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After public discussions, Aware issues wide-ranging policy wishlists to improve gender equality in S’pore

SINGAPORE — After facilitating wide-ranging discussions with nearly 200 members of the public, the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) on Thursday (July 8) put up seven different policy wishlists to help improve gender equality in Singapore.

Proposals by the Association of Women for Action and Research to enact policy changes come ahead of a White Paper on gender equality due to be released by the Government later in 2021.

Proposals by the Association of Women for Action and Research to enact policy changes come ahead of a White Paper on gender equality due to be released by the Government later in 2021.

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  • Aware facilitated discussions with 191 members of the public dealing with gender equality issues
  • It then came up with seven wishlists for policy changes to address various aspects of gender equality
  • The wishlists come ahead of the Government’s White Paper on gender equality due later in 2021

 

SINGAPORE — After facilitating wide-ranging discussions with nearly 200 members of the public, the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) on Thursday (July 8) put up seven different policy wishlists to help improve gender equality in Singapore.

The seven wishlists, released ahead of the Government’s landmark White Paper on gender equality due later this year, pertain to various issues or groups of people and the changes that it most wants Singapore policy-makers to enact.

These groups comprised: Single parents, male advocates of gender equality, those concerned about workplace discrimination, migrant spouses, those with views on sexuality education, those concerned about workplace bullying and those with views on campus sexual misconduct.

Aware, a gender equality advocacy group, said that it will also submit a comprehensive “omnibus report” of its own full set of gender equality recommendations, based on its own research and advocacy positions, to the Government in late July.

In a press release, the organisation said that the 191 members of the public who took part in the discussions were of different ages, genders, ethnicities, income levels and backgrounds.

They attended 29 virtual community discussions held by Aware between March and May this year, facilitated by an Aware staff member and a community member.

This effort, titled “Reimagining Equality”, has culminated to coincide with the Government’s landmark 2021 White Paper on improving gender equality, Aware said.

The following are the findings from the discussions with various groups and their proposals. 

SINGLE PARENTS

Participants included unwed and divorced parents who faced housing-related challenges, employment-related challenges and issues with the enforcement of maintenance orders, which are court orders for an ex-spouse to pay maintenance to the other ex-spouse or children, or both.

The key policy changes they called for were:

  • Easing single parents’ access to housing

  • Enhancing legal protection for single parents and their children

  • Providing more support for working single parents

MIGRANT SPOUSES AND TRANSNATIONAL FAMILIES

Participants found that they experienced immigration-related challenges, a desire to supplement their income, as well as housing-related challenges.

The key policy changes they called for were:

  • Establishing clear criteria for evaluating immigration applications from migrant spouses

  • Easing access to paid work

  • Providing more housing options

WORKPLACE HARASSMENT, BULLYING

Participants’ common concerns included an overall lack of awareness of what constitutes harassment and the available options for recourse.

They also expressed fear of retaliation from superiors, and the inability of the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) and the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) to enforce company compliance.

Workers from small- and medium-sized enterprises and startups highlighted more issues, such as the absence of distinct human resource (HR) departments and the lack of proper reporting and investigative procedures over this type of complaint.

The policy changes they called for were:

  • Introducing mandatory training for both employers and employees to handle harassment and bullying cases, to be designed by stakeholders such as the Government, civil society and HR professionals

  • Updating and streamlining the websites for Tafep and TADM to clearly state when and how the tripartite agencies can assist workers experiencing harassment and bullying

WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION

Participants raised key concerns such as low public awareness of what constituted workplace discrimination, the toxic culture of some workplaces, unhelpful HR departments and the absence of accountability for perpetrators of workplace discrimination.

Some workers who had experienced discrimination as a result of pregnancies and family or caregiving responsibilities highlighted concerns including physical and psychological-based safety issues for pregnant workers, lack of job security and convoluted systems for reporting discrimination.

The policy changes they called for were:

  • Introducing comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation

  • Implementing blind recruitment during application and interview processes, focused on skills and experiences rather than personal details such as age, gender, caregiving responsibilities and marital status

  • Ensuring that both employers and employees undergo mandatory anti-discrimination training, conducted by an external third-party organisation or by the companies themselves

SEXUAL MISCONDUCT AT INSTITUTES OF HIGHER LEARNING

The areas of concern for participants raised included victim support and safety, the transparency, calibre and standards of current policies for handling sexual harassment cases, and the institutes’ role in such investigations.

The policy changes they called for were:

  • Introducing and enforcing a national code of conduct across all institutes of higher learning

  • Implementing training for all students and staff members to address and prevent sexual harassment

  • Introducing and having a clear protocol of support and resources for victims

SEXUALITY EDUCATION

Participants such as students, parents and teachers found that the current content of the sexuality education curriculum is lacking in some areas. Parents and students also talked about the challenges posed by diverse identities.

They woudl like the Ministry of Education to revise the sexuality education curriculum to bring it in line with a global standard, which is the Unesco International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education.

MALE ADVOCATES FOR GENDER EQUALITY

Participants found that gender equality education starts too late, by which time male gender norms — such as the need to be dominant, strong, assertive, aggressive and emotionally restrained — are entrenched and they get further embedded by the time young men go into National Service.

They also found that the gendering of certain laws, such as unequal maternity and paternity leave, perpetuates rigid ideas of gender.

The policy changes they called for were:

  • Reviewing how gender, sex and sexuality issues are taught in school

  • Undertaking a holistic re-examination of National Service

  • Making all policies and legislation gender-neutral (where possible)

Related topics

Aware gender equality workplace discrimination bullying sexual misconduct

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