As a Singaporean, I greeted the news that Singapore ranked 15th overall in terms of the wellbeing of mothers and children in the 14th “State of the World’s Mothers” report by Children’s aid agency, Save The Children (http://sg.news.yahoo.com/singapore-safest-place-to-be-born-in-asia–report-165347498.html) with pride. This standing places Singapore ahead of developed countries such as the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and South Korea. It also gives Singapore the coveted position of surpassing all of its Asian neighbours.
Effective from May 1, single parents will also receive six days of childcare leave a year for children below the age of seven, two days for those aged between seven and 12 and six days of unpaid infant care leave annually if they have a child below two years of age.
I applaud Singapore for this development. However, we should not rest on our laurels as more can definitely be done. Even as this report was being compiled, the mothers among us are not given equal treatment. Single mothers do not qualify for the Baby Bonus or the Parenthood Tax Rebates. They also only get 12 weeks of paid maternity leave as opposed to the 16 weeks that married mothers get. (http://www.singapolitics.sg/views/its-about-time-single-parents-got-some-recognition)
This strikes me as manifestly archaic and baseless. In a state that is crying out for babies, why are children penalised on the basis that their parents are unmarried? A child is a child no matter what one’s personal moral values are and society should not be treating children born out of wedlock as persona non grata. Ultimately, the goal of the Baby Bonus, Parenthood Tax Rebates and maternity leave are to ensure that each child is adequately looked after and given the best possible head start. That being the case, why differentiate between children on the basis of whether their parents are married?
Why punish the children in a bid to punish their “fallen” mothers? Do we even have a right to judge unmarried mothers? We live in the 21st century after all and society, however conservative has to acknowledge that people have premarital sex, which sometimes leads to pregnancy! Why does a state that legalises prostitution suddenly become all conservative when a baby is added to the equation? The whole thing smells of double standards and hypocrisy. It also completely defies logic.
Is it our way of somehow censuring unmarried mothers for daring to get pregnant? If that is the case, this is completely counterproductive. The baby is already here. What point does this “punishment” serve? Is this a means to somehow discourage girls from falling pregnant outside wedlock? If so, I don’t think it is working. I don’t see the numbers of pregnancies outside wedlock changing much. Besides, are we subtly trying to suggest that abortion is preferable? I am staunchly pro choice but I have great difficulty seeing the rationale of people using morality as an argument against giving unmarried women equal rights when the alternative is abortion. If they are so righteous, surely abortion is worse?
Besides, why would giving both unmarried mothers and married mothers equal status as mothers “encourage” single mothers? Surely, only if unwed mothers were given more privileges would that be the case? We are certainly not in danger of that!
Are mothers somehow considered less motherly just because they are not married?
It is high time for us to re evaluate the purpose behind these discriminatory practices that have the net result of isolating certain groups from society. Certainly, not a great start to PM Lee’s promised “inclusiveness”.
In the words of Marine Parade MP Seah Kian Peng, unwed mothers should be treated as “mothers first and singles second”. For us to be truly deserving of the honour given to us by the report compiled by Save The Children, this is the sentiment that we should all collectively embrace.