No to Obedient Wives Club
The organisation’s stated beliefs about marriage are reductive and belittle both men and women.
AWARE is troubled by the news that there are plans to set up the Obedient Wives Club (OWC) in Singapore.
We stand opposed to perspectives that undermine the role of women, and we believe that the views expressed by the OWC will obstruct the rights of our Muslim sisters. The Club’s aim to “teach women to be submissive and keep their spouses happy in the bedroom as a cure to social ills” is reductive and belittles both men and women.
We say this after reviewing the statements issued by the OWC in Malaysia and also noting that it is an initiative of the controversial Global Ikhwan group, a multi-national conglomerate formed by ex-members of the banned Al-Arqam group.
AWARE works closely with the Muslim women’s groups in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and has undertaken relevant academic research on women’s roles for the United Nations’ Convention On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
It is our view that the Club’s call for women to become “obedient wives” distorts the concept of “nusyuz” or disobedience, which applies to both women and men. The OWC is a misrepresentation of the teachings of Islam, which enjoins women and men to conduct their marriages on the basis of mutual co-operation.
We urge the Minister in charge of Muslim Affairs and MUIS to comment on the OWC and so contextualise the teachings in Islam that illuminate this concept of obedience. We need these authorities to speak up so that women and men can make informed choices as they try to live by the teachings of their faith.
This would be in line with the official response to the OWC in Malaysia, where the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development, religious groups and women’s groups have all been vocal about disagreeing with the OWC’s stated beliefs.
AWARE would further add that the Singapore government ratified CEDAW in 1995, which commits it to ending discriminatory practices and nurturing gender equality. Since 2004, the Singapore government has also been
committed to the ASEAN Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in ASEAN, which again obliges the State to reduce gender inequalities and to advance women’s rights.
Over the past 25 years, AWARE has helped enough women through our Helpline, Legal Clinic and counselling sessions to state categorically that the quality and longevity of a marriage requires dedication and hard work from both the husband and the wife, who must recognise each other as equal partners.
Whatever their faith and ethnicity, genuine communication and the willingness to work with each other on an equal footing is more likely to yield rewards for a couple than any one party feeling the pressure to adopt any role in the bedroom.
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