With GE 2015 looming round the corner, new political parties being formed, fresh faces coming to the fore, the disquiet caused by the PA/ AHPETC scandal, the latest round of MRT failures, the CPF issues raised by Rog Ngerng and the treatment of Amos Yee that exploded into an international embarrassment, there will certainly be plenty to watch for as campaigning goes underway.
With the rise of Internet exposés, wider public participation in political discourse and greater scrutiny on traditional power holders, I would expect the newer breed of politicians to be more savvy, inclusive and imaginative so as to appeal to the younger generation who do not feel as beholden to the incumbent PAP stalwarts.
It was therefore slightly alarming for me to come across Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan Jin uttering such myopic and out of touch assertions about single parents:
“Is it an indication or signal that we condone single-parenthood? That is something that you bear in mind. I do believe that society is sympathetic to single mums but we also need to be careful not to appear to encourage it as something that you could do.
We do see in other countries, individuals choosing as a matter of lifestyle: ‘It’s ok, I’m not married, but I don’t mind having a child.’ I don’t think we are there yet as a society. I’m sure there will be individuals and some who may disagree, but I don’t see that as a norm and I don’t personally feel that some of these changes would open the floodgates if you will, for that particular lifestyle to develop.”
Firstly, I am sick and tired of the old unproven argument that giving single parents equal rights would somehow “encourage” people to have children out of wedlock. As said ad nauseam by many people before me, raising a child on your own is not a walk in the park and most people will not willingly put themselves in this position on a whim.
People have been falling pregnant outside wedlock since time immemorial. It is neither new nor shocking and I am surprised that our politicians still persist in using such an old and fuddy duddy argument to justify their bigoted claims. Someone will only be “encouraged” if they are given more incentives to do something. Treating someone equally will not open the floodgates of single parenthood that Minister Tan seems to illogically so fear.
Social stigma within some segments of society, financial challenges and the difficulty of time management are but some of the problems faced by single parents. Very few people would willingly choose it just because the government offers equal benefits. This begs the question: Is the minister more interested in dishing out judgment and punishment over genuinely trying to support married couples?
No one is suggesting that the benefits of married couples be reduced. Nor is anyone advocating that single parents get more. All we are proposing is that all parents and thereby all children receive equal benefits. Isn’t this what constitutes a fair and equal society? Isn’t this what inclusiveness should be about?
Besides, these benefits are funded by our taxes. I would venture to say that many single parents are tax payers – are they not entitled to the benefits funded by the taxes that they contribute to?
It is a preposterous fallacy to argue that the offering of equal support to single parents would somehow lead everyone to suddenly go at it on their own. It simplifies the entire notion of parenthood and reduces the enormity of that responsibility to narrow minded discrimination.
From a country that is asking for its citizens to procreate and going to the extent to suggest that large scale emigration is required in order to ensure population growth, this short sighted bias smacks of hypocrisy.
Remember, the end result of penalising single parents would inadvertently give priority to children born in wedlock over those who are not. And this is being done to the children, through no fault of their own. How is that an even playing field? While purporting to protect the morality of Singaporeans, the Minister is in effect promoting inequality on the most innocent and vulnerable in our society – children.
More worrying is what this entire narrative of encouraging/not encouraging single parenthood suggests. It is one thing to state statistically that single parent families are few in numbers, but quite different to say it is “not the norm” and is but a “particular lifestyle” to be adopted. Such a narrative lends an air of moral judgement to the issue. Is the Minister then suggesting that it is immoral to have a child out of wedlock? What does he then expect single parents to do, abort or abandon the child? The thought of that and what it might mean for an innocent child is appalling.
Of course, Minister Tan is not the originator of this ridiculous argument but I did expect better from him. He is meant to be “fresh blood” to rejuvenate the party. It is therefore disappointing that he cannot offer a more convincing reasoning than this.
Perhaps you cannot teach an old dog new tricks after all.