June 14th, 2011

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.

For more news about this issue, click here and here.

17 Comments ...

  1. Anyta

    Obedience training is more suitable for our four-legged friends, or so I thought!

    #2613
  2. Ella

    What is your definition of obedient? Is there one for the husbands too? Why only wives when most of the cheating are done by men?

    #2614
    • admin

      But they are only cheating *because* their wives aren’t obedient. So it’s not their fault!

      #2615
    • fabrizzo

      isnt that overgeneralising?can u safety say most women are loyal and wouldnt think of cheating?
      i think what we have to guard against is those rich and powerful,oversuccessful who let it get to their heads and fool around,like jack neo.most men wont have the capacity to handle multiple relationships
      i strongly believe most social problems arent a result of birth identity,its individual and situation.

      #2621
  3. Vanessa

    Fully agreed. Just wanted to note that there’s a lot of call for a Obedient Husbands Club in response to the OWC. I think that’s missing the point completely…

    #2616
  4. wikigam

    Hi, please take note , according to m’sia govt , this organization is igllegal in m’sia . It have been changed the organization name from one to another but still under m’sia govt monitoring.

    #2618
  5. Daily SG: 17 Jun 2011 « The Singapore Daily

    […] Daily Discourse – guanyinmiao’s musings: Sustainable Virtual Political Engagement: Introducing Online Policy Study Workgroups – The Kent Ridge Common: My Favourite Cliché – Singapore’s National Day Parade – TOC: “When the day is finished” – AWARE: No to Obedient Wives Club […]

    #2619
  6. fabrizzo

    i agree if its for the good of both couples,they shouldnt use the word obedient.perhaps cooperative or supportive is appropriate.

    #2622
  7. Mat Salleh

    This is a complete insult to gender equality.

    #2625
  8. lets be fair

    come on lah, what is wrong about what they are doing? The way I see it the OWC is a better choice than AWARE always supporting the LBGT cause.

    #2626
    • What they are doing is this:

      – suggesting that wives are to be subservient and obedient to their husbands, an insult to the notion of gender equality and an attempt at normalising the oppressive doctrine of complementarianism;

      – suggesting that the function of a wife is not merely to do housework and satisfy her husband’s emotional needs at all times, but to also be reduced to a sexualised object;

      – demeaning sex workers through continued dehumanisation of their profession and through clinging to an outmoded dichotomy of female sexuality;

      – victim-blaming by suggesting that victims and survivors of domestic abuse and violence are responsible for the harm done to them because they exercised their sexual agency and the right to withhold or withdraw sexual consent; and

      – by linking feminine ‘disobedience’ to social evils, justifying the disenfranchisement of women and removing responsibility from perpetrators of crime in general.

      On the subject of ‘AWARE always supporting the LGBT cause’, you are clearly ignorant of the primary position of intersectionality in social and gender justice movements.

      #2628
      • Kit

        Exactly! The above is pretty much a concise but comprehensive rebuttal to any argument supporting the formation of OWC…

        #2673
  9. M Skye

    They’ve got it all wrong. The OWC need to form An Obedient Husbands Club!

    But seriously… using ‘Obedient’ as a value to aspire to in this day and age? No wife should be ‘obedient’ to her husband, nor should any husband be ‘obedient’ to his wife. Marriage is for equals.

    These people in the OWC need to get their heads checked.

    #2627
  10. Anon

    This OWC notion is sick. The women who are advocating in favor of it have personally erased decades of feminism. Obedience is not a word to be used in marriage. Mutual respect, trust, honesty, yes. The OWC is basically preaching that men are the “masters” and women are the “slaves.” I’m disgusted that this is still happening in our day and age.

    #2632
    • admin

      Your comment is based purely on assumption rather than fact.

      AWARE is not a government linked body. It is an NGO. The Women’s Charter is a statute enacted by parliament (act of law) – it is not an organisation. AWARE has no control over the latter but does make recommendations to the government on how we would like it changed.

      Before assuming what our bias is with regards to this charter please take the time to read our submission to the government. One of our recommendations is that the charter be amended to enable men to claim maintenance in appropriate situations.

      #2636
  11. Bimmer

    Those who need to have their IQ lowered would be attracted to such a nonsensical cult culture. You can be sexy and joyous without turning your wife into a sex dummy.

    #2638
    • Those who need to have their IQ lowered would be attracted to such a nonsensical cult culture.
      Not true.

      What strikes me about this is that very little of the discourse is centring around consent and choice, though.

      #2640