Washington International Law Journal


When the legislation to impose a financial obligation on adult children to provide for their aged parents was introduced in Singapore in 1994, it generated heated public debate which polarized the population. Several criticisms of this proposal emerged: it subsumed the Asian value of filial piety in a legalistic, Western framework; it was unnecessary given the small number of parents being neglected by their children; and it was an undesirable intrusion into family life. Nonetheless, the proposal managed to gain enough Parliamentary support to be referred to a Select Committee. Several adjustments to the proposed legislation were made to take into account these criticisms. The Maintenance of Parents Act ("MPA") was eventually passed by the Singapore Parliament on November 2, 1995. It came into effect on June 1, 1996. This article will examine the MPA in terms of the scope of this duty, the conditions under which the duty would arise, and the extent to which state interference in an area as private as the family may be acceptable to the public. It concludes by advancing some tentative suggestions as to why a substantial number of elderly Singaporeans have resorted to the MPA, contrary to the belief of some at the time of its passage and the experience of other countries with similar legislation.

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