'There Shall Be a Status Known as Citizen of Singapore': International Marriages in Cosmpolitanising, Patriarchal Singapore

Publication Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date



It is often said that Singapore is a patriarchal society and societal norms and government regulations mirror that normative ideal. Citizenship status and rights along gender lines, manifested in the legal recognition of children of international marriages, reflected this reality for much of Singapore’s independence. However, the onslaught of globalization, the rise in international marriages, disconcerting declining birth-rates, and an acceptance of “foreign talent” has given the economic imperative and demographic impulse to grant citizenship (by descent) to a person born outside Singapore whose father or mother is a citizen of Singapore, by birth, registration or descent. Previously, such a person would be granted citizenship only if his/her father was a Singapore citizen. This paper examines the background and contextual realities leading to the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 2004. It argues that the landmark constitutional amendment was motivated by pragmatic considerations of demography, economics, and political governance. The paper contends that state sovereignty, while seemingly challenged by international marriages, is still preserved rather than negated. It suggests that the state ideological apparatus vis-à-vis the family and the state is adaptable enabling the continued institutional influence, if not control, over the family as the basic building block of Singapore society.


Asian Studies | Family Law | Public Law and Legal Theory

Research Areas

Law, Society and Governance


Conference on 'International Marriages, Rights and the State in Southeast and East Asia

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