Gender Equality in Singapore
Flag of Singapore
|Population (in Mil.)||5.18|
|Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB)||239.70|
|Sex Ratio (m/f)||0.95|
|Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m)||1.061|
|Income Ratio (f/m)||0.53|
|Literacy Ratio (f/m)||0.94|
|Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m)||NA|
|Women in Parliament (in %)||18.9|
|Human Development Index||26/169|
|Social Institutions and Gender Index||- /86|
|Gender Inequality Index||10/138|
|Gender Equity Index||76/157|
|Women’s Economic Opportunity Index||34/113|
|Global Gender Gap Index||56/134|
|More information on variables|
Singapore was founded as a British trading colony in 1819. It joined the Malaysian Federation in 1963 but separated two years later and became independent. Singapore has three main ethnic groups – 77% are Chinese, 14% are Malay and 8% are Indian. Singapore has a highly developed economy which depends heavily on exports, particularly in consumer electronics, information technology products, pharmaceuticals, and on a growing financial services sector. The World Bank classifies Singapore as a high income country.
Singapore has taken a number of steps to progress gender equality including the introduction of laws to promote women’s equality in the workplace, measures to combat domestic violence and laws to improve women’s status in the family. Despite this progress, gender equality has not been achieved in terms of women’s educational attainment, women’s economic empowerment or political participation. A non-government women’s organisation reports that sex role stereotyping and its consequences remain a serious barrier to achieving gender equality, particularly with respect to women and men’s role in the family. Singapore women are poorer than men and face a higher risk of poverty than men in all ages. Older women are particularly vulnerable to poverty. Although article 12 of the Constitution of Singapore guarantees equality of all persons, it does not explicitly recognize equality on the basis of gender. Singapore acceded to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1995. In 2011, the Human Development Index for Singapore was 0.866, placing the country at 26 out of 187 countries. For the Gender Inequality Index Singapore received a score of 0.086, placing the country at 8 out of 146 countries with data. In 2011, the World Economic Forum ranked Singapore 57 out of 135 countries in its 2011 Global Gender Gap Report, with a score of 0.6914 where 0 represents inequality and 1 represents equality.
Discriminatory Family Code
Family matters are governed by two distinct legislative systems, the civil Women’s Charter and Muslim (Sharia) law. The Women’s Charter governs all civil marriages in Singapore and fixes the minimum legal age of marriage to 18 years, with parental consent. In 2008, amendments were made to the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA) to raise the minimum marriage age from 16 to 18 years for Muslim females. This aligns the minimum marriage age for Muslims with that for non-Muslims. Like their non-Muslim counterparts, a Muslim below 18 years of age wishing to get married will have to apply for a Special Marriage Licence from the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports before they can marry. The United Nations reports, based on 2005 data that 0.6% of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed, compared to 0.1% of boys in the same age range. In 1970, 5% of girls aged between 15 and 19 were married, divorced or widowed which indicates that societal acceptance of early marriage has declined in recent decades. The average age of marriage for women reported in 2010 was 27. The Women’s Charter which applies to non-Muslims forbids men in Singapore from taking more than one wife. Under the Administration of Muslim Law Act, Muslim men may take as many as four wives. Case law has allowed polygamous marriages on grounds such as: a wife’s failure to conceive (whether or not medically the fault lay with her), a wife’s failure to produce male children, a wife’s long-term illnesses. Requests to take additional spouses may be refused by the Registry of Muslim Marriages, which solicits the views of an existing wife or wives and reviews the financial capability of the husband. A study by the US Department of State shows that in 2008 the authorities approved 21 out of 53 applications for polygamous marriages. Under the Women’s Charter, parental authority is exercised jointly. These rights and responsibilities apply both to non-Muslims and Muslims. The Constitution was amended in 2004 to allow children born overseas to acquire Singapore citizenship by descent from their Singaporean mother. Previously, only fathers could pass Singapore citizenship to foreign-born children. With respect to divorce rights, the civil Women’s Charter provides equal divorce rights. The law makes it obligatory for the husband to financially maintain his wife and children during marriage and upon divorce and for the equitable division of matrimonial assets. Both women and men have the right to divorce under the Administration of Muslim Law Act, however Muslim women are required to show grounds for divorce whereas a Muslim man can simply pronounce “talaq” (repudiation). Civil law in Singapore provides equal inheritance rights for women and men. However, under the Administration of Muslim Law Act, male beneficiaries are favoured over female beneficiaries. A male relative receives a share equal to that of two females when children inherit from parents.
