Is it Time to Remove Women’s Charter?

I refer to the report “Room for more women to claim unpaid maintenance” (Dec 21). The legal basis for claiming maintenance rests on the Women’s Charter that was enacted in Parliament more than 50 years ago.

That was a time when most women were either not highly educated or not educated at all. Thus, many stayed at home to be caregivers after marriage and never re-entered the workforce.

Fifty years later, key labour statistics such as women’s labour participation rate, education attainment and income level have improved tremendously.

Is it still relevant, or even logical, to expect women to depend solely on their ex-spouse for support when there are strong market demands for labour, as evidenced by the low unemployment rate of below 2 per cent?

In situations where divorced women have to take care of their young children at home and thus could not re-enter the job market, spousal maintenance is critical.

In cases where the children have grown up, surely the women concerned could once again seek gainful employment to support themselves in instances where they are not crippled or mentally incapable of doing so.

Nowadays, we see housewives re-entering the workforce once their children have grown up and can take care of themselves.

This should be the norm rather than the exception.

As such, spousal maintenance after divorce should be tied to the ability of the women concerned to seek employment in the job market.

In terms of fairness, the purpose of a divorce is to legally terminate the marriage so that both parties can carry on to seek a new lease of life.

If the law does not require a woman to continue to take care of her ex-husband after the divorce, why would it then expect a man to continue to financially support his former wife when she is fully capable of seeking employment herself?

Under current legislation, even a handicapped unemployed man has no legal basis to seek financial support from his former spouse. What more when it comes to women who are perfectly healthy.

As such, I suggest the authorities review the relevant sections of the Women’s Charter to make amendments such that it is in line and remain relevant with today’s socio-economic conditions.

Oo Choon Peng

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