Wednesday 21 October 2015

Maintenance for divorced men?

Support from ex-wives for incapacitated men among proposed Women's Charter changes
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 20 Oct 2015

Divorced women may have to pay maintenance to their ex-husbands, should the men be incapacitated by illness or disability.

This is among the possible changes that could be introduced as the Women's Charter is amended. Separately, marriages of convenience may be voided and divorcing parents may have to undergo a mandatory programme before they file for divorce to better protect the interests of their children.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is seeking views from the public on these proposed changes to the charter in a bid to address concerns about rising divorce rates and immigration.

MSF invites you to give feedback on the draft Women’s Charter (Amendment) Bill. These are the proposed areas of...
Posted by MSF Singapore on Sunday, October 18, 2015

The ministry has also taken feedback to better protect women and girls and address concerns like rising divorce rates and marriages of convenience, said its spokesman.

A marriage of convenience is contracted for reasons other than love, such as personal gain. In 2012, it became a criminal offence under the Immigration Act to arrange or enter into such sham marriages. The charter will now be updated to render them void once either party is convicted under the Act.

Enacted in 1961, the Women's Charter enshrines the protection of women and governs marriage and divorce matters in Singapore. It was last amended in 2011 to ensure that maintenance orders are better enforced by giving the courts the option of imposing more sanctions on defaulters.

In the last few years, there have been calls to award maintenance based on need instead of gender as many women hold high-paying jobs.

Last year, for example, a judge questioned the right of every woman to seek maintenance or alimony upon divorce. Justice Choo Han Teck thought that this "unalloyed right" spoke to "patronising gestures" in the Women's Charter that "belie deep chauvinistic thinking".

He rejected the request of a 48-year-old regional sales manager for $120,000 in alimony from her former husband, a 47-year-old senior prison officer. She earned slightly more than him.

"Feedback from stakeholders, however, indicates that our society is not ready to accept that women have the same responsibility as men to support their spouse or ex-spouse," said the MSF spokesman in the consultation paper.

But the ministry acknowledged that there is a small group of incapacitated men who need support from their former wives and it has been proposed that the court can order maintenance for them if they are unable to work .

Ms Jolene Tan, programmes and communications senior manager at the Association of Women for Action and Research, said this was a move in the right direction.

"Maintenance should be based on fairness, not gender. It should also be available to men in other appropriate cases, such as where men make economic sacrifices to take a primary role in household labour and caregiving," she said.

Ms Malathi Das, president of the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations, said the mandatory parenting programme is particularly important. "This ensures that the children's interests are prioritised above the other parties' acrimony and material concerns," she said.

The consultation paper can be accessed at Members of the public have until Nov 8 to submit feedback via 6708-7138 or Letters may be also be sent to MSF's Family Development Group.


• Voiding marriages of convenience

• Allowing maintenance for incapacitated men who cannot work

• Compulsory parenting programme for divorcing parents with minor children before they file for divorce

• Enhancing protection for girls and women at places of safety as well as that of professionals involved in protection work

Should it be a wife’s legal responsibility to provide for her husband, even after a divorce? MSF Singapore is proposing several changes to the Women’s Charter. Details: (via TODAY)
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Monday, October 19, 2015

Uneven maintenance laws stand in the way of progress

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), despite calls over the years to extend maintenance to men, has said that various stakeholders are not ready for such a move, and has instead proposed a puzzling amendment: maintenance for former husbands, should the men be incapacitated by illness or disability ("Maintenance for divorced men?"; Oct 20).

Maintenance should be gender neutral.

The initial purpose of the Women's Charter, when it was first put into force, was to uplift the status of women and put them on equal standing with men.

That was more than 50 years ago.

Our nation was founded on the concept of meritocracy, with a person's success to be judged on his own merits, without reference to race, religion or gender.

In other common law jurisdictions, such as Britain, gender-neutral maintenance is, in fact, widespread.

The proposed amendment would be inconsistent with existing provisions of the Women's Charter, which provides that husbands and wives are equal partners in the matrimonial household and both parties have the right to separately engage in any trade, profession or social activity they so choose.

Limiting maintenance to only disabled men makes a mockery of the very spirit of the charter.

Husbands and wives are equal and neither is to be more favourably treated than the other.

The way forward is clear: Maintenance must either be gender neutral or be taken away entirely.

Neither spouse should be in a more privileged position than the other.

The stakeholders the MSF refers to stand in the way of gender equality and in the way of societal progress.

The current proposed amendment is so limited as to be of negligible significance in practice.

Let us not wait another 50 years to get this right.

Clement Yap Ying Jie
ST Forum, 24 Oct 2015

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