Voices // Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Women win, men lose
Under the prevailing laws, Singaporean men really do end up worse off after divorce
Letter from Jimmy Ho Kwok Hoong
I REFER to the letter by Mr Wong Hoong Hooi, "Marriage? Laws are a raw deal for men" (Aug 26).
My friend's wife squandered away most of his 20-year savings with credit cards.
When he confronted her, she demanded a divorce. Being magnanimous, he gave up his condominium and custody of his only daughter to his wife.
However, few years later, she returned to sue him for additional maintenance, even though he was nearly bankrupt. In court, the judge told him that he had "asked for it" by consenting to a divorce in Singapore.
His plight is typical of the Singapore divorce ordeal where a man, regardless of the reasons for his divorce, is made to pay for leaving his wife.
Even some foreign women are aware of this and sometimes respond to the "opportunity" by engaging in "temporary" marriages with Singaporean men to take advantage of this weakness of our legal system.
The upgrading of women's status and respect for them is always seen as a sign of a maturing society.
But to overdo it by placing males at the mercy of females legally shows that our legislators have no time to deal with the complex problems of marriage. By making one party shoulder all the negative consequences of a marriage breakdown saves time and helps clear the courts' backlog.
No, it is certainly not easy to be a family man in Singapore.
There are Singaporean males (especially the rich ones) who choose not to get married to avoid being ripped off of what rightfully belongs to them.
Certain developed nations allow for the net worth of married couples to be registered at the point of marriage as a determinant of what each party ought to "reimburse" eachother should they divorce.
Unfortunately, this is not a Singaporean practice.
Some men resort to being submissive to their spouses to prevent them from raising the word "divorce" upon the slightest disagreement. Possibly, they do this to avoid the nightmarish consequence of having to lose everything including their wealth and children.
However, in return, some local women say they are "sissy and indecisive".
There are also men who opt for cohabitation, playing it safe when they think they may not be lucky enough to end up with a "good" Singaporean wife. But the concept is taboo in our society.
It is natural for human beings to want to get married and have kids. When the law is against men in marriage, the men have no choice but to resign themselves to fate unless they are prepared to challenge it.
But not many males would boycott a legal system by refusing to marry. In other words, committing to a marriage does not reflect one's complete acceptance of the prevailing matrimonial terms.
Singaporean men are not given much choice if they stumble into a disastrous marriage.
Women are. They can pack up and leave with their kids and still enjoy a comfortable life with a huge chunk of their husband's assets and maintenance money. Under the prevailing laws, Singaporean men really do end up worse off after divorce