Saturday, 22 October 2011

Women MPs speak for the men as well, replies Grace Fu

I AGREE with Mr Sulthan Niaz that women Members of Parliament should speak up for their constituents who include men ('Women MPs should speak up for men too'; yesterday).

Over the past few days in Parliament, several women MPs have spoken on issues that affect both men and women.

Madam Halimah Yacob (Jurong GRC and Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports) announced plans to refine the Community Care Endowment Fund (ComCare), which will help the elderly, while Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC) called for government funding for special needs programmes in the universities.

These measures will benefit men and women.

On gender equality, I recognise that men and women are not the same in their physical and emotional make-up.

I am not advocating absolute equality. There are undeniably some roles women perform better in and there are others that men can do better.

However, as a society, there is room for us to be more supportive towards women balancing the multiple roles at work and in the family.

Our policies should also gravitate towards recognising greater gender equality.

The media interview Mr Sulthan referred to was in my capacity as chairperson for the People's Action Party (PAP) women's wing.

Naturally, our cause is to champion issues affecting women and to focus on the needs of women.

Still, the recommendations we are making - for example, re-entering the workforce, flexi-work arrangements - apply to men as well although we approach the subject from the women's perspective.

Even as we champion women's causes, it does not prevent us, as MPs, from representing all our constituents, including men.
Grace Fu (Ms)
PAP Women's Wing
ST Forum, 22 Oct 2011

Women MPs should speak up for men too
I WAS disappointed by the remarks of the People's Action Party Member of Parliament for Yuhua, Ms Grace Fu, who heads the PAP's women's wing ('Women to pack more punch in the House'; last Saturday).

Ms Fu, who is Senior Minister of State for two ministries - Information, Communications and the Arts; and The Environment and Water Resources - stated that society still expects women to shoulder a disproportionate share of the caregiver's role.

While it is true that men need to do more at home, Ms Fu's remarks displayed a limited understanding of gender equality among women.

True gender equality means equal sharing of benefits and responsibilities between men and women. Women, however, are reluctant to embrace genuine equality.

While men are increasingly helping out at home, they are still solely burdened with the responsibility of national defence.

The Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), in its fight for women's rights, has not actively promoted national service for women. NS has never been a top priority for Aware.

According to a Sunday Times report in 2008, there were more than 2,000 house husbands in Singapore and the number was set to rise ('Stay-at- home dads find Secret Business'; June15, 2008). However, such men are denied alimony.

By contrast, women drawing good salaries still have the option of alimony open to them.

Debates on paternity leave receive much positive feedback from women MPs because paternity leave benefits women.

By contrast, male-positive policies such as alimony for men are hardly raised by women MPs because it disadvantages women financially.

Women MPs are elected to Parliament on votes cast by male voters too. So, women MPs are equally obliged to speak up on men's issues.

Yet, no elected woman MP has raised the issues of national service for women and alimony for men.

Ironically, it was Dr Kanwaljit Soin, a founder-member of Aware and former Nominated MP, who spoke up for men on the issue of alimony.

True gender equality must form the basis of relationship between men and women.

As long as women cling on to a double standard in interpreting gender equality, men and women will remain trapped in their traditional roles.
Sulthan Niaz
ST Forum, 21 Oct 2011

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