Male and non-binary members allowed to vote in Aware general meetings

Aware is now allowing male and non-binary members to vote at its general meetings.
Aware is now allowing male and non-binary members to vote at its general meetings. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

SINGAPORE - Male and non-binary members - who do not identify as men or women - of the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) can now vote at its general meetings, following an "intensely debated and strongly contested" process.

This was decided following an Extraordinary General Meeting last Saturday (Nov 26). Over 60 members met to discuss and vote on changes to the group's consitution as part of an overall update to it, said Aware in a statement on Monday (Nov 28).

Male members, including those who do not identify as female, will be given rights to vote - a decision that was supported by two-thirds or more of voting members.

But this is subject to a cap so that their votes cannot count for more than 25 per cent of the votes on a resolution.

Previously, men could join Aware as associate members but could not vote at its general meetings. Such members make up around 7 per cent of Aware's membership.

On Saturday, Aware's membership categories were also renamed and updated. It clarified that "women" includes transgender women and "men" includes transgender men.

They also made provision for non-binary people to join as associate members. Previously, they were unable to do so because as they had to specify if they were "male" or "female".

But among other matters, associate members were not granted limited rights to take up non-office holder roles on Aware's board, with 58 per cent of voters present supporting this change.

The amendments on membership had been proposed after "an extended period of consultation and research by a committee appointed by the Board in 2014", said Aware.

It added that the committee carried out focus group discussions, an online survey and conducted phone and e-mail interviews. Its findings were disseminated to all members and discussed in its April annual general meeting this year.

Those who supported the extension of voting rights and board roles for men believe that men who hold feminist values "should not be completely barred from these forms of involvement on the grounds of gender", added Aware in its statement.

Others "expressed concern that these changes would come at the expense of women's voices and space for women's leadership".

Said Aware president Teh Hooi Ling: "The new rules provide for men to stand up and be counted as key co-owners of the movement for gender equality. We also see this as a move towards building the capacity for men to better promote gender equality.

"Yet in a society where only 5 per cent of full ministers and 9 per cent of corporate directors are women, it is vital that Aware continues to stake out a space for women's leadership, which centres and amplifies women's voices," she added.