Friday, April 13, 2012

男为砧板,女为鱼肉?新加坡妇女宪章 Singapore women’s charter

老婆大人为了身边挚友离婚之事,已经忙了大半年。两夫妻反目成仇之后,感性多过理性,各挑对方的坏,忘记对方的好,莺歌细语、打情骂俏的浪漫都成了虚情假意的代名词。资产、儿女、日常开销和赡养费谈不拢,两人却已开始物色新对象,筹备新生活。

过去的年代,多是男人休妻纳妾,华族女性受到封建无理的压制,只能在屋檐下争宠。她们能有多大的社会地位,可以在律师馆法庭争取自己的权利?

实在很难想象五十年后,今天的新加坡妇女和1960年代前的妇女,生活在那么截然不同的世界。

1961年之前,结婚并不需要到婚姻注册局(ROM)去宣誓领取结婚证书,当时新加坡并没有ROM,只要摆过喜酒、有婚照、有证婚人等就算是合法婚姻。新加坡的宗乡会馆鼓励文明婚姻,为新人撮合良缘、在会馆证婚等,希望能够摆脱封建的束缚,进入一夫一妻的新时代。不过,将千年的旧包袱连根拔起,最有效的方式还是通过明文律法。

1961915日施行的妇女宪章 Women’s charterCap. 353),对新加坡的男人、女人、儿童而言都是一个转折点。69页的法律条文,最大的功效是摒弃一夫多妻制,实行一夫一妻的文明婚姻,同时为妇女结婚的最低年龄设限,必须至少18岁。在思想层面上,它改变了男女对婚姻的责任、男女关系的观念以及女人的社会地位。ROM在同年同月同日投入服务。



(The women's charter. An ordinance to provide for monogamous marriage and for the solemnization of such marriages. 1961 )

 “(The Charter will see) an end to marriage of children, no more than halfway through their teens. Last year there were 170 child wives under 14 years old and 13,000 between the ages of 15 and 19. … One girl had been married thrice before she was 16. Another, aged 15, was wife to a man four times her age.” ---The Singapore Free Press of March 1960 (pg. 6)

“ (A) major advance in social legislation not only in the country but in South East Asia.” ---Goh Keng Swee described the Bill during the debate in the legislative assembly. The Straits Times 7th April 1960.

谈到妇女宪章,不能忘记半个世纪前,凭着一股正气,在以男性为主导的国会中,为妇女的未来仗义力争的国会议员陈翠嫦(Chan Choy Siong1934 - 1981)。

陈翠嫦先后在养正小学和南洋女中受教育,念书期间在牛车水帮忙父亲卖猪场粉,街坊昵称她为“猪场粉妹”。中学毕业后在华丰油厂当书记,20岁加入人民行动党(PAP)。1957-1963年任PAP的中央委员,1957年至被选为牛车水区市议员。1959年第一届新加坡自治政府立法议会选举,陈翠嫦获选为立达区(Delta)国会议员,1970年从政坛隐退。



(何佩珠Hoe Puay choo (1959年当选为Bras Basah 区立法议员), 陈翠嫦Chan Choy Siong, Lady Macmillan, Felice Leon-Soh。NAS 12 Feb 1958)

2011年新加坡全国大选,27岁的丁佩玲(Ting Pei Ling)和23岁的佘雪玲(Nicole Seah Xue Ling)成为亮眼的对象。陈翠嫦当议员时,也充满青春活力,只有25岁。当时的国会议员,年龄多数是2040岁之间的热血青年,年纪最小的蔡厝港区议员王清杉,是一名商店店员,只有22岁。在首届自治政府内阁部长中,最年轻的是出任内政部长的王邦文,30岁。李光耀是新加坡第一任总理,36岁。

当时的议员,不重视学历,也不看文凭,要的是政治理想和服务的心态。即使是PAP的议员,通晓英语的并不多,他们在立法议会上发言都用华语或马来语。

陈翠嫦属于草根一族,通晓华语和方言。196046日,妇女宪章在立法议会中进行二读,她以华语发言:

Mr Speaker, Sir, regarding the Women's Charter which was introduced by the Minister for Labour and Law at the last Assembly sitting, with a view to improving the lot of women, I support the motion of the Minister. This Charter, as drafted has incorporated some of the provisions of a number of Ordinances. It has also incorporated the opinions of the people of Singapore. It has also adopted those of the existing laws in China, which have some merits. Therefore, I believe the Minister has improved this Bill, which is applicable to and practicable for the people of Singapore. This Bill, I believe, will receive the support of all sections of the people.

The fundamental principle of the Women's Charter is to enable women to have their rights safeguarded by legislation, and to give people far-reaching stability in marriages.

The marriage system provides for monogamy to enable both the husband and the wife to enjoy equal status in their matrimonial life. The previous evil custom will vanish with the coming into operation of this Charter The passing of this Women's Charter will not only enable women to be safeguarded in law but will also bring about a revolutionary change in society on a practical basis.

