This is a blog for advocacy, sharing of opinions and intellectual discussions. It is not a place for malicious trolls. Comments containing threats, vulgar insults towards any authors, politicians, activists, bloggers or myself will from now on, stay unapproved but retained for personal reference.
I wrote the following to Today on 4 August 2015, in response to two letters regarding unequal benefits for single and unwed mothers that were published on Today. Since my letter was not selected for publication, I am posting it here instead. Interestingly, the writer of the second letter responded to his critics with this letter, published on 6 August 2015, saying that his letter was “perhaps satire, but in bad form”, and he apologised for it.
While I respect everyone’s right to hold and express opinions, I am appalled by the attitude expressed in the letters, “Unwed mums did make choices that led to their situation” (Aug 1) and “Unequal benefits for single unwed mums a matter of deterrence” (Aug 3).
Both letters contain statements that not only support the continued institutionalised discrimination of women based on their marital status, but call upon society to blame women for not falling into line with the status quo. The writers have also failed to see the need for social inclusion or the need for all children to be treated with equity, and have patronisingly insisted that marriage is the only way one can legitimately have children, or engage in sexual activities.
First of all, the role of men seemed to be lacking in their arguments. They seem to have excused the men who have found it right to pack up and leave the women whose children they have fathered, and instead blamed women for finding the courage to take up the responsibility to bring up their children single-handedly.
Secondly, not all unwed mothers are single. Although it is still not very common in our society, there are couples who choose not to go down the path of marriage, but are still committed to one another as well as in their roles as parents. Besides that, there are some same-sex couples who may choose to have children, but due to the fact the same-sex marriage is currently illegal in Singapore, they are seen as single and unwed parents. Does the society then punish children from these non-conventional family units, because some hold contemptuous views against the decisions made by their parents?
In addition, what about women who have made the decision to adopt? It is legal for single and unwed women to adopt, so why should they not be included in the incentives provided by the system?
We should not dictate what women can or cannot do with their bodies and lives, or insist that marriage is the only option for every single member of society who wants to have children or even just sex. We should also reflect upon the way our system seems to hold those who do not fall into line with the status quo hostage through institutionalised discrimination, while at the same time demanding them to contribute to the country’s economy through holding down jobs and paying taxes.
Finally, premarital sex and having children out of wedlock are not crimes, nor are they immoral. The “threat of inequality” as a deterrent to prevent unwed women from engaging in premarital sex and having children, is grossly authoritarian, sexist since men are rarely held to the same standards, and the imposition of patriarchal values on women who deserve the freedom to choose what they do with their bodies, their sexualities, and their reproductive lives. We should become a more inclusive society that favours equal opportunities and incentives, over discrimination.
Screenshots of the letters, for archival purposes:
Filed under: Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign
Originally posted on Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign:
Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign and We Believe in Second Chances interviewed the sister and cousin of death-row inmate Kho Jabing when they were here in May 2015, after we managed to raise some funds to cover their travel expenses. The trip marks the first time Jabing’s mother, sister, and cousins have seen him since he came to Singapore in 2006, as they have not been able to afford it due to their poverty.
Jabing, from Sarawak, came to Singapore as a migrant worker in 2006. Like all migrant workers, he earned a meagre salary, and according to what I have understood, he was not able to buy a ticket home after 2 years of working here.
One night while he was out with friends, they hatched a plan to rob as they were desperate for money. After an unsuccessful attempt, they decided to head to Geylang to scout for…
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Fact: I have never said that crimes should go unpunished. However I am of the opinion that we need to peel the layers and discover the roots of these crimes, as heinous as they may be, and find a more holistic solution that will heal the society and victims, reform the perpetrators, and give us better knowledge on how to prevent such crimes from happening. Calling for blood and thinking that it is justice, is in my opinion not only a simplistic view which doesn’t help to solve any problems, but also a very contradictory position to have.
Indeed, murder and terrorism are heinous crimes against humanity. However some of those who are vehemently against these crimes, have spoken in favour of the most premeditated form of murder in which every single procedure is carefully timed and measured with the intention to kill, i. e., capital punishment. That sounds similarly heinous in itself, and I personally hold the principles behind “an eye for an eye” with utter contempt.
How about applying Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory (of human development), as one of the ways to identify possible causes of crimes instead? Crimes, do not simply occur overnight. Alienation, harsh circumstances in the early years, abuse, trauma, discrimination, and extreme moments of desperation, along with low resiliency and the inability to seek for adequate options or in reality, the lack of options in itself, are some (note: I said, “some”) of the reasons that lead to crimes. It may be really easy for many of us to say that “Person A should have know better than to do this,” or “Perseverance is a value that Person B should embrace, instead of resorting to this”, but let’s remind ourselves that our lived experiences, realities, and challenges, might be entirely different from the ones whose crime we have condemned.
Of course, no one is obligated to agree with me. All I ask for is for everyone to reflect on, and question their personal stance once in awhile, before sending me death threats, spreading untruths, or send me emails with sexist remarks everytime I release a statement against State murder. Not that they actually bother me in the way that they were intended to, but I just feel that the time that was spent typing a death threat could have been spent on cognitively enriching activities such as reflecting, deconstructing (of personal thoughts), and further reading.
Urm… perhaps before hitting “send”, a grammar or spell-check might make your messages a little less hilarious.
“I wish you die by some thugs chop you into numarous peaces you uneducated bitch?!?!?!”
I nearly replied with an edited version.
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign
At the High Court this morning, Court 6C appeared more crowded than usual. It was then I realised that besides the re-sentencing of Cheong Chun Yin and Pang Siew Fum, it was also the day of sentencing for Michael Anak Garing and Tony Imba.
