June 8th, 2011

Our response to “Divorce and the attractive woman”

AWARE’s Letter to the Straits Times Forum Page, published June 8, 2011

We refer to the article “Divorce and the Attractive Woman” (ST, 3 June) and the judgment rendered by the High Court in this case.

The High Court took the view that it was relevant for a judge to take into account the “attractiveness” of a wife in determining her chances of remarriage when exercising its discretion on whether to grant lump sum or monthly maintenance.

AWARE is surprised and disturbed by this judgment. While it may be valid to take into account a person’s imminent prospects for marriage, e.g. where there is evidence that a party intends to marry another party, it surely is not right for a court to go down a speculative line of reasoning as to whether a person, based on her looks, personality, ethnicity, nationality or relationship history is likely to be remarried.

It is moreover problematic to assume that an “attractive” woman is more likely to be married. What are the criteria for deciding who is “attractive?” Whose criteria are applied? And on what basis are we to establish a connection between this alleged “attractiveness” and remarriage?

We hope that this judgment, which dealt with the issue of the bias of the judge in deciding the issue of maintenance, will not be used as a precedent to support such a line of inquiry in future cases relating to maintenance. This would result in women being penalised and discriminated against if they do not fit normative – and indeed judges’ subjective – notions of beauty.

Yours faithfully,
Teo You Yenn
Board Member
Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE)

For the original article referred to in our letter, click here. To read the published letter, click here.

One Comment ...

  1. […] recent divorce case has caught the attention of the local mainstream media, as well as a local non-profit women’s rights group and not a few bewildered legal practitioners. In the course of the proceedings, a question was […]