Unfair treatment of single mums a deterrent to unwanted pregnancies

From ‘Unequal benefits for single unwed mums a matter of deterrence’, 3 Aug 15, Voices, Today

(Sum Siew Kee): I agree with the writer of “Unwed mums did make choices that led to their situation” (Aug 1), and I wish to add a point. Some people argue for more benefits on the grounds that the child is innocent. While this is true, the child is also the parents’ responsibility.

For something to be a strong disincentive, it often must go beyond affecting the person himself. Nothing is more motivating than preventing harm from coming to the people one loves. For example, jail terms are a deterrent not only because of the unpleasant confinement, but also the loss of income, which may create hardship for the offender’s family.

Likewise, loan sharks ask for their client’s address because they can incentivise their clients to pay their debt by inflicting some pain on their family. Kidnapping a person and asking for ransom would work better than torturing him directly. Terrorists, criminals and the justice system understand this principle.

In the case of benefits for single mothers, if we intend to deter people from unwanted pregnancies, we must make good on the threat of inadequate support for a child born out of wedlock, otherwise the deterrent will not work. In conclusion, the matter is a balance between social justice and setting the right incentives.

The writer sounds like he holds a Masters in Criminal Psychology, using hard economics to justify why not treating single moms as we would typical parents is a form of ‘social justice’. What’s missing from this simplistic view of an ancient human predicament is the apparent failure to appreciate the emotional aspects of unwed motherhood. It’s such gnawing stigma about how single moms ‘asked for it’ that drives some to give their kids up for adoption, or worse, abort the baby before it has the chance to grow into a curious toddler asking Mommy ‘Why don’t I have a Daddy like my friends in school?’.

We leave those who choose to discard their foetuses alone, but when a mother decides to rear a child herself, we shake our heads, wag fingers and think ‘shotgun’. In the case of this Mr Sum, he uses the yardstick of kidnapping ransom and incarceration to make the disconcerting point that some form of ‘soft punishment’ of this bastard child of an illicit union not sanctioned by thy Heavenly Father must exist. Remove the scarlet ‘A’, and we’ll have fatherless babies crawling all over the place.

There are other ways to deter unwanted pregnancies besides the ‘threat of inadequate support’ of course. Sex education and knowledge of the various contraceptive measures available, for example. Or slapping charges on fathers who run away from personal responsibility. If unwed parenthood isn’t in your opinion socially acceptable as a ‘lifestyle’ and those who embrace it should not be granted equal parental rights, it follows that we shouldn’t make life easy for ex-convicts, divorcees, gamblers, morbidly obese people, prostitutes, smokers or people who are HIV positive either. All these folks ‘made their choice’. It’s our choice if we want to be humane or not.

Of all the conservative folk who frown on single motherhood, the worst culprits are policy-makers. In 1984, then Trade and Industry Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore was still a fairly conservative society and ‘would not welcome’ unmarried mothers. 10 years later, we remain just as conservative, with PM Goh Chok Tong declaring that the acceptance of unmarried motherhood as a ‘respectable’ part of society was WRONG. Echoing the letter writer’s incentive theory above, he went on to say that ‘removing the stigma’ may encourage more women to have more babies out of the wedlock. In other words, the shame of being an unwed parent, and omiting them from housing policies, is necessary so that others won’t think it ‘fashionable’ to bear the child of some dark and handsome stranger after a torrid one night stand. Like Terence Cao for instance.

So much for an inclusive society. Incidentally, the 90’s saw the release of a ‘single mother’ anthem, Heart’s ‘All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You’, which tells the tale of a woman conceiving with a stranger after a rainy night of ‘magic’ and giving birth to a child with ‘his own eyes’. Damn these Western soft-rock bands and their illegitimate love-child fantasies. 20 years on and they continue to threaten our ‘Asian values’.

Part-time model Kevryn Lim as NSP candidate

From ‘NSP potential candidate draws Nicole Seah comparisons’, 2 Aug 2015, article by Hon Jing Yi, CNA

Even before it officially announces its slate for the upcoming General Election (GE), one of the National Solidarity Party’s (NSP) potential candidates has been gathering online buzz, not least because she worked as a part-time model.

