S'pore NGOs submit report on gender inequalities to UN

Coalition of 13 NGOs proceeds without endorsement of groups that disagree with parts of report

A coalition of 13 Singapore non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on Monday submitted a joint report on gender inequalities to a United Nations committee, despite other organisations taking issue with parts of the report.

Last week, it was reported that more than half of about 60 NGOs which had been involved in the discussions did not support the report to the UN Cedaw (Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) Committee.

The Straits Times understands that groups such as the Singapore Muslim Women's Association (PPIS), the People's Association's Women's Integration Network and the NTUC Women and Family Unit decided not to support the report because they found some parts too divisive or irrelevant to their organisation's interests.

Some of the contentious points in the report included a call for the removal of Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men, a shift away from abstinence-based sex education, and a call to ban polygamy or introduce measures to end it in practice.

Going by a statement issued by the coalition yesterday, the submitted report still contains the contentious parts some organisations had taken issue with.

Cedaw, adopted by the UN in 1979, defines discrimination against women and sets an agenda for nations to end these inequitable laws, policies and practices.

The UN Cedaw Committee, comprising international experts, monitors the progress of signatory countries to the targets of the treaty.

Singapore has been a party to the convention since 1995. All signatories are required to submit a report every four years to the Cedaw Committee about what has been done to comply with and implement the provisions of Cedaw.

While individual Singapore NGOs have participated in previous Cedaw reporting cycles, this is the first time they have joined forces to prepare a report. Some will send representatives to Geneva next month.

Said Ms Malathi Das, chairman of the coalition and president of the Zonta Club of Singapore, in the coalition's statement yesterday: "After over 20 years of Singapore being party to Cedaw, it is heartening that NGOs have pulled together a historic, unprecedented coalition report.

"Although some consultation participants could not make the final list of endorsements, it has been a learning journey for all. We are hopeful more will join in the next cycle."

Veteran women's rights advocate Anamah Tan, the only Singaporean to have been a member of the UN Cedaw Committee, said: "The report is the culmination of two years of negotiating, learning and understanding the differing views even among us who support the report."

The NGOs which support the report are: the Association of Women for Action and Research; the Business & Professional Women's Association (Singapore) - Third Chapter; Daughters of Tomorrow; the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics; Maruah; Project X; Sayoni; the Singapore Association of Women Lawyers; Soroptimist International of Singapore (Garden City); the Athena Network Singapore; The Gentle Warriors' Trust; Transient Workers Count Too; and Zonta Club of Singapore.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2017, with the headline S'pore NGOs submit report on gender inequalities to UN. Subscribe