Unwed mums - put children's interests first

In seeking to "find a balance between supporting unwed mothers and the policy to support parenthood within marriages", the Government should always put children's best interests first ("Review of benefits for unwed mothers"; July 29).

The United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child - to which Singapore is a party - mandates that the best interests of a child shall be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children.

Article 7(1) of the Convention further provides that every child should have, "as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents".

Therefore, the Government should support parenthood within marriage to uphold the right of every child to be raised by a father and a mother in a stable family.

However, where this is not possible, society should support children in these circumstances.

By that measure, maternity leave should be extended to all mothers since the needs of children must still be met regardless of their mothers' marital status.

Fathers must also fulfil their obligation to maintain or contribute to the maintenance of their children, pursuant to Section 68 of the Women's Charter.

In March 2010, then Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan reminded "all men that we are responsible for all our children, even if they are illegitimate", while the Government sought to "put more teeth into the enforcement of maintenance".

A progressive and compassionate society is one that protects its most vulnerable members and places the needs of children first, by creating a wholesome environment in which every child can succeed and fully assume his or her responsibilities within the community.

To that end, we should build a strong marriage and family culture, while looking out at all times for the needs of others.

Darius Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2015, with the headline 'Unwed mums - put children's interests first'. Print Edition | Subscribe