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Reaffirmation of progress and support for women in Singapore at the 88th Session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Type: Press Release

Topic(s): Women Empowerment

           Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State (MOS) for Social and Family Development and Home Affairs, presented Singapore’s 6th Periodic Report at the 88th Session of the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The Constructive Dialogue[1] was held on 16 May 2024 (10am UTC+2) at the UN Office in Geneva, Switzerland.

2        Singapore’s participation at the 88th session was the largest ever since Singapore signed on to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)[2] in 1995, with 24 Civil Society Organisation (CSO) representatives from 13 CSOs and a Government delegation comprising over 20 officers from 9 Government agencies. The CSOs had the opportunity to directly interact with the CEDAW experts and provide their feedback on women’s progress in Singapore.

3        In her opening statement, MOS Sun highlighted the progress made by Singapore women. This included Singapore’s ranking among the top 10 countries for gender equality in the world in the latest UN Human Development Report’s Gender Inequality Index (GII), the increase in the resident employment rate for females aged 25 to 64 through the COVID-19 pandemic period, and the increase in representation of women in leadership. She also discussed Singapore’s efforts to strengthen the protection of women against violence, promote fair employment opportunities in the workplace, enhance support for caregivers and vulnerable women, and encourage mindset shifts on gender roles and stereotypes.

4        Country Rapporteur for Singapore's Constructive Dialogue, Ms Bandana Rana, commended Singapore for the remarkable progress made since the last dialogue. Several other Committee members welcomed the progress made as well, highlighting the strong outcomes that Singapore has achieved, especially in the areas of employment, health, education, and efforts to strengthen legislation and policy to protect women from violence and harm. The Committee also engaged the delegation on the protection of and support for different groups of women, efforts to increase women representation in leadership as well as in technology, and the need to change mindsets on gender stereotypes.

Whole-of-society effort to advance Women’s Development

5        During the dialogue, MOS Sun emphasised Singapore's whole-of-society approach in advancing women’s development and human rights, highlighting the large number of civil society participants at the CEDAW session. She illustrated how Singapore has made significant strides to build a fairer and more equal society, where women and girls live freely, safely, and have the resources and opportunities to reach their full potential.

6            Reaffirming Singapore’s firm commitment to place women’s well-being at the centre of our policies, MOS Sun shared how the Singapore Government held a year-long nationwide Conversations on Singapore Women’s Development in 2020 amidst the pandemic, which culminated in the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development published in 2022.

7        The White Paper sets out a 10-year roadmap with 25 concrete action plans in areas most salient to women, such as providing women with fair opportunities to succeed in the workplace, protection from violence, providing support for caregivers and vulnerable women, and encouraging mindset shifts on gender roles and stereotypes. MOS Sun shared how the roadmap provides a clear blueprint for Civil Society Organisations to work with the Government to achieve clear goals for the collective progress of women in Singapore.

8        MOS Sun spoke about the Government’s forward-leaning approach to support women. For instance, with the Jobs Support Scheme launched during the pandemic, in contrast to the experience in many other places, women’s employment rate actually increased during the pandemic period from 73.2 per cent in 2020 to 76.6 per cent in 2023. Furthermore, we have other support measures for seniors who need more help such as the Silver Support Scheme, of which two thirds of the recipients are women.

Building a safe and secure Singapore and providing real choices for women

9        MOS Sun reiterated that violence against any person is not tolerated in Singapore and shared the recent enhancements to the law to better protect women against violence and online harms. The amendment of the Women’s Charter in 2023 empowers victim-survivors to better protect themselves, strengthens the Government’s ability to intervene in family violence cases, and empowers the Courts to make additional rehabilitative orders. The Government also raised the penalties[3] for breaches of family violence-related Court orders and strengthened the provisions for enforcement[4] of such orders.

10       MOS Sun said that progress has also been made to foster fairer and more inclusive workplaces, so women can remain and thrive in their careers. The introduction of the Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA) Requests will require employers to properly consider formal requests for FWAs. The upcoming Workplace Fairness Legislation will also prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, age, nationality, marital status, pregnancy status, caregiving responsibilities, race, religion, language, disability and mental health conditions. For women to remain and thrive at work, MOS Sun recognised that more support for caregiving must be given to the family. She shared that Singapore has enhanced respite care options under the Caregiver Action Support Plan, increased the number of full day preschool places, and increased support for children from lower-income households.

Support for vulnerable women

11         MOS Sun also spoke on Singapore’s efforts to strengthen our ecosystem of protection of and support for vulnerable women. The Penal Code was amended in 2019 and 2021, with a strong focus on enhancing protection for vulnerable persons such as victims in an intimate or close relationship with the offender, minors, persons with mental or physical disabilities, and domestic workers employed in the offender’s household. She emphasised that the Government remains committed to ensuring that all persons, including vulnerable women, have access to justice.

Mindset shifts

12       In closing, MOS Sun underscored the need to address gender stereotypes through mindset shifts in order to further women’s progress and achieve a fairer and more inclusive Singapore. Fostering equal partnerships between men and women is key and this starts in the family, continues in schools, workplaces, and in the community. To quote MOS Sun, “Singapore hopes to achieve a fair and inclusive world where all women and men stand in equal partnership. We remain committed to work together across the whole of society, across all domains to change minds, change norms, and change lives to progress women’s development in Singapore.”

[1] MOS Sun was accompanied by members of the Inter-Ministry Committee on CEDAW, which includes officials from the Attorney-General’s Chambers, Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura and the Ministries of Communications and Information, Education, Foreign Affairs, Health, Home Affairs, Manpower and Social and Family Development.

[2] Singapore acceded to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on 5 October 1995. Singapore submitted its Sixth Periodic Report in November 2021. It covers the initiatives and policies introduced to facilitate the progress of women in the period from 2016 to 2021.

[3] Breaches of Personal Protection Order/Domestic Exclusion Order/Expedited Order/Stay Away Order/No Contact Order/Electronic Monitoring Order are arrestable offences and will be punishable with a fine of up to $10,000, or imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both, for a first conviction. Any breach of a Counselling Order, assessment order for the purpose of Mandatory Treatment, or a Mandatory Treatment Order will be an offence punishable with a fine of up to $2,000.

[4] These powers enable MSF’s enforcement officers to detect and investigate offences and include powers to enter premises or seize documents for evidence of an offence.

Annex A - Photos of 88th UN CEDAW Session

Annex B - Opening statement by MOS Sun

Annex C - Closing statement by MOS Sun