At 26, Ms Kevryn Lim’s youth has already drawn comparisons to former NSP member Nicole Seah, who, being 24 at the time, was one of the youngest candidates to run in the 2011 GE.

Speaking to TODAY on Friday (Jul 31), Ms Lim said that she was indeed inspired by Ms Seah – who resigned from the NSP last year – to enter politics.

“She really connected with the young crowd,” said Ms Lim, who also cited the book Can Singapore Survive by Professor Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, as well as the American political drama House Of Cards, which stars Kevin Spacey, as sources of political inspiration and influence.

…Referring to some less-than-savory comments she has gotten online over her part-time modeling career, Ms Lim said she does not let herself be affected by what other people say.

“I still model once in a while, so for me it is something I like to do. Like I said before, it’s not a shameful career, it is also a profession,” Ms Lim said.

It’s still early days yet, and I’m in no position to judge Kevyrn’s ability based on her US drama influences or whether she gets paid for posing in skimpy bikinis. The common impression that most voters have of youngsters is a ‘lack of maturity’.  PAP’s Tin Pei Lin went through the ‘baptism of fire’ with brickbats and doubts thrown at her after she posed with a Kate Spade bag. Kevyrn should jolly well study how netizens reacted to Tin’s foot-stomping ‘bimbo-ism’ in 2011, and avoid Nicole Seah’s faux pas when she tweeted a Hokkien vulgarity while stuck in traffic, instead of watching House of Cards. Still, Singaporeans are probably more accepting of a former swimsuit model as MP than a cross-dressing gay-married entertainer.

Some comments online have been brutal, one to the extent of ‘what next, a porn star?’ (There is in fact a Top Ten list of pornstars who went into politics, ALL FEMALE). But having sprightly candidates running for elections isn’t something terribly new, just that we have been unfairly critical of young attractive women but not young hot-blooded men. Nicole, Pei Ling and Kevyrn aside, here’s one for the girls, a list of upstart power-hungry men ranked by age.

1. Lim Chin Siong. Won a seat in the legislative assembly in 1955. Aged 22. WTF was I even doing at 22.

2.Relative unknown Abdul Salim Harun, WP, 24. Part of an experimental youth team that took on PM Lee’s AMK GRC in 2006. Included 30 year olds Yaw Shin Leong and Glenda Han as well.

3. Steve Chia, NSP, candidate at 26.

3. K Shanmugam, PAP, now Law Minister, candidate at 29.

3. Christopher De Souza, PAP, 30.

4. Zaqy Mohamed, PAP, 31.

5. Vikram Nair, PAP, 32.

6. Last but not least, PM Lee himself, who charged guns blazing into politics at the tender age of 32.

SAF getting first female Brigadier General

From ‘SAF promotes first female to Brigadier General’, 26 June 2015, article by Chan Luo Er, CNA

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) now has their first female Brigadier-General (BG). Col Gan Siow Huang was one of seven Colonels promoted to the rank of BG and RADM (One -Star) at the annual SAF promotion ceremony on Friday (Jun 26). She will assume her rank on Jul 1.

She was among the first four women to receive the SAF merit scholarship in 1993, and she now heads the Joint Manpower Department. In recent years, she has been making calls for more women to choose the SAF as a career. Currently, close to 1,500 women hold combat jobs in the SAF, less than 10 per cent of SAF regular personnel. Every year, about 60 women join the army.

As women make progress in the armed forces, Singapore continues to lag in terms of female presence in boardroom positions (9% of board seats). This despite instances of negative gender stereotypes in army recruitment ads, such as the ‘Shades of Green‘ campaign that suggested that there’s still a little vain princess in every woman looking at a career in SAF, rather than a GI Jane. It’s probably a matter of time before we get a female Chief of Army, and this is likely to be even before we get our first female Prime Minister.

Here’s a timeline of achievements by women in uniform in an organisation that is traditionally helmed by men with moustaches. As expected, those in the honour roll who are also mothers are lauded for their ability to ‘balance work and family commitments’, and talk about how their husbands are always ‘supportive’ and OK with the fact that their spouses have more balls than they do.

