polygamy in Singapore

Today, polygamy is illegal for non-Muslim Singaporeans. However, it did not always use to be this way. Lenore Lyons writes about the women’s rights activists who tirelessly campaigned to outlaw polygamy in the 1980s.  

Lenore Lyons, pg 107: 

Since its earliest days, AWARE organised forums and seminars for the general public, schools, clubs and associations. Among the most significant of these forums are those that directly address government policy or official statements. For example, when Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew commented in 1986 that polygamy possibly had benefits, AWARE organised a public forum in 1987 titled “Women’s Charter: Yes; Polygamy: No”. It was attended by more than 200 people and gave the newly formed association an opportunity to raise its public profile. Consequently, the government was forced to distance itself from Lee’s comments, restating that monogamy was the law for all non-Muslims. 

Professor Lenore Lyons is internationally recognised as the leading scholar on the feminist movement in Singapore. She also maintains a long-standing research collaboration with Associate Professor Michele Ford on the Riau Islands of Indonesia, and migrant labour activism in Southeast Asia. Before Professor Lyons’ appointment as Honorary Professor to the University of Sydney, she was Research Professor in Asian Studies at the University of Western Australia (2009-2011) and Director of the ARC Key Centre for Asia Pacific Social Transformation Studies (CAPSTRANS) at the University of Wollongong (2005-2009).

Arora, Mandakini, ed. Small Steps, Giant Leaps: A History of AWARE and the Women’s Movement in Singapore. Association of Women for Action and Research, 2007.

Featured Image: Salam Islam


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