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Legal framework

This section lists Singapore's protected characteristics.

Constitution – Part IV, fundamental liberties states in Article 12 “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law” and that there shall be no discrimination against citizens of Singapore on the grounds of “religion, race, descent or place of birth” in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment.  In Article 14, every citizen of Singapore has the right to freedom of speech and expression, right to assemble peaceably and all citizens have the right to form associations.  In Article 15, every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and to propagate it. Every religious group has the right to manage its own affairs, to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes, and to acquire and own property and hold and administer it in accordance with law.  In Part XIII, General Provisions, Minorities and special positions of Malay Population, Article 152, Point 1, says “It shall be the responsibility of the Government constantly to care for the interests of the racial and religious minorities in Singapore.  And Point 2, the “government shall exercise its functions in such manner as to recognise the special position of the Malays, who are the indigenous people of Singapore, and accordingly it shall be the responsibility of the Government to protect, safeguard, support, foster and promote their political, educational, religious, economic, social and cultural interests and the Malay language.  In Article 153, the Muslim religion is specific as the “legislature shall by law make provision for regulating Muslim religious affairs and for constituting a Council to advise the President in matters relating to the Muslim religion.  In Article 153a, the four official languages are named as “Malay, Mandarin Chinese, Tamil and English”. In Article 154, there is impartial treatment of Government employees subject to the provisions of this Constitution, all persons of whatever race in the same grade of the service of the Government shall, subject to the terms and conditions of their employment, be treated impartially.

Abortion in Singapore is restricted to citizens of Singapore, wives of Singapore citizens and women that have resided in Singapore for a minimum duration of four months.  According to the Singapore Abortion Act there is no defined age limit for the procedure for an abortion in Singapore. Furthermore, there’s no legal requirement for parental consent for minors under the age of 21.  In other words, just about anyone may request for an abortion, as long as they are of sound mind and body and understand the risks and details of the procedure. An abortion in Singapore is not allowed if the pregnancy has progressed beyond 24 weeks. Most doctors will not initiate abortion beyond 23 weeks, so it is advised for the woman to make an early decision.  The only exception to this rule is a severe or lethal foetal abnormality. But even in this case, special approval is required from the authorities before the procedure can be carried out.

A female employee who is an adoptive mother, regardless of her marital status, is entitled to four weeks from the employer (for her first and second child) of paid adoptive leave if the following all apply:

  • The child is below the age of 12 months at the time of her formal intent to adopt.
  • The child is a Singapore citizen (or, if the child is a foreigner, then one of the adoptive parents must be a Singapore citizen and the child must become a Singapore citizen within six months of the adoption).
  • She has served her employer for a period of at least three months immediately before her formal intent to adopt.
  • The adoption order is passed within one year from the formal intent to adopt.
  • The formal intent to adopt occurs:
  • For a local child, when the female employee files the court application to adopt.
  • For a foreign child, when in-principle approval is granted for a dependant's pass.

With effect from 1 July 2017, a female employee who is an adoptive mother will be entitled to 4 weeks of employers support (for first and second adoptive child) plus 8 or 12 weeks of government support (if third or fourth child) - totaling 12 weeks of adoptive leave if the above criteria are fulfilled.

There is no permitted adoption by same-sex couples as this is illegal, as with step-child adoption or joint adoption. 

There is no specific mention in the Constitution that age has any protections and therefore no grounds for protection from discrimination. However, the Retirement and Re-employment Act, Employment Act and Child Co-savings Development Acts help protect against discriminatory practices according to Minister of State for Manpower (MOM).

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/laws-in-place-to-enforce-against-age-gender-discrimination-at-wo-8048644

The age of Consent of 16 applies only for heterosexual couples, as LGBT sexual activity is illegal.

 

MSM (Men who sleep with Men) are not allowed to donate blood.

There is no recognition of civil partnerships or unions as same-sex relationships are illegal. 

It is not banned in Singapore and in recent times government procurement has permitted Liberty League, an organisation affiliated with “ex-gay” movement has been funded to promote conversion therapy.

 

There are no protections or anti-discriminatory laws in employment for LGBT employees. 

Ethnic Origin is a protected characteristic as seen in Article 12 of the Constitution and therefore grounds for protection from discrimination. 

Other than the rights stated in the parental rights section, Singapore law does not set out any statutory rights for employees in relation to the care of dependants or family members.

There is no specific mention in the Constitution that gender has any protections and therefore no grounds for protection from discrimination.  However, the Retirement and Re-employment Act, Employment Act and Child Co-savings Development Acts help protect against discriminatory practices according to Minister of State for Manpower (MOM).

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/laws-in-place-to-enforce-against-age-gender-discrimination-at-wo-8048644

https://www.britcham.org.sg/static-pages/gender-equality-in-singapore-2018

There is no right to change legal gender and no protections in any shape or form for transgender communities.

