Women’s Charter

JurisdictionSingapore
Coming into Force31 October 2009
Act Number(Original Enactment: Ordinance 18 of 1961)
Enactment Date15 September 1961
Record NumberCap. 353
Published date31 October 2009
WOMEN’S CHARTER
(CHAPTER 353)

(Original Enactment: Ordinance 18 of 1961)

REVISED EDITION 2009
(31st October 2009)
An Act to provide for monogamous marriages and for the solemnization and registration of such marriages; to amend and consolidate the law relating to divorce, the rights and duties of married persons, the protection of family, the maintenance of wives, incapacitated husbands and children and the punishment of offences against women and girls; and to provide for matters incidental thereto.
[Act 7 of 2016 wef 01/07/2016]
[15th September 1961]
PART I
PRELIMINARY
Short title
1. This Act may be cited as the Women’s Charter.
Interpretation
2.—(1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires —
“brothel” means any place —
(a) habitually used by any 2 or more women or girls (whether or not at the same time or at different times) for the purpose of prostitution;
(b) that has been used by any 2 or more women or girls (whether or not at the same time or at different times) for the purpose of prostitution and is likely to be used again for that purpose; or
(c) that —
(i) has been expressly or implicitly advertised (whether by advertisements in or on the place, newspapers, the Internet or by other means) or represented as being used for the purpose of prostitution; and
(ii) is likely to be used for the purpose of prostitution;
[Act 36 of 2019 wef 07/08/2020]
“club” means any place which is used by an association of 2 or more persons for any purpose or object;
“Conciliation Officer” means a Conciliation Officer appointed under section 48;
“court” —
(a) for the purposes of sections 13, 17, 20 and 59 and Parts VIII and X, means the General Division of the High Court or a Family Court;
[Act 40 of 2019 wef 02/01/2021]
(b) for the purposes of Part VII, means a Family Court; and
(c) for the purposes of Part IX, means the General Division of the High Court or a Family Court, and includes the Syariah Court constituted under the Administration of Muslim Law Act (Cap. 3);
[Act 40 of 2019 wef 02/01/2021]
“Deputy Registrar” means a Deputy Registrar of Marriages appointed under section 26;
“Director‑General” means the Director‑General of Social Welfare and includes any person who is authorised by him to perform any of the duties or exercise any of the powers of the Director‑General under this Act;
“fit individual” means an individual whom the Director‑General, having regard to the character of the individual, thinks competent to provide care and protection to another individual;
“incapacitated former husband”, in relation to a dissolved or an annulled marriage, means a former husband to the marriage who —
(a) during the subsistence of the marriage, was or became —
(i) incapacitated, by any physical or mental disability or any illness, from earning a livelihood; and
(ii) unable to maintain himself; and
(b) continues to be unable to maintain himself;
“incapacitated husband” means a husband who —
(a) during the marriage, is or becomes —
(i) incapacitated, by any physical or mental disability or any illness, from earning a livelihood; and
(ii) unable to maintain himself; and
(b) continues to be unable to maintain himself;
“married woman” means a woman validly married under any law, religion, custom or usage;
“messaging system” means any system that enables the transmission of short text messages, or of any visual communication, voice communication or electronic mail —
(a) from a digital mobile telephone to another digital mobile telephone; or
(b) from an electronic mail address to a digital mobile telephone, and the other way around;
“minor” means a person who is below the age of 21 years and who is not married or a widower or widow;
“occupier” of a place means the tenant, sub-tenant or lessee thereof or any person in charge of the place, whether or not he is in actual occupation and whether he has or does not have powers to let or sub-let;
“owner” of a place means a person who, for the time being, has power or authority to let, hire, sell or convey the place to another person, or who receives the rent of the place whether on his own account or as an agent or a trustee for any other person;
“place” means any building, house, office, flat, room or cubicle or any part thereof, and any open or enclosed space and includes a ship, boat or any vessel, whether afloat or not, and any vehicle;
“place of assignation” means any place where communication is established with any woman or girl, either directly or through an intermediary, for any immoral purpose;
“place of public resort” means any place to which the public for the time being has access;
“place of safety” means any place of safety established under section 177;
“prostitution” means the act of a female offering her body for sexual penetration for hire, whether in money or in kind;
“Registrar” means the Registrar of Marriages appointed under section 26 and includes an Assistant Registrar of Marriages;
