After the recent case wherein a gay father was allowed to adopt his son born through a surrogate, Singapore is reviewing its laws on adoption, and examining issues revolved around surrogacy.
Lee said this in response to three MPs questioning him in Parliament on Monday, January 14, namely Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), Dr. Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC) and Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC), as reported by The Straits Times.
The questions raised were in connection to the decision from the High Court in December to allow the appeal of a gay father to adopt his biological son, for reasons of the child’s welfare. The son had been carried to term via a commercial surrogacy.
While certain individuals hailed the High Court’s decision as a step forward for Singapore’s LGBT community, others protested that it transgressed the national definition of what makes a family.
Yet others pointed out the country’s unclear surrogacy laws and asked whether the father had taken advantage of a loophole in the laws in order to become a parent.
Surrogacy is at present disallowed in the country, with those who have become parents via surrogacy overseas required to apply to adopt their children when they return to Singapore.
These applications are approved on a case-to-case basis. So far, ten children born via surrogacy have been allowed to be adopted by their families, parents who resorted to surrogacy because they were unable to have children on their own.
Lee called surrogacy “a complex issue with ethical, social, health and legal implications for all parties involved. For commercial surrogacy, in particular, concerns have been raised about the exploitation of women and commodification of children. These issues are not trivial, and warrant careful study and discussion.”
Lee also warned parents who are considering surrogacy to take these issues seriously, since they would have “a significant impact on the child.”
Concerning the review of Adoption of Children Act, Lee said that seeing how it can be “strengthened to better reflect public policy, which is, in turn, a reflection of the values of our broad society today” is the focus.
Lee further said that the Ministry for Social and Family Development did not, in fact, support the appeal from the gay parents to adopt their child, saying this “would have been contrary to public policy.” He pointed out that the “prevailing social norm” is heterosexual couples building families.
Lee also said that the Ministry is looking into whether the Adoption of Children Act should be amended. “For instance, while the welfare of the child should always be a very important consideration in adoption proceedings, we are looking at whether the Adoption of Children Act needs to be amended so that an appropriate balance can be struck when important public policy considerations are involved.”
Lee was asked by Dr. Fatimah if the ministry would monitor the child who had been adopted by his biological father.
He said, “We are concerned about the formation and mainstreaming of same-sex parent family units in Singapore, but when it comes to the welfare of the child, we have to act on the basis of whether there are concerns.”
Lee did say, however, that LGBT individuals have a place in the country. “Just like other Singaporeans, they have access to opportunities and social support such as education, employment, and healthcare, and should, like all Singaporeans, not be subject to prejudice and discrimination. However, we must be mindful that a push for rights and entitlements which broader society is not ready for, or able to accept, will provoke a pushback, and can be very socially divisive.”
Significantly, the Minister for Social and Family Development said, “The Government’s policy is not to intrude or interfere with the private lives of Singaporeans, including homosexuals, and their relationships or partnerships. However, we do not support the formation of family units with children and homosexual parents through institutions and processes such as adoption.”
The government, he said, encourages a heterosexual couple raising children in a family unit. Therefore, he says, “it follows from this that the Government does not encourage planned and deliberate single parenthood as a lifestyle choice.”
Lee also voiced his concerns about the adoption of the young boy by the gay couple. “While an adoption order serves to make a child legitimate under the law, it does not on its own guarantee benefits and privileges such as citizenship, education or housing.”
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