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Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women reviews the report of Singapore

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination 
against Women

25 October 2017

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the fifth periodic report of Singapore on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Introducing the report, Muhammad Faishal Bin Ibrahim Khan Surattee, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development and for the Ministry of Education of Singapore, said that the lives of women in Singapore had improved tremendously over the years: the latest United Nations Gender Inequality Index had ranked Singapore 11th out of 159 countries, and the second in Asia.  The progress would not have been possible without the concerted effort between the public, private and civil society sectors, he stressed.  Since the last review in 2011, Singapore had enacted new legislation including on the prevention of trafficking in human beings, a revised Charter of Women's Rights and a text on the employment of foreigners.  In line with its international obligations, it had lifted reservations to the Convention, including on nationality, on equal rights in employment and some reservations on the marriage and family relations.  In a multiracial and multi-faith society like Singapore, it was important to maintain the protection of minority rights and to ensure that all changes were implemented with the consent and cooperation of concerned communities, which took time.

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts were concerned about the lack of an explicit definition of discrimination against women in the legislation and that the prohibited grounds for discrimination did not include sexual orientation and gender identity.  They inquired about the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention and the creation of a complaint mechanism for gender-based discrimination, and about the absence of an independent national human rights institution.  Even in a meritocratic society like Singapore, temporary special measures were needed to achieve substantive gender equality, Experts said and urged Singapore to stop promoting the family concept by which women were care-givers and men were bread-winners.  The weak point in implementing the Convention in Singapore was the fact that women’s rights were seen as a family matter, which lead to continued discrimination against Muslim women in law and in practice.  Experts raised concern about the situation of foreign domestic workers who were often subjected to violence and abuse by employers.  Singapore should revisit its understanding of violence against women and recognize all forms of domestic violence, strengthen its laws against human trafficking and set up shelters for victims of violence against women and victims of trafficking in persons in collaboration with non-governmental organization specialized in those issues.

In concluding remarks, Muhammad Faishal Bin Ibrahim Khan Surattee thanked the Committee for the very constructive dialogue and asked the Experts to recognize that every society had to be given the right to evolve its rights, taking into account its social and cultural context.  He acknowledged with humility, however, that there was always room for improvement and he assured the Committee that Singapore would consider all its recommendations.

Dalia Leinarte, Committee Chairperson, hoped that the dialogue would help Singapore implement the rights under the Convention throughout the country.

The delegation of Singapore included representatives of the Ministry of Social and Family Development, Ministry of Education, Attorney-General’s Chambers, Ministry of Manpower, Ministry of Home Affairs, Islamic Religious Council, and the Permanent Mission of Singapore to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will reconvene in public on Thursday, 26 October, at 10 a.m. to consider the seventh periodic report of Paraguay (CEDAW/C/PRY/7).

Report

The Committee is considering the fifth periodic report of Singapore CEDAW/C/SGP/5.

Presentation of the Report

MUHAMMAD FAISHAL BIN IBRAHIM KHAN SURATTEE, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development and for the Ministry of Education of Singapore, said that the lives of women in Singapore had improved tremendously over the years: the latest United Nations Gender Inequality Index had ranked Singapore 11th out of 159 countries, and the second in Asia.  Life expectancy at birth for females was 85 years - higher than men - while infant and maternal mortality rates were among the lowest in the world.  95 percent of women were literate, they represented half of the university graduates, while the female employment rate 64 had increased from 63 to 72 percent over the last decade. 

Singapore took a practical and outcomes-based rather than an ideological approach to the realization of human rights: it applied a coordinated “whole of government” approach in advancing the status and well-being of women and in effectively implementing the obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.  Each agency represented on the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Convention was responsible for implementing and monitoring initiatives to address women’s needs under their respective domains, and those bodies worked together on the cross-cutting issues.  That was why there was no single ministry or department that focused specifically on gender equality in Singapore.  The Inter-Ministerial Committee was supported by the Office for Women’s Development in the Ministry of Social and Family Development, which was also the national focal point for women’s issues, said the Senior Parliamentary Secretary and stressed that the progress would not have been possible without the concerted effort between the public, private and civil society sectors. 

