A whole-of-society effort is needed to change norms and practices on women’s roles, says President Halimah Yacob, Politics News & Top Stories



SINGAPORE – A whole-of-society effort is needed for societal norms and practices to change and better support women, President Halimah Yacob said on Thursday (June 3) at a gender equality conference here.

The problem is not only to guarantee women’s rights, but also to give them the respect and appreciation they deserve for their contributions and sacrifices, she said.

“We are all in a position of influence to do this,” she said.

“With respect being the cornerstone of the relationship between women and men, we can create a society where every woman and man can achieve their aspirations and their full potential. “

Madam Halimah, Singapore’s first female president, and before that, the first female speaker of Parliament, delivered the keynote address at the 2021 Women’s Conference of the Institute of Policy Studies.

The fully virtual event brings together more than 250 academics, activists, business and community leaders, as well as government officials to discuss the challenges Singapore women face in a changing world.

Speaking in a recorded message, President Halimah said Singapore is committed to gender equality and acceded to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women in 1995.

“To ensure continued progress as a nation, it is imperative to invest in, develop and maximize the full potential of each individual and support them in achieving their aspirations, whether they are women or men. ‘men,’ she added.

“We must ensure that women who hold ‘half the sky’ can participate and contribute fully and equally to the development of Singapore.”

The conference is part of an ongoing series of conversations on women’s development in Singapore, as part of a national review of women’s issues.

Since last September, the government has partnered with civil society, business and community groups to better understand citizens’ aspirations for Singaporean women, and has held around 100 conversations involving more than 3,300 participants.

President Halimah said all views on how to achieve greater gender equality will be taken into account and the government will present a white paper on the recommendations as well as a roadmap for implementation. .

As Singapore takes stock of the progress of its women, President Halimah stressed that it is also important to review existing policies and social norms to respond to changing attitudes and challenges on gender equality. women and men.

Laws, policies regularly reviewed to better protect women

She noted that the government is constantly reviewing its laws and policies on this front. For example, the Women’s Charter, which came into effect 60 years ago in May 1961, has been amended over the years and is not a static document.

The President noted that the law was revolutionary for the time, codifying marriage and divorce laws and giving married women the legal right to sign contracts and own property using their own names.

“We owe a great debt to Chan Choy Siong and other women who came before us for paving the way for equality between women and men,” she said, referring to the pioneering politician. who played a key role in the passage of the charter in the Legislative Assembly.

She added that changes over the years have strengthened protections for women, such as enforcement of maintenance orders after divorce and support for vulnerable women facing domestic violence.

Other laws such as the Penal Code and the Protection against Harassment Act have also been updated, to repeal spousal immunity in cases of rape, strengthen the penalties for violence against intimate partners and strengthen the law. protection of victims of harassment and harassment, among other changes.

And in March, the ministerial statement on the review of the sentencing framework for sexual offenses and injuries set out the government’s philosophy that deterrent and proportionate sentences should take precedence over the rehabilitation of adult offenders.

Possibility of improvement in the workplace, at home

Regarding women’s progress, President Halimah said that while the women here have made great strides, especially in education, work and community participation, “there is always room for improvement because progress is an effort. continued”.

She noted that women with caregiving responsibilities, for example, continue to face barriers in the workplace and that their propensity to take on these tasks was a key factor contributing to the pay gap between women and men. gender, which stood at 6% in 2018, based on a study by the Ministry of Manpower and the National University of Singapore.

Work-from-home arrangements brought on by the pandemic have created opportunities for women to balance work and care, she added, and hopes they will continue to be available after the crisis. But she noted that women could find themselves disproportionately taking on unpaid care duties, such as responsibility for home learning and household chores for their children.

Ms. Halimah called on fathers to step in and play a more active role at home, and employers to be more understanding.

Need a strong signal against online harassment

Another area in which women face challenges is the digital realm, noted the president.

She alluded to recent cases of harassment and intimidation of women, sometimes by anonymous trolls, on social media, and cited recent media reports of sexual violence against women facilitated by technology. .

As laws have been tightened up and tougher penalties introduced to tackle these issues, Ms Halimah said, it is also important that society takes a stand and that schools and workplaces take harassment seriously. sexual, including online.

“Singaporeans must send a strong signal that we condemn such behavior, because no woman is safe from such abuse, including female members of our family.

“While technology has opened up new avenues for harassment and violence against women, the attitudes that gave rise to these anti-social behaviors in the first place have been with us for much longer,” she added. .

Mrs Halimah also said that change must take place “upstream”, with young men being taught from an early age that women are their equals and must be respected. “This is where families, peers and institutions such as schools can play a role in educating boys and girls about gender stereotypes regarding careers and parenting roles,” she said. declared.

“We must point out that there is no tolerance for the degradation of girls and women in our society, and that they are valued for their contributions in the family, in the workplace and in our society.”


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