Anxious faces could be seen, and I was too, a bundle of nerves. Silently, I wished that everyone would go home with a sense of relief. I distracted myself by looking at what the security officers were doing, and tried to eavesdrop on the chatter between the lawyers present and the Prosecutors. Then we were called to rise as Justice Choo Han Teck took his seat.
Then the first process of the day began.
The microphones did not work too well, so we had to lean forward to hear what was going on. It did not help that my brain was having a conversation on its own – “Which one of the accused is Michael, and which is Tony?”, “Will we receive bad news today?”, “Chill woman, focus!”, and “Why am I suddenly so sleepy?”.
My heart sank a little when Tony, the second accused, was asked to stand. It is usually not a good sign for the first accused. Justice Choo announced that Tony would be sentenced to life imprisonment, and 24 strokes of the cane. Then, the Court was asked to rise for the sentence of death to be read out.
The mood was sombre. Everyone was silent, but I thought I could hear a sniffle from the row behind me. Michael’s death sentence was then passed.
“… you are hereby sentenced to be taken from here to a lawful prison and then to a place of execution where you shall be hanged by the neck until you are dead…”
Despite the fact that I have been on the campaign for 6 years now, that was actually the first time I was present in the courtroom when an individual was sentenced to death. I am still overwhelmed by how that moment felt, but I am unable to articulate it well enough to fully describe the intensity of it all.
Certainly, the victims did not deserve to be harmed. However, two wrongs do not make one right. State murder is still murder, and even more deliberately planned than the original crime, which was robbery with hurt (which led to the death of their victim). Michael, 26, is younger than me, and if all other avenues become exhausted in due time, he will no longer have a future or a chance to make amends in any other ways… for the noose is already halfway on its way to his neck.
Originally posted on Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign:
Number of executions in 2010:…
Number of executions in 2011: 4
Number of executions in 2012:…
Number of executions in 2013:…
Number of executions in 2014: 2 (July 2014)
Number of executions in 2015: 1 (April 2015)
20 April 2015 – Cheong Chun Yin‘s case will be reviewed in the Supreme Court at 9.30am.
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Filed under: By Rachel Zeng
Disclaimer: I am expressing this with genuine amusement. It is a positive emotion okay? ;)
In Thailand: A man has been sentenced to 25 years in jail for an offensive Facebook post. Alamak, why sial?
In Malaysia: Several people who aren’t in the government’s favour, have been arrested, and are facing charges of sedition. Alamak again, why like that?
In China: 5 feminist activists are still under arrest for calling sexism out. So, lewd jokes about women in the official media is ok? Wow, is it too late to turn back time and return to being a ball of cells, so that I can try to grow a gigantic dick?
In Singapore: A teenager is assisting the police for the LKY death hoax, and another has been charged in court for posting an offensive video. Alamak, why are we taking them so seriously?
BUT when suppposedly well-educated, and very credible Asian politicians make derogatory remarks against any groups of people, including the religious, it seems ok and we hardly question them or throw them into jail for sedition. We even publish their remarks on the national mouthpieces for all to read.
Is that what we call… “Asian values”? Aiyoh, double standards leh, my dear sisters and brothers in Asia. How about treating royalties, politicians, and common citizens equally? WAIT, that’s “Evil Western Values”. Ok sorry, I will face the wall and think about what I have said.
Now, I wish that I am that community cat at the void deck. She can growl, scratch, walk away, and glare, but still gets good food and so much love.
Like I have said, this is all very amusing.
The following is a statement by Jolovan Wham and myself, organisers of Democracy Now! Singapore in Solidarity with Hong Kong, in response to Mr K Shanmugam’s remarks about Occupy Central protest in Hong Kong.
In an interview with the Chinese daily, Lianhe Zaobao, Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr K Shanmugam said that Hong Kongers should be happy with Beijing’s offer since the territory never had democracy under British rule. Moreover, what Beijing was offering was more than what the British had ever granted. Prior to the handover, neither the British rulers nor the Hong Kong media clamoured for democracy. Further remarks were made that there has been a lot of anti-China bias in Western media reporting on the issue.
Just because mass protests and widespread media support for universal suffrage did not happen under British rule does not make current calls for freedom any less legitimate. Freedom and justice does not have an expiry date and there is never a right or wrong time to fight for freedom. In addition, any suggestion that the Western media is biased in its account of the protests needs to be seen in light of how Hong Kong’s media and reporters are under assault by China’s central government.
The argument that universal suffrage was not included in the Sino-British Joint Declaration does not take into account the point that the Declaration itself promised Hong Kong a ‘high degree of autonomy’ and it was only in areas of diplomacy and defence that Hong Kong would not have any control over. In fact, the Basic Law states that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive should be selected via universal suffrage. Therefore, any assertion that China has acted according to Basic Law is not necessarily accurate.
Unity and progress, prosperity and democracy are not concepts which are diametrically opposed to each other. In the face of rising inequality, where the majority of a country’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, there are legitimate fears that the lack of genuine democracy in Hong Kong may further entrench plutocracy and crony capitalism. Moreover, Beijing’s pre-screened candidates could continue to erode Hong Kong’s fundamental freedoms such as its judicial independence. Freedom of speech will most likely be curtailed, leading to newspapers and media outlets turning into mouthpieces of the government. Civil servants of government departments will be told to be ‘patriotic’ to China.
The Foreign Affairs Minister argues that Hong Kong should not emulate the partisan politics of countries such as the United States as it may lead to gridlocks which hinder growth and decision making. It is correct that Hong Kong should chart its own path to democratic reform. But it has to be remembered that a diminished democracy will cause more harm to its people in the long run. When institutions do not have independent processes, it is vulnerable to abuse, no matter how noble or genuine the intentions of politicians. Without the right to elect our own leaders, those who are incompetent, or who do not act in the interests of the people can remain in power for as long as they desire.