Hot or not, it shouldn’t matter to the law


Linking a divorcée’s appearance to her alimony sets a dangerous precedent.

It may sound like an episode of Ally McBeal, but fact has once again proved stranger than fiction.

On June 3, the Straits Times reported on the High Court’s ruling that it was relevant for a judge to take into account the “attractiveness” of a wife in determining her chances of remarriage, when exercising its discretion on whether to grant lump sum or monthly maintenance.

The judgment stemmed from the divorce settlement of a 37-year-old Vietnamese Singaporean woman, in which a judge had asked if the woman in question was attractive.

Not surprisingly, the report inspired prompt rumblings of discontent from feminists. AWARE, for example, received several calls and emails from many of our members, who were disturbed by the clear danger for arbitrary judgment that may result from this ruling.

Business Times columnist Joyce Hooi seems to have caught wind of similar rumblings. Her June 4 piece on this ruling discusses and then dismisses feminist arguments against the judgment – namely, that attractiveness is subjective, and that a woman’s attractiveness does not automatically make her more likely to get remarried.

First of all, Hooi asserts, beauty is not really in the eye of the beholder – attractiveness is more or less objective. “While there might be room for quibbling about how someone is more of a 7 than an 8, the gulf between a 2 and an 8 is wide enough for most people to see…Railing against the objective definition of beauty is like saying that America’s Next Top Model is bunk; it is futile and makes everyone suspect that the person doing the complaining is ugly.”

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