AWARE’s statement at the UN Human Rights Council
On Friday 24 June 2016, AWARE took part in the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council session in Geneva which adopted the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report for Singapore. The UPR is a process where UN member states offer recommendations to one another on matters of human rights.
This is the statement delivered by Jolene Tan of AWARE as one of 10 NGO representatives – some national, some international – who spoke at the session:
Mr Vice-President, women’s rights are not sufficiently promoted in Singapore. Women’s representation in political decision-making is wholly inadequate when 19 of 20 full Cabinet members are men. We call for explicit constitutional protection against sex and gender discrimination.
We welcome the possible repeal of marital immunity for rape. We urge that its abolition is total and unqualified, for both rape and the offence of sexual penetration of a minor under 16. We call on the state to proactively investigate and address why sexual violence is chronically under-reported.
We urge an end to all forms of state-sanctioned discrimination against single parents. Unmarried parents – overwhelmingly women – are barred from purchasing public housing before the age of 35, and face discriminatory terms of access. For divorced mothers, prohibitive conditions on public rental housing – like a 30-month debarment after sale of the matrimonial property and an unrealistic income ceiling – cause impoverishment and housing instability. We call for clear, equal, inclusive policies to ensure access to housing. The arbitrary process of petitioning parliamentarians in individual cases is a wholly inadequate substitute.
We call on the state to show respect for the rights to family life and the rights of the child by publishing clear, transparent criteria for migrant spouses of Singapore citizens to obtain permanent residence and the right to work. Current arbitrary and opaque processes penalise low-income migrant women, who can be deported if their spouses abandon them or are imprisoned. We urge in particular that migrant women with citizen children be given a clear and unambiguous right to remain with their children in Singapore.
We urge that the fundamental labour protections of the Employment Act be extended to live-in domestic workers. Under current measures, 6 in 10 have no weekly day off. Only half are compensated for this, typically with sums below Employment Act standards. There are widespread reports of employer abuse, including overwork and food deprivation. We urge an end to this shameful devaluation of care and domestic labour.