Last edited: November 2005
Summary and Analysis
Singapore acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on October 2, 1995. The Convention came into force in Singapore on November 4, 1995. Treaties and conventions do not automatically become part of the law of Singapore. To implement a treaty or convention in Singapore, Parliament has to pass legislation implementing that treaty or convention. There is no specific legislation in Singapore to implement the Convention it whole and therefore it cannot be invoked directly in courts; instead its provisions are implemented through relevant statutes.
Singapore has entered a declaration on Article 12 and reservations to the ratification of the CRC. The declaration states:
The Republic of Singapore considers that a child's rights as defined in the CRC, in particular the rights defined in articles 12 to 17, shall in accordance with articles 3 and 5 be exercised with respect for the authority of parents, schools and other persons who are entrusted with the care of the child and in the best interests of the child and in accordance with the customs, values and religions of Singapore's multiracial and multi-religious society regarding the place of the child within and outside the family.
(3) The Constitution and the laws of the Republic of Singapore provide adequate protection and fundamental rights and liberties in the best interests of the child. The accession to the Convention by the Republic of Singapore does not imply the acceptance of obligations going beyond the limits prescribed by the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore nor the acceptance of any obligation to introduce any right beyond those prescribed under the Constitution.
Although Singapore has a developed social welfare system to address children's needs, there are no provisions to ensure the right of the child to express his views and opinions in protective proceedings.
The Children and Young Persons Act (Chapter 38) was enacted to provide for the welfare, care and protection of children. The Act protects children from abuse, neglect and abandonment and institutes punishment when adults are careless or neglectful. The Act provides for the removal of abused children to a place of safety even before they are brought in front of a court which will then decide on orders for their care and custody.
Section 3 of the Guardianship of Infants Act states that the welfare of the child shall be the first and paramount consideration in any court proceedings involving the custody or upbringing of a person below 21 years or the administration of any property belonging to or held in trust for that child. The powers of the guardian under the act are also limited to ensure that the child's interests are safeguarded. The court encourages conciliation and cooperation to achieve a consensual outcome which focuses on the welfare of children.
In custody disputes, however, children are given the right to express their views. The Women's Charter regulates the responsibility of parents over their children. The child has a right to express his wishes in custody disputes where he/she is of an age to express an independent opinion and is able to speak on the matter. The court is expected to have regard for the wishes of the parents of the child and for the wishes of the child. The judge may interview the child to determine his/her wishes before a decision is made. If the court is unsure of the child's views, the dispute is referred to the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports for specialist help or support. It should be mentioned that there are separate proceedings in the Shariah Court for Muslim families.
The Family Court will appoint an amicus curiae (or friend of the court), who is well versed in family law matters, to interview the child to ascertain his views and other factors relevant to his well-being in appropriate high conflict custody cases. If the case goes to trial, the counsel will submit a report that highlights the child's wishes as well as all the other relevant factors. This scheme gives cognizance to a child's right to be heard in a matter that affects his future.
The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports is the national focal point for the welfare and protection, rehabilitation and development of children in Singapore. The Ministry handles the social welfare services and is responsible for various programs to assist families, youth and children in need of counselling. For example, A Children's Resource Centre at the Family Justice Centre provides information on family cases and counselling to children. The Centre also has a Kids in Difficult Situation Line for children caught in the midst of their parents' marital breakdown, family violence or other family disputes. It provides basic information on how children can cope with their difficulties and where they can seek help.
Related Sources of Law (In Order of Authority)
Constitution of the Republic of Singapore
14. Freedom of speech, assembly and association
(a) Every citizen of Singapore has the right to freedom of speech and expression; …
Guardianship of Infants Act (Chapter 122)
3. Welfare of infant to be paramount consideration
The Women's Charter (Chapter 353)
125. Paramount consideration to be welfare of child
(2) In deciding in whose custody a child should be placed, the paramount consideration shall be the welfare of the child and subject to this, the court shall have regard —
(a) to the wishes of the parents of the child; and
(b) to the wishes of the child, where he or she is of an age to express an independent opinion.
Additional Resources and Links
http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/ - Singapore statutes online
http://www.gov.sg/ - The government of Singapore
http://app.mcys.gov.sg/web/home_main.asp - Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports
http://www.subcourts.gov.sg/family/index.htm - Family court of Singapore
 Initial Report (2003), U.N. Doc. CRC/C/51/Add.8, ¶50.
 Family Court of Singapore, Court Appointed Counsel for Children, at http://www.subcourts.gov.sg/family/programmes/CAC.htm.
 Initial Report, supra note 1, at ¶118.
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