Since the last review in 2011, Singapore had enacted new legislation including on the prevention of trafficking in human beings, a revised Charter of Women's Rights and a text on the employment of foreigners.  The principle of equality was enshrined in the Constitution, which implied non-discrimination against women, and in line with the commitment to its international obligations, Singapore had lifted a number of reservations to the Convention, including on Article 9 on nationality in 2007, some reservations against Articles 2 and 16 in 2011, and the reservation on Article 11, paragraph 1 on equal rights in employment in 2015.  In order to eliminate barriers for women’s development, the roots of the problem must be tackled, which implied changing attitudes, mind-set and expectations; this took time and required the involvement and approval of the communities concerned.  Islamic law was ruled by the Islamic institutions of Singapore which maintained reservations to articles 2 and 16 of the Convention in order to continue guaranteeing the protection of minority rights, which was important in a multiracial and multi-faith society like Singapore.  A certain amount of progress had been made in bringing the practice of Islamic law into closer contact with the civil law. 

The other area requiring effort was in the sharing of tasks and responsibilities between men and women, so fathers were encouraged to take parental leave and could benefit from two weeks of paid wage compensation or share the leave with their wives.  The Government encouraged the promotion of women; Singapore had recently elected a woman, Halimah Yacob, as a President, while of the 100 members of the Parliament 23 were women, twice as many as 15 years ago. 

Women made up 29 percent of the research scientists and engineers in 2014, the number of women recruited in the armed forces had doubled since 2010, and women made up 18 percent of the police force and 44 percent of the foreign service.  In the judiciary, women represented 46.1 percent of the judicial officers in states courts, 64 percent in the family justice courts, and 50 percent in the Supreme Court. 

Questions from the Experts

A Committee Expert congratulated the inauguration of the first female president of Singapore and commended the actions to ensure the protection against harassment.  However, the definition of direct discrimination against women was lacking from the legislation, and the Constitution did not explicitly define sex and gender as prohibited grounds for discrimination. 

What was the road map to adopting a legislation against discrimination on all grounds?

The same Expert deplored the retention of a number of reservations to the Convention, particularly concerning family law, and drew attention to the fact that several Muslim States had not opposed such reservations.  It was thus surprising that a State as developed and advanced as Singapore was maintaining them.

Other Experts went on to point out that the Convention was not in contradiction with the rights of minorities and invited Singapore to lift all its reservations, starting with those entered with regard to Article 2.

The entire Convention sought to allow de jure and de facto equality with men - if this equality was possible, what stopped Singapore from signing and ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention, and from putting this equality into legislation? 

Responses by the Delegation

MUHAMMAD FAISHAL BIN IBRAHIM KHAN SURATTEE, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development and for the Ministry of Education of Singapore, assured the Committee of the commitment of Singapore to protecting women against discrimination and asked the Committee to appreciate the context of Singapore.

Referring to the protection from discrimination, a delegate stated that this issue had been considered in the context of the 2014 Court of Appeal ruling, which had provided that Article 12.1 protected from all forms of discrimination, including on the grounds of gender and sex.

Singapore was committed to the practice of a progressive Islamic law, said a delegate and added that a more structured and focused approach in this direction was needed.  Thus, a study to monitor the Islamic law and the convergences and divergences in religious views and attitudes between this law and the international instruments had been launched.

Follow-up Questions and Answers

An Expert asked about the measures in place to ensure the effective capacity building for law enforcement officers in matters of gender-based violence and the protection of victims.  

Was there any plan to accede to the Optional Protocol of the Convention?

Another Expert congratulated Singapore on electing a woman as a president and asked what had taken the country so long.  There must be more women in Government, more means and opportunities to inspire other women.

Further on the protection from discrimination, an Expert noted that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons were not protected under Article 12 of the Constitution.  Another Expert lamented that an independent national human rights institution in accordance to the Paris Principles had not been created yet.

MUHAMMAD FAISHAL BIN IBRAHIM KHAN SURATTEE, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development and for the Ministry of Education of Singapore, expressed his belief in the meritocratic principle of Singapore, which was an important pillar of building the nation.  The current President came from a humble family and had not used connections to reach her position.  The next Prime Minster would be selected by people in the Cabinet, based on the principle of meritocracy, he said.

