February 24, 2024

Singapore sticks with old-fashioned parenting model

A gay couple’s request to adopt the child of an American surrogate mother is refused

A gay couple has created a conundrum for the Singaporean government by attempting to adopt a child born of an American surrogate mother. The two unnamed men, both Chinese, aged 45 with high salaries, paid a California woman US$200,000 to provide an egg and to gestate a baby, who was born in 2013.

Singapore has no law on surrogacy, but has forbidden commercial interest in adoption. On December 27, Judge Shobha Nair ruled that the two men could not adopt the child, leaving him in a legal limbo. In a stinging ruling, she declared that paying the surrogate mother “reflects the very thing the Adoption Act seeks to prevent — the use of money to encourage the movement of life from one hand to another”.

Singapore encourages parenthood within marriage. “Planned and deliberate parenthood by singles, as evidenced through the intentional use of assisted reproduction and/or surrogacy runs contrary to this,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Social and Family Development. “The Adoption of Children Act prohibits any payment or reward to the biological or adoptive parents for the adoption of the child, except with the sanction of the Court.”

Without an adoption order, the couple’s child remains an American citizen and a foreigner whose residence permit must be renewed every six months. Furthermore, he is regarded as “illegitimate” by the government, which means that the parents will not receive the government baby bonus and that he cannot automatically inherit the couple’s estate should they die. Because he is a foreigner, schooling will be difficult.

But the judge showed no sympathy for the couple’s quandary. This is a problem of their own making, she declared.

“The applicant and his partner knew that the laws of Singapore allow the use of assisted reproductive technologies by married couples only. There are no services which promote surrogacy in Singapore. This application is in reality an attempt to obtain a desired result — that is, formalising the parent-child relationship in order to obtain certain benefits, by walking through the back door of the system when the front door was firmly shut.”

“The child will continue to be given a roof over his head, food on his table, a good education and a support system — with or without an adoption order.”

Judge Nair insisted that the fact that the couple’s is gay had no bearing on the case, but The Economist was less sure. “A bizarre court case exposes the city-state’s Victorian attitudes to families,” was its summary of the case. “The real problem seems to be the men’s sexuality.”

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