai Wee Kiat insinuated in an Instagram post, that has since been taken down, that his site empowered women.

  1. Time to decriminalise gay sex?

Is Singapore ready? That was the question that hung over the Republic as the annual lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) rally, Pink Dot, marked its tenth year, and the question of repealing Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises gay sex, was raised again. The debate escalated after India’s September 6 ruling decriminalised consensual gay sex. While veteran diplomat Tommy Koh voiced his support for a repeal, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam claimed that a “majority” remained opposed to a change.

  1. The highs and lows of Socio-Economic Status

A Secondary 3 social studies guidebook caused outrage online with some choice statements about socio-economic status (SES). Evidently, those with a lower SES eat “at hawker centres or at home”, use Singlish at home, and take on part-time work during school holidays, while those of higher SES enjoy “regular fine dining”, speak formal English, and go on holidays every year. The Ministry of Education subsequently announced that the book was not on its list of approved learning materials.

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