1967: First deployed doing clerical and logistics work.
1971: First military car drivers.
1987: First Senior Warrant Officer (SWO).
1987: First combat instructors. In this article, the now derogratory phrase ‘fairer sex’ was used.
1999: First Lieutenant Colonels (LTC) (High-flying women, 30 June 1999, ST)
2000: First Commanding Officer (CO) of an an army combat unit
2005: First colonel. Like BG Gan, Karen Tan (now retired from SAF) is a working mother.
2006: First Regimental Sergeant Major
2007 (?): First F-16 fighter pilot
2014: First Apache helicopter pilot. Captain Joyce Xie was formally trained in molecular and cell biology.
2015: First BG.

As you can see, women in uniform have achieved more in 15 years than their counterparts in Parliament. Our Cabinet is still predominantly male. Maybe Jack Neo, currently bleeding the Ah Boys franchise dry, may want to consider an ‘Ah Girls to Generals’ movie trilogy.

SilkAir finally recruiting male stewards

From ‘SilkAir to finally have male cabin crew’, 1 March 2015, article by Karamjit Kaur, Sunday Times

After 26 years of having only women cabin crew, SilkAir has decided to let the men in as well.

…The major shift is necessary because it has become “increasingly difficult” to attract “the right (women) candidates with the qualities that we uphold”, SilkAir said in a recent e-mail to staff.

Amid an overall manpower crunch, the airline told staff that it also has to compete for stewardesses with other local and foreign carriers, such as parent Singapore Airlines, budget carriers Tigerair and Jetstar Asia, as well as Middle Eastern airlines Emirates and Qatar Airways.

…SilkAir’s decision to hire air stewards is a “positive and long-awaited” move, said Associate Professor Seshan Ramaswami, who teaches marketing at the Singapore Management University.

…SilkAir’s new hiring policy “reflects a moving away from a stereotype that only women are suitable for these flight crew duties on board”, he added. At the end of the day, what is critical is the training, he pointed out.

The men, whose uniforms are now being designed, will be subject to the same recruitment terms and 14-week training period as the women, who don one-piece lime green or rustic red wrap dresses, the airline’s spokesman said.

On why SilkAir never hired air stewards before this, she said: “Our earlier strategy was to hire women crew who embodied nurturing characteristics in line with the SilkAir experience we aimed to provide customers.”

According to the SilkAir recruitment ad, the airline requires the following: Cabin crew with a ‘combination of grace and a warm smile’ to provide excellent and attentive service to our customers’,  ‘grace’ and ‘warm’ being adjectives that are not often associated with the male sex, and really serve as a hint that women have always been preferred without explicitly stating that men need not apply. The real reason why SilkAir relaxed their females-only hire policy here is that they’re short of staff, i.e male cabin crew are an afterthought.

Given that other airlines have no problem with stewards, one wonders if SilkAir’s outdated profiling of the female sex as ‘nurturing’ as their rationale for not hiring men comes across as discriminatory practice. According to the Tripartite hiring guidelines, you’re discouraged from recruiting staff based on gender, among other things like race or language, and if there’s a strict gender policy it should be reflected and explained in the ad for clarity. There’s no evidence that SilkAir’s service needs to be differentiated from the rest by having, literally, a feminine touch. If you’re Hooters Air, I’d probably understand.

While we laud such moves as ‘progressive’ and ‘fair practice’, we shouldn’t forget to ask: Why only now, SilkAir? Even airlines from Middle Eastern countries like Kuwait Airways have gotten over the gender hump, for goodness sake. Thailand even has an airline (PC Air) that takes pride in hiring TRANSGENDERS.  Interestingly, SilkAir was the first local airline to break the gender stereotype in 2001 by hiring Singapore’s first female pilot. Yet the papers neglected to mention that at the same time they were hanging on to the traditional concepts of female compassion, empathy and motherly instincts by keeping their cabins testosterone free, with a staff profile resembling more like hospital ward nurses and midwives in the 1950s than a modern cabin crew.

If men didn’t have a ‘nurturing’ bone in their body, we wouldn’t see them volunteering in old folks’ homes, babysitting, nursing, feeding baby tiger cubs or being masseurs. In fact, there are times when you do need some manly muscle in the cabin e.g when there’s a drunk rowdy passenger who needs to be strapped down, or if some guy gets his crotch stuck in the zipper in the lavatory. Stuff which you can’t accomplish with ‘grace’ and warm smiles alone.