A delegate explained that the mechanisms to address complaints of gender-based discrimination were already in place and therefore there was no need to ratify the Optional Protocol.  The Platform entitled “Meet the People” enabled people to meet Members of Parliament once a week, in order to discuss any issue in life, including discrimination.  The Prime Minister also had weekly “Meet the People” sessions.

The Government recognized the status of the Malays, and protected them under Article 3 of the Constitution.

In terms of the capacity of the judiciary and law enforcement to deal with gender-based violence, the delegation explained that judges and magistrates benefited from specific training programs relating to gender, trafficking or violence against children, among other things.  In 2014, the Singapore Judicial College had been established to build the capacity of the judiciary to deal with all issues, including sensitive gender issues and topics related to family violence.  Programs were being organized in the direction of law enforcement in collaboration with foreign police, recently with Canada for example.

At the moment, there was no need for a separate national human rights institution as Singapore had a decentralized system of legislation and institutions which oversaw the protection of human rights. 

Questions from the Experts

In the next round of questions, Committee Experts called the attention to the recommendations made following the consideration of the fourth periodic report in July 2011 and asked about the measures taken to strengthen the implementation of the commitments and obligations under the Convention.  What financial resources were available for items under the Convention and how did these compare to other budgetary resources?

The Committee was after substantive equality, and in this temporary special measures had a role to play.  What temporary special measures were in place to accelerate the de facto gender equality?

Noting that Singapore had excluded the introduction of temporary special measures, in the form of quotas for example, to accelerate gender equality, Experts asked about the incentives in place to further promote women's participation in public life, and for the data on the number of women in Parliament, the armed forces, police, and so forth. 

What measures were there to encourage women to come to public life and what opportunities were being provided to women in Singapore?

The delegation was asked about the national gender machinery: the institutions, their composition and whether the members were adequately trained and had the right background?

Responses by the Delegation

A delegate explained that the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Convention did not have a supervisory role.  In terms of resources for gender equality, the issue of women was cross-cutting and thus it was not possible to have a single budget for women.

MUHAMMAD FAISHAL BIN IBRAHIM KHAN SURATTEE, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development and for the Ministry of Education of Singapore, said that the members of the Inter-Ministerial Committee were trained and equipped with the necessary skills.  Its Chairperson had been previously involved in early childhood development, single mother empowerment, and so forth.

A delegate noted that even without temporary special measures in place, women were able to participate in the economy of Singapore.  The Singaporean meritocracy gave the same opportunities to all citizens regardless of their origin, their religion, and the delegation assured the Committee that women and men had the same opportunities.  Singapore had the will to allow women to flourish in their professional and personal lives, without imposing any temporary special measures, since it was convinced of the legitimacy of the principle of meritocracy.  Companies were required to disclose their company policy, including on gender.  This enabled pressure on the companies, and increased transparency and accountability.

Singapore strived to provide the best conditions for women to advance and the delegation urged the Committee to respect the difference.

Questions from the Experts

An Expert noted that meritocracy was good, but it could not be absolute; it had to be balanced with equal opportunities and chances for women to climb up positions. 

Another Expert noted that the family concept in Singapore was that women were care-givers and men were bread-winners.  The State upheld this concept and enhanced the stereotype.  What was being done to eliminate the use of this concept by the State?

It was the women who took care of the elderly when the family had no money to pay for care; this was a double edged sword, as the women were either unable to work or were doing the double amount of daily work – at home and at the workplace.  What was being done to break this vicious cycle?

Commenting on Muslim laws and practices such as polygamy, an Expert warned that a State could not prioritize minority rights over the individual rights of women, and that religions and traditions should not supersede the State’s obligation to protect the individual rights of women. 

Domestic violence, particularly sexual violence and harassment, remained under-reported in Singapore - what was being done to facilitate and increase reporting rates?  Could the delegation give concrete information on the number of shelters and the process involved?  Was a 24-hour helpline available?

Notwithstanding positive developments such as the adoption of a more victim-centred approach, there was a misunderstanding of the concept of dealing with violence against women.  For example, women reporting violence were given polygraph tests.  Women giving testimony should be trusted. 

In matters of marital rape, the superiority continued to be accorded to the conjugal unit over the individual rights of women, and marital rape continued to be absent from the criminal law.

