UN commends Singapore on children’s rights
Committee acknowledges significant progress but notes room for improvement
From taking steps to reduce academic stress to increased spending on early childhood education, the Singapore Government's efforts to improve the rights of children here have been commended by a United Nations (UN) committee.
The committee met last Thursday and Friday to discuss Singapore's progress in ensuring that the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children are protected.
Children's rights span the entire spectrum of well-being, including their right to education, physical protection, food, education, health care and opportunity.
The Singapore delegation, led by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development and Education Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, presented updates on the progress of child rights in Singapore to the UN committee in Geneva, Switzerland, stressing the country's commitment to protect the well-being of its children.
Along with the official report from the Government, non-governmental stakeholders also submitted reports and suggestions.
The MSF said in a statement: "The Committee welcomed many of our efforts, including our forthcoming amendments to raise the age limit of the Children and Young Persons Act from 16 years to 18 years to better protect our children, the use of robust screening and reporting tools for child protection, the establishment of the Family Justice Courts, and significant investments in the Early Childhood Education sector."
Associate Professor Faishal outlined the concrete steps taken by Singapore to be a nurturing and endearing home for children, which includes providing every child with a good start and a nurturing environment.
Singapore has also made moves to step up protection and support for children who are vulnerable, he added.
But while acknowledging that Singapore has made significant progress in advancing children's rights since the last review in 2011, the UN committee noted that there was room for improvement.
Experts The New Paper spoke to agreed.
A Singapore Children Society's (SCS) spokesman said that while Singapore does well overall when it comes to child rights, more can be done, particularly in the area of abuse prevention and sexuality education.
In its report, SCS suggested that children be better equipped to protect themselves from abuse.
The recommendation said: "Priority could be given to sustainable, upstream work in protecting our young children against sexual abuse.
"Such education could be integrated into the pre-school curriculum to ensure that all young children are taught the necessary protective skills."
SCS added that it would also be crucial to have a road map for the child rights sector so that all stakeholders - from the State, NGOs and businesses, to families and children themselves - can be on the same page in bringing child rights closer to home.
In its report, local gender advocacy group Aware called for policies to level the playing field and promote equality among children, such as free childcare for low-income households and an end to discrimination against single-parent or transnational families.
Ms Shailey Hingorani, Aware's head of Research and Advocacy, pointed out issues such as MSF data which revealed that there are a few thousand children in Singapore whose parents cannot afford childcare even after basic and additional subsidies, the current system of subsidy application being overly complicated and how single mothers cannot secure a flat under current HDB family schemes.