Julien Blanc banned from entering Singapore

From ‘Pickup artist Blanc denied entry into Singapore’, 26 Nov 2014, article by Yvonne Lim, Today

Self-proclaimed pick-up artist Julien Blanc will not be allowed to enter Singapore, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

The decision was made following a petition by a Singaporean woman to bar Mr Blanc, who recently made headlines when his visa was revoked in Australia, from entering the Republic.

In a joint statement today (Nov 26), the ICA and MSF said that Mr Blanc will be denied entry, especially if he was here to hold seminars or events that propagate violence against women or to participate in other objectionable activities in Singapore.

“Blanc has been involved in seminars in various countries that advised men to use highly abusive techniques when dating women. Violence against women or any persons is against Singapore law,” the statement said.

In 1970, the government banned all foreign ‘hippies’ from entering Singapore because they cause ‘social pollution’. Drugs and nudism aside, these deviants were also known to sport long hair and shaggy beards, though they may hold degrees in economics, electronic engineering or even pharmacy (which explains the drugs).  Legendary Japanese musician Kitaro was barred from entering Singapore in 1984 for his flowing mane and looking like a wandering ascetic. We have zero tolerance against convicted junkies, such as Australian journalist Peter Gerard Llyod in 2009, members of wacky religious cults, like the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, or the Moonies (1983), and especially IMF/World Bank activists, who may pose a ‘security threat’ to our peaceful nation. Yet, we’re exceedingly accomodating to ruthless, corrupt African dictators with health problems like Robert Mugabe.

Julien Blanc isn’t a hippie nor is he even half as cool as Kitaro. A self-professed PUA (pick up artist) inspired by Neil Strauss’ notorious dating book ‘The Game’,  he evangelises ‘dating’ advice and charges the aspiring ladies’ man $67 USD to get a ‘GF/F-buddy’, among other predatory skills in his ‘PIMP’ programme, like ‘destroying her Bitch Shield’, and overcoming ‘Approach Anxiety’. Singaporean men are not known for being smooth with the ladies, but give us credit for debunking modern Casanovas who specialise in making women submit to their brand of animal magnetism with physical restraint and chokeholds, because that’s what you need to resort to if you’re an ugly, desperate twat. Still, I doubt Blanc would actually sexually assault anyone here without having the police clamping down on his unquenchable mojo. The only ‘dangerous’ idea he seems to be propagating is that one can make a living out of being a complete, unabashed jerk.

Blanc’s banned not because of any risk of ‘social pollution’, nor is he here to turn Singaporeans against the PAP 0r make us worship some charismatic loony messiah, but because this proud country has no room for a prick of this magnitude. On second thought, maybe we should let him in for a day or two, lure him into a nightclub and then into a torture chamber full of AWARE members waiting to dig their sharpened heels into his bloated manhood.

Women’s Charter penalising men unfairly

From ‘Stop abuse of Women’s Charter’, 26 April 2014, St Forum

(Derek Low): I SUPPORT Justice Choo Han Teck’s suggestion to reform the Women’s Charter (“Maintenance not an unalloyed right of women: Judge”; Tuesday), although his idea of a Marriage Charter may take years to become reality. Women in our society have often pleaded for equal rights in every aspect of their lives. So why do we still allow double standards that penalise men under the Charter?

The Charter was enacted in the 1960s to protect the many housewives who were supported by their husbands. But times have changed. Our Government has encouraged women to join the workforce to be independent and contribute to nation building. Women have come a long way since then. Many are more successful than their husbands, who are proud of their spouses’ achievements.

I urge Singapore’s modern women to take pride in who they are, what they do and the effort they have put into their marriages. But when the marriage fails, they ought to be logical and sensible, instead of making unreasonable demands under the outdated Charter.

