History & Achievements

In late 1984, a group of women who had taken part in the seminar ‘Women’s Choices, Women’s Lives’ decided they needed to do more than just make or listen to speeches about the situation of women in Singapore. They felt what was needed was a women’s group able to campaign for gender equality in a coherent and consistent way, basing its arguments on research and a thorough understanding of the issues. Thus, AWARE was formed. We officially came into being on 25 November 1985.

Here are some of AWARE’s key events and achievements, including our contributions to changes in laws and policies in Singapore:


  • Protection From Harassment Act was passed in March and came into force in November, providing new remedies for harassment victims
  • The Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) was launched in May, replacing the Sexual Assault Befrienders Service (SABS) to provide support for sexual assault survivors. An intensive video and TV campaign featuring Zoe Tay and Judee Tan helped to raise awareness of the service
  • StopTraffickingSG – a coalition of AWARE, Healthserve, HOME, TWC2, MARUAH and UN Women – campaigned for better protection of trafficking victims in the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act


  • Successfully persuaded MINDFEF and SAF to prevent the singing in the military of the lyrics of ‘Purple Light’ which glorified raping women
  • Government introduced one week of mandatory paternity leave – following extensive campaigning from AWARE
  • Launch of the We Can! End All Violence Against Women campaign, to widespread publicity, including huge media coverage of star Change Maker and domestic violence survivor Rachel Chung
  • Received a grant from the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality to fund “Gender Equality IS our culture!”, a three-year project developed in collaboration with our Indonesian partner Solidaritas Perempuan


  • Secured revisions to the Voluntary Sterilisation Bill to include the need for an order from the High Court before sterilisation of mentally disabled people
  • Launched the Sexual Harassment OUT (S.H.OUT) campaign in November to increase awareness of the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace and to push for greater legal protection for victims


  • Submission of our third CEDAW Shadow Report to the United Nations, highlighting areas of gender inequality in Singapore
  • Launch of the Sexual Assault Befrienders Service, the first support service for survivors of sexual assault in Singapore
  • Our research and feedback contributed to the deletion of Section 157(d) of the Evidence Act, an archaic law that makes it possible to discredit an alleged sexual assault victim through her sexual history
  • Collaborated with Ngee Ann Polytechnic to conduct a survey on paternity leave. As a result of the survey, we recommended the implementation of a 2-week paternity leave and more employer support for fathers


  • In March, AWARE’s management committee was replaced by a group of activists from a church unsympathetic to AWARE’s values. This was a part of a series of events referred to by the media as the ‘AWARE Saga’. In May, the new management committee was ousted at an Extraordinary General Meeting requisitioned by long time members of AWARE


  • Revisions to the penal code, including issues of marital rape
  • United Nations recognition of the areas where Singapore has to become more compliant with CEDAW (Convention On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women)


  • Development of legal reforms that addressed gaps in Singapore’s legislation on trafficking (in collaboration with NUS Pro Bono Law Society)


  • Equalisation of medical benefits for male and female civil servants


  • Constitutional amendment to accord the same citizenship rights to the children of Singaporean women as the children of Singaporean men
  • Government acknowledgement that men and women play equal roles as joint “heads of household”


  • Lifting of the quota restricting female intake for the medical faculty at the National University of Singapore


  • Appointment of former AWARE president Braema Mathiaparanam as Nominated Member of Parliament (2001-2004). She was nominated by AWARE.


  • Policy change to allow women to sponsor their foreign spouses for citizenship or PR status


  • Appointment of former AWARE president Claire Chiang as Nominated Member of Parliament (1997-2001)


  • Revisions to the Women’s Charter to provide more protection for victims of domestic violence. Former AWARE president Kanwaljit Soin initiated this by introducing the Domestic Violence Bill as a Nominated Member of Parliament.


  • Education Ministry decision to offer “Life Skills For Boys & Girls”. Previously, girls did Home economics and boys did Technical Studies
  • Changes to police handling of rape cases as a result of the AWARE Rape Study Committee’s “Proposal for standardising and enhancing police procedures in rape management”


  • Appointment of former AWARE president Kanwaljit Soin as Nominated Member of Parliament (1992-1996)


  • Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) decides to develop new guidelines to curb sex discrimination in advertisements

Over the years, AWARE has also published more than 20 books and research reports. Click here to view the complete list.

These include:

  • 2008 – Workplace Sexual Harassment (Research report)
  • 2007 – United Nations CEDAW Shadow Report
  • 2007 – Small Steps, Giant Leaps (book)
  • 2006 – Foreign Bride Report: Beyond Happily Ever After (Research report)
  • 2006 – Beyond Borders: Sex with Children (research report)
  • 2005 – Beyond Babies: National Duty or Personal Choice? (Research report)
  • 2004 – Beyond Youth: Women Growing Older and Poorer (Research report)
  • 2002 – Remaking Singapore: Views of Half the Nation (research report)
  • 2000 – Rape: Weapon of Terror (Research report)