Restricted Physical Integrity
Rape is prohibited by the Penal Code, punishable by imprisonment of up to 20 years and caning. Spousal rape is generally not a crime, but in 2008 the government introduced an amendment making it an offence for a husband to engage in non-consensual sexual intercourse if the husband and wife are separated and living apart or if the wife has a protection order . The Women’s Charter prohibits domestic violence. A victim of domestic violence can obtain court orders barring the spouse from the home until the court is satisfied that the spouse has ceased aggressive behaviour. Sexual harassment is prohibited under various laws, including the ‘outrage of modesty’ provision under the Penal Code and the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance) Act. ‘Outrage of Modesty’ is defined as an assault or use of criminal force on any person with the intent to, or the knowledge that it may, outrage the modesty of that person.
The International Violence Against Women Survey of 2006 women, conducted in 2009 by the National University of Singapore, found that 7% of women aged 18 to 69 had experienced physical violence in their lifetime and 4% had experienced sexual violence. Of those women who experienced violence from a partner, 42% reported that they felt their life was in danger, 46% were physically injured, 29% needed medical care and 28% considered the incident “very serious”. Where the perpetrator of violence was a partner, only 13% of victims sought assistance from a specialised agency and 71% did not report the incident to the police. The study found that Malay women were more vulnerable to violence compared to Indian women. With respect to government reports and statistics on violence against women, in 2006 there were 2,667 applications for Personal Protection Orders and Domestic Exclusion Orders. There were 63 reports of rape and 913 reports of ‘outrage of modesty’ (this includes sexual harassment). Several recent government and NGO initiatives provide protection and assistance to women who experience violence. For example, the Family Violence Dialogue Group – a consortium comprising the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the National Council of Social Service, courts and prisons, and social service agencies – was established in 2001 to facilitate dialogue between agencies, co-ordinate public education efforts and develop new areas for collaboration on family violence issues. The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports commissioned a study to gather public perception on their awareness of family violence in 2002-2003. This study showed that more media publicity was needed to increase awareness of family violence. Subsequently, the government embarked upon public education through advertisements and editorial write-ups in newspapers and magazines. The follow-up study conducted in 2007 indicated positive shifts in public perceptions of family violence. The public became less tolerant towards spousal violence compared to 2003. More respondents felt strongly that physical violence was an unacceptable part of married life and would count slapping, pushing, and threatening to hurt a spouse as acts of abuse regardless of the frequency of occurrence. More respondents were also aware of what constitutes emotional violence, suggesting that there is heightened awareness of the protection offered under the law. Despite this progress, AWARE, a women’s organisation, reports that the government’s refusal to prohibit marital rape in all circumstances sends a message of tolerance for violence against women in Singapore.
There is no evidence to suggest that female genital mutilation is practiced in Singapore.
Limitations on women’s reproductive rights also infringe upon women’s physical integrity in Singapore. The Abortion Act of 1974 provides that abortion is permitted when a pregnancy is terminated by a registered physician acting on the request of a pregnant woman and with her written consent during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. Beyond that time, an abortion may be performed only if immediately necessary to save the life or prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman. The World Economic Forum reported in 2010 that 62% of married women were using contraception.
Gender disaggregated data on child nutrition and child labour are not available for Singapore. Non-government organisations in Singapore have introduced a number of awareness raising programmes with men and boys to challenge gender stereotypes, particularly in relation to family roles. Data from the World Economic Forum shows that there is a slight gender gap in educational attainment indicating the possibility of son preference with respect to education.
The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 0.96. There is no evidence to suggest that Singapore is a country of concern in relation to missing women.
Restricted Resources and Entitlements
The Women’s Charter gives women ownership rights to land and access to property other than land. Section 51 of the Women’s Charter enables a married woman to acquire, hold and dispose of any property; be capable of rendering herself and being rendered liable in respect of tort, contract, debt or obligation; be capable of suing and being sued in her own name; be subject to bankruptcy laws and enforcement of judgments and orders in all respects as if she were a single female. The Administration of Muslim Law Act provides that Muslim women may enter into contracts; dispose of property by will without concurrence of husband; manage and own her own wages, investments and assets. However, as noted in the Family Code section, access to land and property other than land for Muslim women is undermined by discriminatory inheritance laws. Women also have equal access to bank loans and other forms of credit, and the right to enter into legal contracts independently.
