Singaporean women ‘must’ look after ill husbands under new law

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Wives in Singapore are now legally obliged to support their husbands or ex-husbands if they become unable to work, following the passage of a new law.

These came in the form of amendments to the Women’s Charter, an act originally passed in 1961 to codify marital and social rights in the Far Eastern city state. The new regulations, passed by the Parliament of Singapore this week, mean women must help their husbands or ex-husbands if they fall seriously ill or become disabled.

In addition, couples with children who announce plans to divorce but who disagree on arrangements for their children will now be obliged to parenting classes. New record officers will be appointed by the courts if a spouse fails to be pay maintenance without a good reason.

The amendments were vigorously debated in Parliament. Some MPs attempted to broaden the scope of the new regulations, pointing to an increasing number of househusbands in Singapore and arguing that routine spousal maintenance should be paid according to each family’s situation and not according to gender.

Louis Ng said men who made “economic sacrifices to take a primary role in household labour and caregiving” should have an equal entitlement to maintenance payments.

But Tan Chuan-Jin is the Singaporean Minister for Social and Family Development was unconvinced Speaking in Parliament he insisted that the Act would still be referred to as the Women’s Charter rather than receiving a more gender-neutral name because “our society is not quite fully ready for the gender neutrality on the spousal maintenance front”.

The Minister declared:

“The emphasis on the family remains. Just because we do not call it a ‘Family Charter’ does not in itself mean that we are not placing the emphasis on family. For all intents and purposes, the bulk of what we are setting out in the Women’s Charter is aimed at supporting families.”

Photo of Tan Chuan-Jin by Singapore Sports Council via Flickr

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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