Justice Choo called for a fairer ‘Marriage Charter’ after rejecting a woman’s $120,000 claim from her ex-husband. She’s a regional sales manager while he’s a senior prison officer, the latter already currently paying $1000 monthly for a 17-year old son from her PREVIOUS marriage. The judge cuttingly refers to such arrangements as ‘patronising gestures of maintenance that belie deep chauvinistic thinking’. In 2011, ST reported that an average tai-tai can expect to earn $15-30K of monthly maintenance from ‘high net-worth’ husbands. The Queen of Instagram herself, Jamie Chua, sought a jaw-dropping $450,000 monthly from her ex-husband.

Unfortunately for some not-so-well-off men, such flexibility wasn’t so readily applied in the past. In 1980, divorcee ‘Born Losers’ cried foul when his ‘recalcitrant wife’ got to benefit from his maintenance, even though she wasn’t the one looking after the kids. It was already known in 1970 that men get the shorter end of the stick when a marriage fails, with one writer referring to the Charter as the ‘additional FANGS to a woman’s natural armoury of feminine weapons and wiles’, and that marriage was mostly beneficial to women, the men being ‘unappreciated, unsung martyrs’. Some fall victim to frivolous accusations of defying ‘personal protection orders’, especially if they’re twice the weight of their wives and naturally viewed as the bully in the relationship. This call for ‘gender equality’ isn’t new really, with people recognising the unfairness in the laws as early as 1971 – more than 40 YEARS ago!

We have to thank a certain Mr K.M Bryne, Minister of Labour and Law, who in 1959 decided that ‘women and girls’ needed to be protected from the abominable pigs that are men, which interestingly included elements such as ‘sweeping powers against patrons of brothels’, and a ‘one-man-one-wife law applicable to all EXCEPT Muslims’. The intention was to bring the laws ‘up to date’ with other countries ‘like England’, based on the assumption that women are the more devoted parents who only want the best for their children that they would give up their careers for them. That they would never marry a rich dude for money, find a reason to desert him, then ask for maintenance leveraging on this wife-protecting charter. Meanwhile, men are compelled to read the laws carefully before deciding if marriage is worth the risk of a lifetime of indebtedness, and even if they are financially worse off than their spouse, they’re sometimes liable to give what the law refers to as a ‘token fee’. In some cases, this can be even as low as 1 freakin’ DOLLAR.

In an attempt to nullify its image as a male-bashing organisation, AWARE stepped up to propose that the charter be renamed the ‘Family Charter’ (Tweak Women’s Charter for gender equality, ST Forum, 25 April 2014), claiming that they have ‘LONG ARGUED that much of the Charter needs to be rethought’. Well have they really? What have they been doing to urge ‘rethinking’ of the Charter to ease the burden on men since their formation in 1985? It’s not stated anywhere in their list of milestones, though in 2010 then Executive Director Corrine Lim defended that it was a ‘misconception’ that the Charter was ‘anti-male’, yet at the same time admitted that the maintenance issue was ‘outmoded and unfair’. Well of course it can’t be ‘anti-male’, it was a MAN’s idea in the first place.

Maybe more men could have been rescued from such archaic laws if the organisation had focussed more on pushing for revisions of the charter rather than slamming ads for being sexist or getting misogynistic army songs banned. More recently AWARE has complained about NSmen receiving benefits as reward for service because NS isn’t the ‘single gold standard for citizen belonging‘, and that this threatens to create ‘different tiers’ within society. As one who served himself, such handouts are well appreciated, though it’s tempting to brag it’s only one’s duty to serve and that we’re not doing this for housing or education benefits but for the NATION. We especially didn’t ask for AWARE, who is obviously in no position to comment on NS matters, to urge that we should be deprived of the fruits of our labour should the Government deems us deserving of such. Maybe this gender-neutral Charter response is really a smokescreen for the backlash from that previous NS comment.

But back to the Charter. AWARE weren’t the first to suggest a change of name and have no right to claim credit for it.  In 1980, some Christian societies called for the courts to exercise discretion to grant maintenance to the husband ‘where circumstances justified it’, like the handicapped or those too poor to maintain themselves. The name ‘Family Charter’ was proposed then. Others called for a counterpart to the Women’s Charter called the MEN’s Charter. Maybe we should have a CHILDREN’S Charter too, one that protects kids against neglect because their splitting parents are too busy fighting over money to perform basic childcare duties.

As a credit card company once famously said: The men don’t get it.