“sexual penetration” means the penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth of a woman or girl by a man’s penis, or the sexual penetration of the vagina or anus of a woman or girl by a part of another person’s body (other than the penis) or by anything else;
“solemnization”, with its grammatical variations and cognate expressions, includes the contracting of a marriage or effecting a marriage in accordance with the law, religion, custom or usage of the parties or any of the parties thereto;
“State Marriage Register” means the State Marriage Register maintained under section 27.
[Act 36 of 2019 wef 07/08/2020]
(2) In criminal proceedings for an offence under Part XI in relation to any place —
(a) a court may rely on circumstantial evidence to find that the particular place is used as a brothel; and
(b) a court may make such a finding without direct evidence that the particular place is used as a brothel.
Examples of circumstantial evidence
1. Evidence relating to persons entering and leaving premises (including number, gender and frequency) that is consistent with the use of the premises for prostitution.
2. Evidence of appointments with persons for the purpose of prostitution that are made through the use of telephone numbers or other contact details that are publicly advertised.
3. Evidence of the arrangement of, or other matters relating to, the place or the furniture, equipment or articles in the place, that is consistent with the use of the place for prostitution.
[Act 36 of 2019 wef 07/08/2020]
Application
3.—(1) Except as otherwise provided, this Act shall apply to all persons in Singapore and shall also apply to all persons domiciled in Singapore.
[26/80]
(2) Parts II to VI (except for sections 6A, 6B and 6C) and Part X and sections 181 and 182 shall not apply to any person who is married under, or to any marriage solemnized or registered under, the provisions of the Muslim law or of any written law in Singapore or in Malaysia providing for the registration of Muslim marriages.
[9/67]
[Act 15 of 2019 wef 01/01/2020]
(2A) Nothing in Part VIII entitles an incapacitated husband who is married under the provisions of the Muslim law, or of any written law in Singapore or in Malaysia providing for the registration of Muslim marriages, to obtain any maintenance under that Part.
[Act 7 of 2016 wef 01/07/2016]
(3) Notwithstanding subsection (2), sections 4, 5 and 6 shall apply to any person who contracts or purports to contract any such marriage during the subsistence of a marriage registered or deemed to be registered under the provisions of this Act or which was contracted under a law providing that or in contemplation of which the marriage is monogamous.
[9/67]
(4) No marriage between persons who are Muslims shall be solemnized or registered under this Act.
[9/67]
(5) For the purposes of this Act, a person who is a citizen of Singapore shall be deemed, until the contrary is proved, to be domiciled in Singapore.
PART II
MONOGAMOUS MARRIAGES
Disability to contract marriages
4.—(1) Every person who on 15th September 1961 is lawfully married under any law, religion, custom or usage to one or more spouses shall be incapable during the continuance of that marriage or marriages of contracting a valid marriage under any law, religion, custom or usage with any person other than such spouse or spouses.
[9/67]
(2) Every person who on 15th September 1961 is lawfully married under any law, religion, custom or usage to one or more spouses and who subsequently ceases to be married to that spouse or all the spouses shall, if he thereafter marries again, be incapable during the continuance of that marriage of contracting a valid marriage with any other person under any law, religion, custom or usage.
[9/67]
(3) Every person who on 15th September 1961 is unmarried and who after that date marries under any law, religion, custom or usage shall be incapable during the continuance of that marriage of contracting a valid marriage with any other person under any law, religion, custom or usage.
[9/67]
(4) Nothing in this section shall affect the operation of Part III in relation to marriages solemnized in Singapore after 15th September 1961.
[9/67]
Void marriages
5.—(1) Every marriage contracted in Singapore or elsewhere in contravention of section 4 shall be void.
[9/67; 26/80]
(2) If any male person lawfully married under any law, religion, custom or usage shall, during the continuance of that marriage, contract a union with a woman, that woman shall have no right of succession or inheritance on the death intestate of such male person.
[9/67]
(3) Nothing in this section shall affect the liability of any person to pay such maintenance as may be directed to be paid by that person under any written law.
[Act 7 of 2016 wef 01/07/2016]
Offence
6. Any person lawfully married under any law, religion, custom or usage who during the continuance of that marriage purports to contract a marriage in Singapore or elsewhere under any law, religion, custom or usage in contravention of section 4 shall be deemed to commit the offence of marrying again during the lifetime of the husband or wife, as the case may be, within the meaning of
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