The Prevention of Harassment Act was very complicated and it was expensive to bring a complaint.  Could the delegation comment?

Emotional and financial violence was not recognized as a form of violence, particularly domestic violence, and yet, those constituted serious human rights violations in the family, particularly for older women who were physically, emotionally, and financially dependent on other members of the family.

Another Expert considered it necessary to review the law on the prevention of human trafficking by adopting the indicators and standards adopted at international level.  It was feared that the number of victims would increase in the current global context, she warned, before advocating for the establishment of shelters to help victims by relying on non-governmental organizations specialized in assisting victims of trafficking in persons.

Responses by the Delegation

Singapore took a very serious view on violence against women and encouraged all women to report cases of violence to the police.  There was no free phone line for victims of violence or trafficking because it was believed that the best way for a person facing a serious problem was to alert the police by a number known to all, 999, the rapid response line.  Police stations had a room where victims could be examined by a doctor.

Every woman had the right to protection from violence including domestic violence, stressed the delegation and said that a study on this subject was underway.  The police worked closely with non-governmental organizations specialized in trafficking, the problem was that too often, the victims were unaware of their existence.

The Prevention of Human Trafficking Act had been adopted only in 2015 and there were no intentions to review it at the moment.  Law enforcement officers were trained in dealing with trafficking in persons, and help was given to victims of trafficking, including in the form of medical care, psychological services, and accommodation. 

Regarding Muslim women in Singapore, legal reforms and public education aimed to change the mind-sets were currently ongoing.  All religious teachers were being trained; teaching licences were compulsory for all religious teachers.

On the issue of care-givers and retirement, these were supported through various means, including the 2014 Package.  Care-giving support was also provided, and various schemes were available to help women.

Guidelines have been adopted to combat sexist stereotypes and there were programmes - in English and in vernacular languages – which highlight the choice of the woman in marriage or in her professional life.  More and more Singaporeans assimilated those ideas.

The delegation denied allegations of systematic police violence and reassured the Committee that any offending police officer was liable not only to penalties, but even to legal proceedings.

Follow-up Questions and Answers

Committee Experts encouraged the State party to ensure that the monitoring indicators for the implementation of the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act were in place, and also encouraged the creation of special shelters for victims of violence against women including the victims of trafficking in persons, given their specific needs.  What were the efforts to engage in effective participatory mechanisms, including with Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to prevent and respond to trafficking? 

What training was provided to the police officers manning the 999 rapid response line, and what were they authorised to do if they received a complaint of violence against women.  Were there emergency protection or expulsion orders to kick out the violent spouse?  Why was there a three-year ban on divorce?  Was there a law regulating foreign bride trade?

What were the intentions concerning a comprehensive reform of the Islamic law so that marriage was recognized as a partnership among equals? 

Prostitution was allowed in Singapore, however there were many cases that amounted to exploitation of prostitutes.  The law prohibited sex relations between men, and members of sexual minorities suffered multiple forms of discrimination.

MUHAMMAD FAISHAL BIN IBRAHIM KHAN SURATTEE, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development and for the Ministry of Education of Singapore, responded by saying that some of the comments were very useful and would be taken back to Singapore.  This included reviewing the three-year ban on divorce after marriage, and looking at marriage as a partnership of equals.

A delegate said that the Women’s Charter allowed for an exception to the three-year ban on divorce, if one of the spouses suffered abuse or violence.  Parties could choose to live separately at any time, including in situations of domestic violence.  Protection orders could be issued and breaches of these could amount to a criminal offence.

The delegation took back its previous response on reviewing the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, and said that the Task Force on Trafficking would discuss the law.

With regard to sex workers, measures were being taken against pimps to combat any exploitative situation.  Even though prostitution was legal in Singapore, anyone bringing in or employing a person for the purpose of sexual exploitation was liable to prosecution.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons were members of the society and enjoyed the same rights as other citizens.  Since the society was predominantly heterosexual, the role of the Government role was not to lead changes to controversial social models or change mentalities on issues where there was no societal consensus.  Debates were taking place where everyone to be heard, which allowed for an awareness of each other's points of view.  The authorities were committed to the respect of all and urged the Singaporean citizens to be respectful.

