While Singapore has been keen to embrace much of what the west has to offer in terms of business models, technological advances, fashion and numerous other influences, it appears that one particular aspect has taken things too far. Ashley Madison is an internet dating site with a twist. Unlike the many others clogging the search engines, devoted to introducing singletons to the partners of their dreams, this particular website targets people who are already in relationships. Basically, Ashley Madison is all about extramarital dating – in other words, encouraging anyone who has ever harboured thoughts of having illicit affairs to take the steps to go down that route.
For all its vibrant culture and booming economic activity, Singaporeans remain fairly conservative, particularly when it comes to relationships and sex. For this reason, the plans that Ashley Madison have recently made to launch their Singapore version have sparked widespread outcry.
The Ashley Madison tagline is blunt, brazen and to the point. “Life is too short. Have an affair”. While this may or may not be tongue-in-cheek, it is the very immoral nature of a website that appears to condone adultery that has raised hackles in Singapore.
Launched in 2001 and based in Canada, Ashley Madison count their membership in the tens of millions (in fact, as at October 2013 the total number of users was listed at 22 million and rising). Available online in English, Chinese, French, Italian and a range of other languages, the only Asian outlets where it has currently running outlets are Japan, India and Hong Kong. Obviously, Singapore, a booming Asian economy with millions of intelligent, web-savvy internet surfers, is regarded as a potential goldmine.
But local opposition has proved to be unequivocal. Both residents and politicians alike have united in opposing the plans. Singapore's minister for social and family development, Chan Chun Sing, was quick to voice his fears. “I do not welcome the website in Singapore. I'm against any company or website that harms marriage”. Using a Facebook feed, he went on to reiterate his position on family values. “Promoting infidelity undermines trust and commitment between a husband and wife, which is core to marriage”.
Although Singapore is an open and welcoming society, it is also known for its stricter social morals. Perhaps if Ashley Madison's management had done their research more thoroughly, flags would've been raised about the likelihood of a fairly conservative nation embracing this adultery-themed site.