March 1st, 2012

China’s National Population And Family Planning Commission visits AWARE

 

By Foo Jiayu

On 24 February, AWARE welcomed a delegation of 16 officials from China’s National Population And Family Planning Commission (国家计划生育委员会) at the AWARE Centre.

Headed by Deputy Director-General of the General Office Mr Yao Hongwen, the delegation consisted of officials from various provinces, including Guangdong and Guizhou. The main purpose of their visit to Singapore was to learn ways to control China’s population size.

Speaking in Mandarin, AWARE President Nicole Tan gave a short presentation on AWARE, focusing in particular on our Sexual Assault Befrienders Service (SABS), the AWARE Training Institute, and our Research and Advocacy work.

Members of the delegation asked questions about domestic violence, gender discrimination, as well as the issue of singles conceiving through artificial means.

In 2003,  the Chinese government banned IVF for single women. An official asked if people in Singapore were entitled to free in vitro fertilization (IVF) to conceive. Nicole replied that IVF is not free in Singapore, not even for married couples. Furthermore, single mothers face significant discrimination in Singapore – their children would be last in the balloting for seats in primary schools, for instance.

Another official remarked thatInterestingly, the officials also seemed particularly concerned about Singapore allowing polygamy under the Syariah law. This was mentioned in Nicole’s answer to a question of whether there were any particular differences between the rights of women and men in Singapore.

Nicole explained that this law originated during the British colonial period as a retainment of traditional Muslim practices. Further, she understood that approval is needed for a second wife, and this approval is difficult to obtain. The officials were of the view, however, that polygamy should be eradicated as Singapore is essentially a secular country.

Nicole also stressed the importance of the media in encouraging women to seek help. Taking the example of domestic violence, Nicole remarked that when media reports about domestic violence increase, calls by battered women and/or friends of these women to AWARE’s Helpline also increased.

Similarly, the media is an influential tool that should be used to clearly highlight that behaviour like sexual abuse and sexual harassment is deplorable and unacceptable.

Prior to visiting AWARE, the delegation also visited the Singapore Planned Parenthood Association, Fei Yue Community Services, the Housing Development Board (HDB), and various universities.

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