More spouses straying within 5 years of marriage

From ‘Rise in couples who split within five years’, 16 Feb 2014, article by Janice Tai, Sunday Times

The first five years of marriage are proving a challenge for more Singapore couples – that is when partners stray, and a rising number of marriages break down. A study on straying couples by Touch Family Services found that slightly more than half the 164 respondents polled had affairs within five years of marriage. For one in three, the affairs happened in the first two years of married life.

…The Touch study, done over the past two years, invited individuals who had unfaithful spouses to complete questionnaires online. Close to 1,000 people responded, but only 164 met the criteria of having been married and of having an unfaithful spouse. The researchers found that nine in 10 of the troubled marriages involved dual-income couples and one in three cheating spouses earned more than $5,000 a month.

…Counsellors point to several reasons the crisis point of the modern marriage seemed to be arriving sooner, and especially among better-off working professionals. They say there is a diminishing social stigma attached to divorce and some couples are more willing to give up on a marriage in trouble.

…As to why adultery seems more prevalent among better-off couples, he (Dr Terence Yow, Reach Family Service director) said overseas studies have also established that people with a higher socio-economic status have a higher risk or propensity for infidelity. They tend to be more stressed, have the means to maintain an extramarital affair, have a bigger social network and are more attractive to others.

In a separate CNA report of the same study, 6 out of 10 people surveyed would remain married despite having a spouse cheat on them. CNA also revealed that Touch Family Services is an affiliate of Touch Community Services, whose chairman is renown as a staunch opponent of the ‘looming threat’ to family that is homosexuality. His name? Lawrence Khong.

Knowing who’s in charge behind Touch, it’s only natural to scrutinise this study for selection bias. A surprisingly high number of those 164 polled were spouses who were earning good money, a finding milked by the investigators to suggest that the higher your income, the more likely you’d stray. This simplistic assumption correlates status with sex but ignores other factors that contribute to infidelity. No details were given on how the researchers defined ‘unfaithful’ and how the subjects and investigators verified that cheating was even real, or whether they were delusional. Did the spouse go out on a ‘date’ alone? Did the subject stumble upon a naughty Whatsapp message? Did the spouse surf porn behind her back? Were ‘in-depth’ interviews conducted such as those in a 2012 study which concluded that half of about 500 married couples ‘considered’ divorce?

I’d be interested in the demographics of those polled, namely their race and religious inclination and whether it was representative of the general population. Are people who respond to Touch initiatives more likely to be Christian than Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus? Or the fact that they were looking for resources or help from the Touch website before even participating in the poll suggests that they’re already motivated to salvage the marriage (hence the 6/10 who want to remain married).  Given the complexity and diversity in attitudes towards marriage across cultures and social class, the Touch results appear skewed towards those ‘well-off’ and puts high income earners under an unnecessary spotlight. As for keeping marriage alive, whatever motivations you have in saving it may also depend on what your religion says about it, rich or poor.

The jury is still out on what causes spikes in early cheating and ultimately divorces given recent mixed results and anecdotes from elsewhere. One report last year cited wedding expenses as a reason for Muslim couples splitting. Another concluded that OLDER couples above 45 are breaking up because parents ‘don’t know what to do with each other’ once the children move out. In 2011, the top factors were ‘unreasonable behaviour’, ‘infidelity’ or ‘domestic violence’ depending on whether it’s a civil or Muslim marriage.  There’s also the issue of parenting troubles, dealing with crazy in-laws and in some cases, taking offence toward one’s cooking. Other counsellors have encountered relationships strained over simple household chores. Why not blame the rise of social media, online dating/chat apps, and sexting too?.

In short, a broken marriage can’t be explained by income alone without adjusting for all the little petty things unique to each couple that pave the way to destruction. Experts also talk of this ‘diminishing social stigma’ but don’t have any data to back up what appears to be a ‘still-hot divorcee’ theory. Even if the stigma is diminished, it doesn’t mean more people are taking divorce lightly. Divorce is emotionally and financially taxing, and the possibility of being back ‘on the market’ instead of branded as ‘used goods’ may not be worth the cost, time and effort of killing a marriage especially one with children involved. Unless you’re ‘born again single’ Allan Wu, of course.

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