On this side of the House, I wish to point out that the fundamental principle of this Women's Charter is twofold. The problems of women are the result of an unreasonable society. Men take women as pieces of merchandise. The inhuman feudalistic system has deprived women of their rights. In a semi-colonial and semi-feudalistic society, the tragedy of women was very common. Men could have three or four spouses. Men are considered honourable, but women are considered mean. It was common in those days to regard having one more female in a Chinese family as being very despicable. Women in our society are like pieces of meat put on the table for men to slice.

The P.A.P Government has made a promise. We cannot allow this inequality in the family to exist in this country. We will liberate women from the hands of the oppressor. With the passing of this legislation, women can contribute their part to the country. Our country has now obtained self- government. To safeguard the stability of our parliamentary democracy, we must first of all have internal stability. We must put our society in order. Only then can we safeguard our parliamentary democracy. On the whole, the matrimonial system plays a very important part in the social order. There is a Chinese proverb, which says that if every family has matrimonial harmony, then we can control the country. The people in the old days abused marriages. They took to marriages as a schoolboy would take to playing. The rich had their way with marriages. This created disorder in the society, and the women rose against this unreasonable social system.

In Singapore under the colonial government, marriages were given a feudalistic aspect. The ideals behind marriage were not respected. In this new society there are many people who have many wives. To the rich people, their wives are their property. But to the poor, things are very difficult. These are due to the bad marriage system and it also affects our society. In order to show respect for marriage, we must have a sound marriage system. Of course, to depend only upon a law to get rid of all these bad practices and customs is very difficult, because marriages in Singapore have not been put on a proper basis for many years. It takes a very long time to educate the people to regard marriage in the proper light. Only then can we have a good and sound marriage system. Only then can we solve the problem of marriages and the relationships between men and women. ---Singapore Parliament Reports. Vol 12. Sitting date 1960-04-06

陈翠嫦和王邦文结婚后,生育了三个孩子。1981年,在车祸中去世。


(The Straits Times Feb 13, 1981, reported the news of Mdm Chan dies in car smash-up)

王邦文回忆起陈翠嫦为妇女宪章奋斗的经历,她所面对的不仅是一个封建思想的包袱,还有当时党内好些男议员的父亲也奉行一夫多妻制,意见有很大的分歧。不过,她很幸运,有一位肯为妇女请命的律政部长贝恩(Kenny Byrne)支持她。当然,最终大家都必须面对最现实的考量:1961PAP分裂,社阵成立,PAP更迫切需要妇女的选票来组织下一任政府!

She started the Women's League in early 1956. The Women's League had sub-committees attached to all the party branches. For a long time, the Women's League was confined mainly to the Chinese educated, working class women. She was one of the very few Senior Middle School educated. The others were primary educated. It was difficult to get people to come out to work in the Women's League. The English-educated would not come in.

The feudal social setting prevailing in the fifties was loaded against the women. Then, the status of women in the family and the society at large was inferior to men. Polygamy was common. Education for girls took a backseat vis-a-vis the boys. Most girls were not educated, or at best primary school educated. Very few had secondary education. Jobs were not easy to come by and pay was never equal for the same job.

To take part in politics was frowned upon if not ridiculed. One needed courage and determination to brace oneself against prejudices of society, and opposition from family elders, to take part in active political campaigning. Especially for a party which could lead one into conflict with the colonial authority ...

I would not like to give the impression that the Woman's Charter was easily passed. Actually it was a very tough fight. She was lucky that Kenny Byrne was the Minister for Law. He was sympathetic. . . . But some in the party, well, they kicked up a row.

Especially when it came to the registration of marriages. At that time, it was quite common for a man to have more than one wife. Even within the party, some members, well, their fathers had more than one wife. So how were they going to register? There was a ruckus.

Women had won the vote on 1955. After that time, the women's vote was very important. Especially after the party had split in 1961. The PAP needed the support of women! By 1961, the women's vote was crucial in Referendum and subsequent electoral fights with the Barisan Socialist. So women became powerful, and they could demand their rights. ---p177.  Chew, Melanie. Leaders of Singapore. 1996.

回顾半个世纪前建国的艰辛的路程,十分钦佩受教育不多,却勇于摆脱殖民主义与封建思想的束缚,出一分力,发一分光的许多有名与无名英雄;也向一位贫困出身,却为新加坡现代化的进程作出莫大贡献的草根一族陈翠嫦女士献以至上的敬意。

2016年3月1日注:
随着妇女抬头,在职场上担任要职,今后应该如何公平地对待婚姻离异,2016年2月29日新加坡国会三读通过了妇女宪章(修正)法案,首次允许因残障或患病丧失谋生能力,没有保险或资产收入的男方向前妻申请赡养费。不过,他们必须是在婚前或婚姻有效期间丧失谋生能力。

妇女宪章改变过去只保护妇女的形象,让它有弹性与空间,是与时并进的做法。


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank to our predecessors who prepared to sacrifice.

cheryl k said...

Thanks for posting this. This was an inspirational read for someone born in the 1990s.