Questions from the Experts

An Expert commended the State party’s progress in terms of the legislation on nationality which enabled women to pass the nationality to their children, but noted that the law was not applicable to children born before 2004 which resulted in a number of stateless persons. 

Were disaggregated data on stateless persons available and what was being done to combat statelessness?

Responses by the Delegation

A stateless person could apply for and acquire citizenship if they met the necessary requirements.  The granting of nationality had to meet certain criteria such as the economic contribution of the individual, family profile, length of stay in the country, and integration into society in particular.  There could not be unique criteria and if the issue was to be dealt with in a comprehensive manner, each particular case had to be examined in order to objectively assess the situation, the delegation explained. 

The figures on statelessness were not available at the moment, and the delegation said that the reasons leading to a stateless status could vary, for example it could be because some people had renounced their nationality of origin.

Questions from the Experts

An Expert was concerned about the possibility of getting married before the age of 18, especially in the Muslim community.

What system was in place in Singapore to ensure that foreign domestic workers were aware of their rights?  Experts were concerned that they could not change employers as in the case of the kafala system in the Persian Gulf, which left them vulnerable to exploitation, violence and abuse by the employers; could the delegation comment on the reports that such workers were not reporting abuse or violations of their rights for fear of being expulsed or getting fired?

While migrant domestic workers were protected under the Penal Code, they were excluded from the Foreign Manpower Act.  Could this Act be extended to domestic workers and why this category of foreign workers was not currently protected under this act?  The delegation was asked to explain why no progress had been made in implementing the recommendation to abolish mandatory pregnancy testing for foreign domestic workers, and to speak of the intentions of Singapore concerning the ratification of the International Labour Organization Convention No. 189 on domestic workers.

Concerning access to health, what system was in place to ensure that women could access medical health services in Singapore?  What could the delegation say on the reports of health care services being denied to lesbian, bisexual and trans women?

Responses by the Delegation

Underage marriages were an exception and amounted to 0.4 percent of the total marriages in 2016.  The delegation assured the Committee that it would consider the recommendations and seriously review its domestic legislations in that respect.

The delegation stressed that foreign domestic workers were a significant economic contributor to Singapore as they facilitated access to the labor market for Singaporeans themselves.  Information and training activities were being carried out for these workers - who were usually women - in collaboration with embassies of their country of origin, the Philippines in particular.  These trainings and information sessions were often provided by non-governmental organizations in the mother tongue of the people concerned and aimed at introducing them to notions ranging from their rights to the management of their economies, to the learning of life in a large metropolis as many of the workers were from rural areas and had never lived in cities before.

A very important Settling in Programme had been introduced in 2013 and it taught foreign domestic workers their rights and responsibilities, including on the vacation time and the amount of food they were entitled to, how to tell the employers that they wished to resign, how to approach employers to tell them that the work load is too heavy and other matters.  This programme was extended to new foreign domestic workers.

Employers who frequently changed domestic servants might be subject to an investigation by the authorities, which provided indirect protection for the employee, the delegation continued.  If it was incorrect to say that the employment contract could not be unilaterally broken by the domestic worker, the termination must nevertheless be done in accordance with a certain number of rules, the delegation further underlined.  On the other hand, the sanctions against indelicate recruitment agencies had been increased since 2011.  Cases of abuse against domestic workers were extremely rare.

Foreign domestic workers came to Singapore with the main aim to work thus there were strict laws against pregnancy.

Regarding the Equal Opportunity Commission, Singapore was unique in the sense that employers, workers’ unions, and the Government worked together.  This tripartite alliance worked to create awareness and fair, responsible and merit-based practices.  An employer who did not respect the rules could face imprisonment or a high penalty. 

Although abstinence before marriage was encouraged, sexual education in school was provided.

Regarding wage gap, the medium wage for women had increased by five percent in the recent years.  This increase was lower than that of men, which was due to the fact that women left the work force due to pregnancy.  The Government was working on addressing this issue.

In their follow-up questions, Committee Experts underlined that the majority of foreign migrant workers in Singapore were from the neighbouring countries including Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines, and that there were approximately 240,000 female migrant domestic workers in Singapore.  They were not included under the Domestic Employment Act, which meant that they could not enjoy the same rights such as public holidays, paid sick leave, maternity leave and overtime pay.  Killings, beatings, starvation, sexual abuse and verbal abuse were among the violations recorded against female domestic workers; employers often confiscated travel and identity documents, in spite of the law forbidding this.

