What Women Really Want: Equal rights and non-discrimination

The SDP’s Women Democrats (WD) held their first public forum to commemorate International Women’s Day (held on 8 March annually). Chaired by Ms Chee Siok Chin, the panel took on issues ranging from abused women to single mothers to National Service.

Sister Delphine Kang, an advisor to Marymount Convent School, recounted the stories of two women who were the subject of spousal abuse. These women did not allow the tragic events to pull them down.

Instead they found the strength to overcome their plight and fought back to bring up their children and provide them with opportunities to achieve successful lives, testifying to the strength of women and their often under-appreciated contribution to society.

Ms Suraya Akbar, who had spoken at various SDP events including a rally at last year’s general elections, called for equal treatment for single mothers.

She pointed out that single, unmarried women with children are not eligible to apply for HDB flats or Baby Bonus handouts or maternal leave. “I’m not advocating that women have children out of wedlock, but single mothers have heavy responsibilities and they should not be discriminated against.”

Former president of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) Ms Dana Lam recounted the historical development of women in Singapore’s politics.

In the early days, there were several progressive-minded women in the civil service who had advocated strongly for equal rights for women. Unfortunately, in a paternalistic and male-oriented PAP, these proposals did not go far.

In fact, it was only as recent as 2004 that the Government allowed overseas-born children to acquire Singapore citizenship by descent if the mothers  were Singaporean.

Ms Chong Wai Fung, a new member of the SDP, talked about the need for women to find time to take care of their own needs and wants instead of being the provider for their families.

One of the reasons why women find it hard to get ahead professionally is because they often sacrifice their careers for the more traditional roles as house-makers.

Herself an activist who has helped raise funds for multiple charitable causes, Ms Chong says that women need to pay more attention to achieving their goals and aspirations. This is good not just for women but society will benefit as a whole.

Ms Hazel Poa, secretary-general of the National Solidarity Party, was the final speaker. Speaking on the topic of women in politics, she pointed that presently there were no women ministers in the cabinet and would support a quota system of women parliamentarians in the House.

The forum brought up a lively discussion as some males in the audience raised the inevitable point about women not serving in National Service.

The panel said such a proposal was not out of bounds as women needed to shoulder their share of defending the nation too. In fact, Ms Chong Wai Fung had volunteered in the Singapore Armed Forces Combat Support Hospital and has attended reservist training several times said that there shouldn’t be a problem for women serving in the military.

Another question raised was whether there women and men could be considered equal given the differences between the two sexes. Ms Dana Lam responded that there was no question that such differences existed but the question was one of equal rights and equal opportunities.

“Men should not take it that such differences allow them to calim superiority over women,” she said.

The SDP’s stand on this issue is clear: The confusion arises when we equate same-ness with equality. While men and women are not the same, both in the biological and psychological make-up, it doesn’t mean that we should not be have equal rights and opportunities.

Such non-discrimination remains the cornerstone in the SDP’s political beliefs and our Women Democrats play a crucial role in ensuring that this goal is achieved both within the party and in society.







More photos of this event at SDP’s facebook album.