The only laws related to hate crime focus on the Sedition Act, which came in force in Singapore on 16 September 1963.  The Sedition Act specifically defined in Section 3(1) (e) to promote feeling of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes or Section 3(2) (d) to point out, with a view to their removal, any matters producing or having a tendency to produce feeling of ill-will and enmity between different races or classes.  This has focused on ethno-religious sensitivities but the terms have been used rather loosely in law, as there has been a tendency to conflate ethnicity with religious affiliation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedition_Act_(Singapore)

On April 1st 2016, Singapore lifted its two decade long ban on HIV positive people entering the country, but their stay is only possible for three months.  The restriction is aimed at preventing long-term residence by foreigners, such as those looking to work or accompany a child to study.  Short-term visitors have to obtain a Social Visit Pass which is valid for two to four weeks. Pass holders are not allowed to work in the city-state.  If you are diagnosed in Singapore, you face an unprecedented myriad of medical and social issues.  Being HIV+, you are subject to the Infectious Diseases Act, and punishments for breaching any laws are severe.  One is legally required to attend counselling sessions, and not attending can result in a fine, or a prison sentence up to maximum of two years.  Furthermore, Section 23 (1) also requires you to inform any sexual partners of your condition which also require a voluntary agreement from the partner.  If you haven’t been medically diagnosed as HIV positive but know you may have had repeated exposure, then you should also inform before having any sexual activity.  Penalties for breaching these sections in the IDA are more severe with a maximum fine of $50,000 and a maximum sentence of imprisonment for 10 years.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/31/singapore-lifts-ban-on-hiv-positive-visitors

https://elyonclinic.com.sg/laws-facing-individuals-in-singapore/

There are no protections or anti-discriminatory laws in housing for LGBT employees.

There are no protections for intersex people in Singaporean law.

The Constitution formally protects four languages as part of Singapore’s official list which are Malay, Mandarin Chinese, Tamil and English. 

Marriage is open to heterosexual couples only, as same-sex couples are currently illegal and therefore no recognition of those potential relationships. 

A female employee, regardless of her marital status, is entitled to up to 16 weeks of paid statutory maternity leave if both her child is a Singapore citizen and she has served her employer for a period of at least three months immediately before the day of her confinement.  If the above criteria are not fulfilled, the female employee is nevertheless entitled to absent herself from work for 12 weeks, and to be paid for eight of these weeks, if she is both covered under the Employment Act, and has served her employer for a period of at least three months preceding the day of her confinement.  If neither set of criteria is fulfilled, she is not entitled to any paid statutory maternity leave.

Gay, lesbian and bisexual people are allowed to serve in the military and gay and bisexual men are required to attend National Service but are restricted to limited duties.  Singapore has an infamous classification is Category 302, where people who declare their sexual orientation where they face much discrimination.  Under this category (referred to as “cat 302”, gay and bisexual soldiers are then further classified into those “with effeminate behaviour” and those “without effeminate behaviour”. Self-declared or discovered servicemen are referred to the Psychological Medicine Branch, for a thorough assessment which also involves their parents being called in for interview.  A less well-known classification is Category 30- B, a medical code given to servicemen with effeminate behaviour not amounting to sexual disorders. These individuals are divided into “mildly effeminate, effeminate and severely effeminate”. 

 

Employees are entitled to a maximum of six days of paid childcare leave annually, regardless of their marital status, if the following criteria are fulfilled:  they have served their employer for a period of not less than three months, they have a child below seven years of age and the child is a Singapore citizen, or becomes a Singapore citizen during the employee's period of employment.  Employees are also entitled to two days of paid extended childcare leave annually, if the following all apply they have served their employer for a period of not less than three months, they have a child between seven and 13 years of age and the child is a Singapore citizen, or becomes a Singapore citizen during the employee's period of employment.

However, an employee is only entitled to a combined total of six days' paid childcare leave and paid extended childcare leave annually. In addition, an employee is not entitled to more than 42 days of paid childcare leave or 12 days of extended childcare leave in relation to each child.  If neither set of criteria is fulfilled, employees are entitled to two days of paid childcare leave annually, subject to a maximum of 14 days for each child, if the following criteria are fulfilled: they have served their employer for a period of not less than three months and they have a child below seven years of age. 

Shared parental leave provides the option for working fathers to receive part of their wife’s leave benefits. In other words, mothers will be able to share up to 4 weeks of their paid maternity leave with their husbands (now two weeks following recent changes.

A working father may be entitled to shared parental leave if the following requirements are met:

  1. Child is a Singaporean citizen.
  2. The child’s mother qualifies for GPML.
  3. Father is lawfully married to the child’s mother.

The government will fund the shared parental leave taken, capped at $2,500 per week including CPF contributions.

A male employee who becomes a natural father is entitled to up two weeks of paid paternity leave if the criteria are met, that his child is a Singapore Citizen at the time of birth (or if not, the child will become a Singapore citizen within 12 months from the date of birth). He is lawfully married to the child’s mother when the child is conceived (or, if not, he must be lawfully married to the child’s mother within 12 months from the child’s date of birth).  He has served his employer for a period of at least three months before the eligibility date for the application to adopt the child.

 

Place of Birth, descent or origin is a protected characteristic as seen in Article 12 of the Constitution and therefore grounds for protection from discrimination. 

Race is a protected characteristic as seen in Article 12 of the Constitution and therefore grounds for protection from discrimination.

Religion is a protected characteristic as seen in Article 12 of the Constitution and therefore grounds for protection from discrimination. 

It is still illegal to have any same-sex activity in Singapore, even if consensual and in private and therefore two years imprisonment, fines canings are available under Singapore’s Section 377A (former British Colonial anti-gay laws).  There is no recognition of same- sex relationships or anti-discrimination laws against LGB people. 

Surrogacy is illegal regardless of sexual orientation (hetero or homosexual) and there is no access to IVF treatment. 

Employees are entitled to a maximum of six days of unpaid infant care leave annually, regardless of their marital status, if they fulfil the following criteria: They have served their employer for not less than three months, they have a child below two years of age and the child is a Singapore citizen.  Apart from the annual maximum of six days, an employee is not entitled to more than 12 days of unpaid infant care leave in relation to each child.