Singapore judges given practical tips to deal with diversity
September 8, 2003
SINGAPORE — Judges used to making decisions in Singapore's courtrooms now
have their own guidelines on dealing with diversity in front of the
bench, ranging from transexuals and gays to the old and disabled, a
new book said Tuesday.
A first for the Subordinate Courts here, The Equal Treatment
Bench Guide takes the position that judges need to understand
varied behaviour and is peppered with practical tips.
They are advised to address a transsexual who had a sex-change
by the person's new gender, and not assume homosexual men are
effeminate and lesbians are masculine.
In a child custody case, do not regard the mother as always
being the best caregiver, says the 42-page book.
"Move away from the temptation to view fathers as the ones who
have the greater responsibility to provide financially for their
children," it adds.
The 72 judges can thumb through advice and reminders on such
subjects as gender, race and religion as well as court decorum,
physical handicaps and sexual orientation.
The unveiling of the book comes amid a whirl of changes as the
city-state seeks to remake itself and shed its conservative and
Patrons of nightspots are now free to dance on the bar tops,
previously forbidden bungee jumping will become an attraction at
the riverfront and chewing gum will be allowed starting January
after an 11-year ban.
The government recently announced it is employing homosexuals,
but homosexual acts are still forbidden.
Back in the courts, judges are urged under the guidelines to
allow more frequent rest periods when the person involved is old or
Acquiring a basic understanding of the main religions and
customs is also recommended.
The guide seeks to "give effect to the constitutional principle
that there must be equality before the law, and to constantly
remind the judges of their duty to the Constitution and to the
nation," Subordinate Courts registrar Lau Wing Yum told The Straits
The book was prompted by people's greater awareness of their
legal rights as well as changes brought on by globalisation and
A committee of five, led by a senior judge, took nearly a year
to complete the book. They received input from judges, community
groups and the main religious bodies. –Sapa-DPA
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