Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Social and Family Development

Definition of 'family' in spotlight

What makes a family?

That was a question that was raised in Parliament yesterday, with Nominated MPs Kok Heng Leun and Kuik Shiao-Yin asking the Ministry of Social and Family Development to be more "inclusive" in its definition.

Mr Kok asked if it could do away with the use of "illegitimacy" in policies on inheritance and tax reliefs, noting that some policies "disadvantage" unwed mothers and their children. Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Faishal Ibrahim said Mr Kok's suggestion has "far-reaching implications".

Mr Kok clarified later: "I would like to know what far-reaching impact (there is)... We must be able to justify this impact or else these kids are going to bear this stigma for the rest of their lives."

Dr Faishal responded that such policies depend on how society has evolved, and that Mr Kok's suggestion is one that must be considered "carefully".

Ms Kuik called for more support for unwed mothers. She asked Dr Faishal: "(You) mentioned that responsibility to family is a critical guiding principle to protect.

"In the case of unwed mums, are they are not demonstrating responsibility to family in their choice to keep and raise their child?"

Dr Faishal replied that some benefits for married mothers have been extended to unwed mothers.

"We will help wherever possible, whoever we can... There are policies that cannot cover everything, but we will look at issues on a case-by-case basis," he said.

Mr Kok also asked if foreign spouses can be considered part of the family nucleus when applying to buy a Housing Board flat.

Dr Faishal suggested that people facing such problems see their MPs "and (we'll) see how we can facilitate it".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2017, with the headline 'Definition of 'family' in spotlight'. Print Edition | Subscribe