Restricted Civil Liberties
In terms of women’s political participation, women made up 23% of parliamentarians and 5% of Ministers. According to the US Department of State in 2009, 3 of the 15 Supreme Court justices were women and the Solicitor-General was a woman. The Employment Act provides some protection of women’s equal rights in the workplace, including the dismissal of pregnant women. The Employment Act provides for 16 week paid maternity leave. This is paid at 66% of wages.
- ↑ Central Intelligence Agency (2011) World Fact Book: Singapore, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sn.html, accessed 26 February 2011.
- ↑ See reference 1
- ↑ World Bank (n.d.) Online data: Singapore, available at http://data.worldbank.org/country/singapore, accessed 26 February 2011
- ↑ CEDAW (United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) (2009) , Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Singapore, ThirdFourth Periodic Report of States Parties, CEDAW/C/SGP/4CEDAW/C/SGP/3, CEDAW, New York, NY Geneva
- ↑ World Economic Forum (2010) Global Gender Gap Report 2010, Available at http://www.weforum.org/pdf/gendergap/report2010.pdf, accessed 20 October 2010 p.266
- ↑ AWARE (2007) CEDAW Shadow Report by the Association of Women for Action & Research (AWARE), available at http://www.aware.org.sg/research-advocacy/cedaw/, accessed 26 February 2011.
- ↑ United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2011_EN_Complete.pdf, accessed 29 February 2012.p.127
- ↑ See reference 7 p.139
- ↑ World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2011.pdf, accessed 2 March 2012.p.10
- ↑ Reference 4 P.77
- ↑ Reference 4 P.79
- ↑ United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) World Marriage Data 2008, available at http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/WMD2008/Main.html, accessed 10 October 2010
- ↑ Reference 5 p.266
- ↑ Reference 4 p.12
- ↑ Reference 6 p.11
- ↑ Reference 6 p.102
- ↑ US Department of State (2009) 2000 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Singapore, available at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/eap/119056.htm, accessed 26 February 2011.
- ↑ Reference 6 p.106
- ↑ Reference 4 p.16
- ↑ Reference 4 p.13
- ↑ Reference 6 p.107
- ↑ Reference 6 p.98
- ↑ Reference 6 p.113
- ↑ US Department of State (2010) 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Singapore, Available http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/136008.htm, accessed 26 February 2011
- ↑ Reference 4 P.78
- ↑ Reference 4 p.13
- ↑ Reference 24
- ↑ Reference 4 p.47
- ↑ Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act , available at http://agcvldb4.agc.gov.sg/non_version/cgi-bin/cgi_retrieve.pl?&actno=Reved-184&date=latest&method=part, accessed 19 March 2012
- ↑ SAFV-NUS (2010) International Violence Against Women Survey: The Singapore Report, Preliminary results of study by SAFV-NUS 28 January 2010, available at http://www.ncss.org.sg/VWOcorner/research_gateway/Family_abstract_12.pdf, accessed 26 February 2011.
- ↑ CEDAW (United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) (2007) Responses to the list of issues and questions with regard to the consideration of the third periodic p.10
- ↑ Reference 4 p.81
- ↑ Reference 4 P.83
- ↑ Reference 6 p.120
- ↑ United Nations Populations Division (2007)’World abortion policies’, data downloaded from http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/2007_Abortion_Policies_Chart/2007_WallChart.pdf (accessed 21 October 2010)
- ↑ Reference 5 p.266
- ↑ Reference 4 p.20
- ↑ Reference 5 p.266
- ↑ Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Fact Book: Sex Ratio, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2018.html, accessed 29 February 2012.
- ↑ Reference 3
- ↑ Reference 6 P.117
- ↑ Reference 6 pp.117-118
- ↑ Reference 3
- ↑ Reference 5 p.266
- ↑ Reference 24
- ↑ Reference 6 P.80
- ↑ Reference 4 p.77
- ↑ Reference 3
- OECD (2006), The Gender, Institutions and Development Data Base, http://www.oecd.org/dev/gender/gid.
The Women, Business and the Law
Where are laws equal for men and women?
The Women, Business and the Law report presents indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees. Several of these indicators draw on the Gender Law Library, a collection of over 2,000 legal provisions impacting women's economic status. This report does not seek to judge or rank countries, but to provide information to inform discussions about women’s economic rights. Women, Business and the Law provides data covering 6 areas: accessing institutions,using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. Read more about the methodology.
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