Most support proposed changes to Women's Charter; mixed views on women maintaining incapacitated former husbands

SINGAPORE - While most supported proposed changes to the Women's Charter such as voiding marriages of convenience, views were mixed on wives providing maintenance to former husbands incapacitated by illness of disability.

Some felt it was "a step in the right direction", while others felt that men are the traditional breadwinners of the family and society is not ready to accept that women have the same responsibility as men to support their spouse or former spouse, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on Monday (Dec  7).

"On balance, MSF has assessed that for now, the proposed spousal maintenance for incapacitated men who cannot work and maintain themselves is appropriate for both men and women," said the ministry.

The ministry received a total of about 260 instances of feedback from the public regarding amendments to the Women's Charter, which was enacted in 1961 to protect women and govern marriage and divorce matters in Singapore. The charter was last amended in 2011 to ensure that maintenance orders are better enforced by giving the courts the option of imposing more sanctions on defaulters.

The public favoured the mandatory parenting programme and were particularly supportive of its focus on putting the child's interest first in divorce. The programme is for couples who are divorcing and have young children, but cannot agree on all matters of the break-up, to discuss the care of the children.

The public also supported the proposal to void marriages of convenience and to enhance the protection for women, girls, residents at places of safety and professionals engaged in protection work.

The MSF added that it considered including live-in partners within the coverage of the Women's Charter.

"However, doing so, will affect how a family is defined and viewed by the larger society. This also has impact on other pieces of legislation which reference family and marriage," it said. "Notwithstanding this, MSF is working with the relevant agencies and stakeholders to enhance support for victims."

kxinghui@sph.com.sg