Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Proposal to tweak Gender Bias in Women's Charter

Maintenance could be awarded based on need and not just gender

MEN who are incapacitated may soon be able to claim maintenance from the wives they are divorcing.

The idea of awarding maintenance based on need and not only gender is one of the proposed amendments to the Women's Charter that may be tabled in Parliament after public consultation ends early next year.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing revealed this yesterday after he joined a women's group dialogue at the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO).



Maintenance could be given based on need, not gender
Govt considers tweaks to Women’s Charter to provide for ‘exceptional’ cases as families’ needs change

A woman may be asked to contribute to the maintenance of her former husband under exceptional circumstances, such as when he is permanently incapacitated, under possible changes to the Women’s Charter that are being mulled over.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said yesterday that the Government is considering tweaking the Charter, which protects families and ensures the maintenance of wives and children, to provide better support for them.

He said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will also be exploring how relief can be given to a “handful of men” who are permanently or severely incapacitated and are unable to pay maintenance to their former wives. In such cases, the woman could be asked to support her former husband instead.


Maintenance based on needs rather than gender could take place

Award maintenance based on needs and not just by gender – that is one proposed amendment to the Women's Charter that could take place after public consultations wrap up early next year.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday (July 23) after a dialogue with representatives from various women's groups, Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said on Wednesday (July 23) that the Government will look at different parts of the Charter to see which areas can be strengthened.

"While today we are very focused on the issue of supporting the women and the children, there are some very exceptional cases where we may have to look at the interests of the men, who might be incapacitated for whatever unfortunate circumstances,” he said. “They might have met with an accident and be unable to work, so the issue is if they get into divorce proceedings, then what can we do as individuals and as a society to help them in such unfortunate circumstances where they get a double whammy - where they not only see their marriage broken up, but at the same time they might be unable to care for themselves."

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Proposed changes to Women's Charter: Maintenance may soon be given based on need, not gender

The idea of awarding maintenance based on need and not gender is one of the proposed amendments to the Women's Charter that may be tabled in Parliament after public consultation ends early next year.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said this after he joined a women's group dialogue on Wednesday.

Possible changes to the Women's Charter will be based on recommendations released recently by the Family Justice Review Committee, which is reviewing the family justice court system here.

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Spouse who earns more should pay alimony

While the Women’s Charter should be tweaked, the Ministry of Social and Family Development can do more than helping “incapacitated” men. (“Maintenance could be given based on need, not gender”; July 24)

If a man earns more than his spouse, the divorce settlement is straightforward. If he earns less, his spouse can obtain alimony and the man has no legal recourse.

Even if the court decides that the woman does not require alimony, there is no provision to provide the man with alimony. Men should not have to be “incapacitated” to obtain alimony, they need only earn less.

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Are current maintenance cases being addressed?

It is heartening that the Ministry of Social and Family Development is carrying out a series of conversations with social and civic groups that will presumably provide valuable feedback in crafting the Family Justice Bill.

I trust that this feedback gathering will be done as inclusively as possible, including the Opposition and the whole spectrum of women’s groups, and done with an open mind so that the outcome will be a fair and comprehensive Bill.

Meanwhile, I note with concern that about 3,000 applications for enforcement of maintenance orders are filed annually in the past two years.

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