August 5th, 2011

Our take on UN’s Concluding Observations

There remain many areas where gender equality can be improved in Singapore.

AWARE is very heartened by the Concluding Observations made by the United Nations’ (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. But we remain concerned about the Singapore government’s level of commitment to gender equality.

AWARE urges the State to meet its obligations on some of the key areas of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), as highlighted in the UN’s Concluding Observations, which contains the UN CEDAW Committee’s principal areas of concern and its recommendations of measures the State should take to ensure the non-discrimination of women in the country.

These areas are:

  • To localise CEDAW in the community; to ensure that Parliament is aware of its own Obligations to CEDAW principles; and to incorporate CEDAW into the local legal system
  • To elevate the status of the national machinery and support it with adequate resources
  • To remove reservations, especially to Article 11(1), Article 2 and 16, within a clear timeline
  • To harmonise the local laws with those of the Convention and to include the legal fraternity and non-governmental organisations in the consultations
  • To define discrimination and equality in accordance with CEDAW principles and so remove all forms of discrimination against women in Singapore, including sexual minority groups and female migrant workers and foreign wives
  • To put in place a comprehensive strategy to modify or eliminate patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes that discriminate against women, including those from sexual minority groups; and to eliminate cultural concepts, such as “the head of the household”, that negatively impact the equality of men and women
  • To ratify the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons; and to regularly train police officers and the judiciary on these matters, as well as on the issue of violence against women.
  • To take effective measures to eliminate occupational segregation between men and women at the workplace
  • To ensure that all women, regardless of marital status, are given the same maternity benefits
  • To offer legislative protection to foreign domestic workers, including a regular day off
  • To enact a law to deal with workplace sexual harassment; and to increase public education on this issue
  • To establish a national human rights institution
  • To ratify the Optional Protocol, which allows the UN CEDAW Committee to receive complaints from individuals or groups

AWARE notes that the UN CEDAW Committee also reiterated six Observations that were first put forward to the State four years ago. While AWARE appreciates some of the changes made by the State to improve the status of women in Singapore, many of the core areas of CEDAW have been left untouched.

This lapse has been noted by the UN CEDAW Committee, particularly in key areas such as: a clear timeline for the removal of reservations; sensitization to and temporary special measures for disadvantaged women; elevating the status of the national machinery; and incorporating a definition of discrimination into legislation. These are core equality principles.

AWARE also notes that at the 49th Session, the government of Singapore appeared more receptive and open to the UN CEDAW Committee, while also being non-committal in its answers in these core areas.

AWARE hopes that the State, which takes its international treaties obligations seriously, will work on some of the key Observations as outlined by the UN CEDAW Committee. We hope to see improvements in the core areas as outlined in the Concluding Observations.

We would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the UN CEDAW Committee on their role at the Reporting Session in New York, where AWARE was represented.

AWARE will always be ready to help the State in any way possible to ensure that these Concluding Observations can be made into a reality.


  1. fabrizzo

    i doubt discrimination against women exists at all this day in this country

    • Jean

      The notion of “No news is good news” appears to be superficial in all aspects.

      One might be ignorant of the current problems that women face simply due to their status as women, but that does not guarantee a ‘free from gender discrimination’ situation in Singapore, although it could be said that the severity is much less than other countries such as Africa and India, no doubt.