S’pore voids ‘same-sex’ marriage

Singapore has voided the marriage of a couple after the husband underwent a sex change, making their partnership a “same-sex” union that contravened the city-state’s laws.

The couple married conventionally in 2015 but the husband subsequently had a sex-change operation and altered his national identity card to read “female”, according to the Straits Times.

When the unnamed couple tried to buy a state-built flat, they were told they were ineligible for the official grants married couples receive for first-time purchases of government apartments.

Their marriage was later annulled several months later.

Singapore’s Registry of Marriage said marital union was between a man and woman.

“At the point of marriage, a couple must be man and woman, and must want to be and want to remain as man and woman in the marriage,” it announced.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the world leader with the highest official pay with a wage of US$1.7 million a year, said the country was too conservative and therefore not yet ready for same-sex marriage.

Singapore maintains British colonial-era legislation making sex between men a criminal act although it does not actively enforce the law. Britain decriminalised homosexuality in 1967.

Jean Chong, who co-founded lesbian advocacy group Sayoni, told AFP that “policies need to catch up with the realities of society”.

“Families come in all shapes and sizes and of course while people get married as man and woman, there are those who transition along the way, so does this mean their marriage is no longer valid?”

There were almost 27,971 civil and Muslim marriages registered in Singapore last year, a 1.2-per-cent decline from the 28,322 marriages registered the year before, according to the Department of Statistics or Singstat.

Muslim marriages, however, rose from 5,778 to 5,954.

There were 7,614 divorces and annulments last year, a 1.2-per-cent rise from 2015, Singstat reported, with more older divorcees in the last decade.

The proportion of divorcees aged over 45 increased from 31.4 per cent in 2006 to 42.3 per cent last year for males, and from 20 per cent to 28.4 per cent for females. Wives initiated 62.4 per cent of 2016’s civil divorces, with unreasonable behaviour (53.5 per cent) and having lived apart or separated for more than three years (42.5 per cent) listed as the main causes.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin posted on Facebook that the ministry would continue its core work of strengthening and supporting marriages, as “they are the basis of families and society”.

He advised couples to consider attending a marriage preparation programme.

“A marriage preparation programme called ‘Prep’ is offered as a complimentary lunchtime talk for couples getting married … and the full Prep workshop is available in the community. Our marriage education partners also offer other marriage preparation programmes in the community,” the minister said.

Marriage rates have fallen in Singapore. Picture credit: Flickr