Ensure Women's Charter does not become tool for discrimination

The new amendments to the Women's Charter have done little to address the discrimination inherent in the Charter ("MPs debate maintenance payouts for men"; Tuesday).

The Women's Charter, passed in 1961, was designed to defend the rights of women and girls in the face of the patriarchal society that was prevalent in the 1960s.

A majority of women in that era depended on men for financial support. But Singapore's situation today has changed drastically.

It is no longer true to say that a preponderance of women depend on men for incomes. Yet, the Women's Charter continues to give unjustified legal advantages to women seeking maintenance after divorce.

It seems that the Charter has transformed from a safeguard for disadvantaged women into a method of discriminating against men.

In giving women special privileges, it also risks discriminating against the very people it is trying to protect, by undermining the ability of women and discouraging the obliteration of social perceptions of female inferiority.

If Singapore truly believes men and women are equal, then equal rights and legal protections should be bestowed on both groups.

Even if there are still groups of vulnerable women here who depend on their spouses for income, the courts can consider factors before deciding on maintenance.

Kennard Chan Yanting

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2016, with the headline 'Ensure Women's Charter does not become tool for discrimination'. Print Edition | Subscribe