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Kite festival, a gathering for kite enthusiast at Marina Barrage August 6, 2016 in Singapore (Image by Chutima Chaochaiya / Shutterstock)

AWARE’s report to the UN highlights the urgent need to protect children in Singapore from discrimination and inequality

Leading gender rights organisation, AWARE has called for policies to level the playing field and promote equality among children, such as free childcare for low-income households and an end to discrimination against single-parent or transnational families.

In a report submitted last week to a United Nations Committee about the protection of children’s rights in Singapore, the leading women’s rights and gender equality advocate group proposed several recommendations on changes to law and policies in order to better protect children from gender-based violence. The report also highlights the need to provide young people with better access to knowledge and information on sexual health.

The report was submitted for a forthcoming review of Singapore’s progress in implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). CRC, which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children, came into force in 1990. Singapore, a party since 1995, will discuss its progress in recent years with a Committee of Experts in May this year.

In the report, AWARE highlights how economic inequality and discriminatory policies have a negative impact on children’s rights, such as their rights to a decent standard of living, to housing and to live free from discrimination.

“Children’s rights are directly impacted by economic inequality,” said Corinna Lim, Executive Director of AWARE. “Inequality hurts a family’s ability to meet its children’s needs, both now and in the future. As the National Population and Talent Division looks at policies affecting marriage and parenthood, we hope that ensuring fair and equal access for all children will be at the centre of the review.”

Key recommendations made in the report include:

  • Allow all lower-income households (monthly household income under $2,500, or per capita income under $650) to access government-subsidised childcare for free.

  • Remove legal and policy distinctions between single and unmarried mothers, and between children based on “legitimacy”. Allow an unmarried single mother and her child(ren) to form a “family nucleus” for the purpose of accessing HDB housing.

  • Allow all parents of citizen children to obtain permanent residence, to prevent the possibility of parent-child separation and reduce barriers to employment, healthcare and housing.

  • Move away from abstinence-based sexuality education in schools, and towards neutral, informative education, including a focus on gender equality and the elimination of gender stereotypes.

  • Set the minimum age of marriage to 18 for all, and end all marriage-based immunity or defences for sexual offences against children.

  • Improve children’s access to help and services for gender-based violence, such as removing the requirement of a guardian’s signature for rape kits to be performed for under-21s.