India court familial relationship ruling poses challenge to Singapore marriage definition: Minister

India court familial relationship ruling poses challenge to Singapore marriage definition: Minister

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Shanmugam said the constitutional amendments that the Singapore government intends to pass would seek to ensure that the definition of marriage in Singapore is decided in Parliament, not through the courts.

The Indian top court had ruled last month that family benefits under law must be extended to blended families, same-sex couples and other households.

Singapore’s courts have avoided such an approach and left the changing of laws to Parliament, The Straits Times quoted the minister as saying.

Shanmugam noted that the Indian court’s decision to recognise different types of families comes just a few years after it struck out Section 377 of its penal code in 2018, which like Singapore’s Section 377A, criminalises homosexuality.

At the recent National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had announced that Section 377A would be repealed, but also said the government would amend the Constitution to safeguard the definition of marriage from legal challenges.

The Indian Supreme Court had last month ruled in favour of Deepika Singh, a nurse whose employer – a government medical institute in northern India – had denied her application for maternity leave after she gave birth because she had already taken leave to care for her husband’s children from a previous marriage.

The two-judge bench said the concept that a “family” consists of a single, unchanging unit with a mother and a father and their children ignores the fact that many families do not conform to this expectation.

Justice D Y Chandrachud, who wrote the order, said “family” could be defined by various configurations of adults occupying the roles of primary caretakers with both biological and non-biological children.

Referring to the ruling, the Singapore law minister said, “Our courts have traditionally eschewed such an approach, and have said that these matters should be dealt with in Parliament. The constitutional amendments will seek to ensure that.”



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