The delegation explained that the Employment Act did not discriminate against foreign migrant workers, and that there were other categories of workers, foreign and local, who were not covered by this Act, such as professionals, civil servants, seamen and others.  Those professions were not covered under the Act due to the unique nature of their work. 

Questions from the Experts

In the next round of questions, the Experts asked, apart from marriage, were there any other ways for women to access tax relief, and whether a similar tax relief for unmarried women was being considered?  What were the intentions in Singapore concerning the assessment of the impact of its financial policies and secrecy laws on developing countries and especially on the rights of women in those countries?

An Expert, referring to foreign wives, lamented that these could not gain any residency status.  What was the timeframe for improving their status?

There seemed to be institutionalized discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.  In school, sexuality education was provided without the mention of these individuals.  Could the delegation provide information on this?  What plans were in place to address the violations of rights of refugees and asylum seekers?

Were there any plans to prohibit corporal punishment?

Responses by the Delegation

In 2016, more than 18,000 applications had been received by domestic migrant workers, and over 80 percent had been approved.

The Government would look into the question of corporal punishment as well as the question of impact of financial policies.

The status of foreign wives of Singaporean nationals was determined after a certain period of time, as the authorities wanted to ensure that it was indeed a stable union, explained the delegation.

Singapore was a very densely populated city-State with an area only slightly larger than Lake Geneva, which explained why the country was unable to accommodate refugees and asylum-seekers.  Singapore nonetheless respected the principle of non-refoulement. Although it did not have the facilities for refugees and asylum seekers, Singapore provided humanitarian assistance and was working with relevant agencies such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to enable them to reach a third country, the delegation added.

Questions from the Experts

Singapore had adopted the Convention twenty years ago and it was now time to lift all the reservations, Expert stressed.

Committee Experts expressed serious concern about the continued discrimination against Muslim women in law and in practice.  The main law that regulated women’s rights was the Administration of Muslim Law Act.  The weak point in implementing the Convention in Singapore was the fact that women’s rights were seen as a family matter and that the influence of patriarchy caused discrimination.  Polygamy violated the dignity of all women and was unacceptable.  The male guardian system was patriarchal and was unacceptable under the Convention.  Child marriage was unacceptable.

The Muslim Inheritance Law was also discriminatory, as was the fact that a man could terminate a marriage by pronouncing the word “divorce” in Arabic three times.  What were the plans of the State party in this direction?  What were the next steps to collectively abolish polygamy, and stop child and forced marriage in law and in practice? 

Responses by the Delegation

The Delegation reiterated its willingness to look into Muslim law, and highlighted the Government’s dedication to its progressive interpretation.  There were very strict and stringent requirements for equality within polygamy, and therefore this practice was very rare.  Time was needed to change the mind-sets and the cultural practices, but the Government was committed to doing so.

The Islamic Religious Council in Singapore believed in prioritizing and protecting the beneficiaries.  Several fatwas had been issued to protect Muslim women by recognizing alternative methods of inheritance, such as specific trusts.  The Administration of Muslim Law Act had been amended to allow women to administer and manage the property of a deceased spouse. 

Talaq, or the form of divorce whereby a husband could legally divorce his wife by simply pronouncing the word “talaq” (divorce in Arabic) three times, was still practiced.   Muslim women could initiate divorce on the grounds of assault or mistreatment by the husband, even if it did not amount to physical mistreatment.

Forced marriages were not allowed in Singapore even under the Administration of Muslim Law Act.

Concluding Remarks

MUHAMMAD FAISHAL BIN IBRAHIM KHAN SURATTEE, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development and for the Ministry of Education of Singapore, expressed hope that the delegation had informed the Committee how Singapore was working to overcome the challenges.  Noting that the way Singapore preserved social harmony was not the same as others, he asked the Committee to recognize that every society had to be given the right to evolve its rights, taking into account its social and cultural context.  Singapore ranked fifth on the Human Development Index which showed how committed the Government was in this respect, but there was always room for improvement. 

DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for their answers and hoped that the dialogue would help Singapore implement the rights under the Convention throughout the country.

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