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The Conformity of Singaporean Marital Law with International Human Rights Standards

Nilsson, Johanna (2004)
Department of Law
Abstract
Two different family laws apply in Singapore. Marriages between members of the majority population, regardless of personal religious belief, are regulated by civil law in the Women's Charter. Marriages between persons officially categorized by birth as Muslims are explicitly excluded from the application of civil law. Instead, and regardless of whether or not the intending spouses practice Islam, marriages between Muslims have to be registered under Syariah law. The Syariah, as it is interpreted in Singapore, deprives women of several rights guaranteed to women under civil law. Under Syariah law, a woman cannot contract a marriage herself but is dependent on the consent of a male relative. The law does not recognize equal rights of the... (More)
Two different family laws apply in Singapore. Marriages between members of the majority population, regardless of personal religious belief, are regulated by civil law in the Women's Charter. Marriages between persons officially categorized by birth as Muslims are explicitly excluded from the application of civil law. Instead, and regardless of whether or not the intending spouses practice Islam, marriages between Muslims have to be registered under Syariah law. The Syariah, as it is interpreted in Singapore, deprives women of several rights guaranteed to women under civil law. Under Syariah law, a woman cannot contract a marriage herself but is dependent on the consent of a male relative. The law does not recognize equal rights of the spouses and a woman has limited possibilities to obtain a divorce. Furthermore, the Singaporean Syariah law does not provide an established absolute minimum marriageable age for girls and polygamy is allowed. Since 1995, Singapore is a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Upon ratification the government made several extensive reservations regarding the application of the treaties, with reference to the supremacy of constitutional and religious laws in Singapore. The reluctance of the Singaporean government to recognize human rights as universal has its foundation in a firm belief in cultural relativism and so-called 'Asian values'. However, the Singaporean approach has been met with criticism from the monitoring committees of CEDAW and CRC. When analyzing the reservations closer against the background of international standards and regulations, they are undoubtedly 'against the object and purpose' of the treaties and thus invalid under article 28(2) and 51(2) respectively. As a consequence, the Singaporean government has to review the national legislation in order to comply with its international undertakings. In this thesis I propose two options, not mutually exclusive, that are available to increase Singapore's compliance with CEDAW and CRC: 1. Reforms of the Muslim law applicable in Singapore in order to improve the status of women, in accordance with the Concluding Observations of the CEDAW Committee, and/or&semic 2. To make the application of Muslim law and the jurisdiction of the Syariah Court the personal and conscious choices of the intending spouses, i.e. Muslims should not automatically be excluded from civil family law. Although the preferred outcome would be a combination of the two, based on an analysis of the current political climate in Singapore, I consider the second option to be more feasible than the first, at least in the short term. (Less)
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author
Nilsson, Johanna
supervisor
organization
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
Folkrätt
language
English
id
1560529
date added to LUP
2010-03-08 15:55:26
date last changed
2010-03-08 15:55:26
@misc{1560529,
  abstract     = {Two different family laws apply in Singapore. Marriages between members of the majority population, regardless of personal religious belief, are regulated by civil law in the Women's Charter. Marriages between persons officially categorized by birth as Muslims are explicitly excluded from the application of civil law. Instead, and regardless of whether or not the intending spouses practice Islam, marriages between Muslims have to be registered under Syariah law. The Syariah, as it is interpreted in Singapore, deprives women of several rights guaranteed to women under civil law. Under Syariah law, a woman cannot contract a marriage herself but is dependent on the consent of a male relative. The law does not recognize equal rights of the spouses and a woman has limited possibilities to obtain a divorce. Furthermore, the Singaporean Syariah law does not provide an established absolute minimum marriageable age for girls and polygamy is allowed. Since 1995, Singapore is a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Upon ratification the government made several extensive reservations regarding the application of the treaties, with reference to the supremacy of constitutional and religious laws in Singapore. The reluctance of the Singaporean government to recognize human rights as universal has its foundation in a firm belief in cultural relativism and so-called 'Asian values'. However, the Singaporean approach has been met with criticism from the monitoring committees of CEDAW and CRC. When analyzing the reservations closer against the background of international standards and regulations, they are undoubtedly 'against the object and purpose' of the treaties and thus invalid under article 28(2) and 51(2) respectively. As a consequence, the Singaporean government has to review the national legislation in order to comply with its international undertakings. In this thesis I propose two options, not mutually exclusive, that are available to increase Singapore's compliance with CEDAW and CRC: 1. Reforms of the Muslim law applicable in Singapore in order to improve the status of women, in accordance with the Concluding Observations of the CEDAW Committee, and/or&semic 2. To make the application of Muslim law and the jurisdiction of the Syariah Court the personal and conscious choices of the intending spouses, i.e. Muslims should not automatically be excluded from civil family law. Although the preferred outcome would be a combination of the two, based on an analysis of the current political climate in Singapore, I consider the second option to be more feasible than the first, at least in the short term.},
  author       = {Nilsson, Johanna},
  keyword      = {Folkrätt},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {The Conformity of Singaporean Marital Law with International Human Rights Standards},
  year         = {2004},
}