Traditional families often did not comprise one man, one woman and their natural children. In the old days, early deaths from war, sickness or childbirth were common, resulting in single-parent families, families with step-parents and step-siblings, and those with adopted children (it was common for spinsters to adopt children to raise as their own).
In Chinese culture, it was appropriate for a man to have multiple wives who each bore multiple children. Many of us have ancestors who had more than one wife, and some religions today still accept polygamy.
The Women's Charter in Singapore resulted in polygamy no longer being recognised as legal, something that most women are grateful for. Societal norms change over time and continue to do so.
There is no need to explain to children what a family is; it is something they experience, whatever form it takes. As they grow up, they become aware that families are different - for example, some children live with only one parent.
Usually, it is unnecessary to learn this from books. For most children, the story of two male penguins bringing up a baby penguin would not make them think of homosexuality if they are not aware of what it is. There is no reason to believe they would want to emulate such a family, any more than watching The Lion King would make them think that polygamy is normal in humans.
If someone is heterosexual, he or she is not going to become homosexual by being exposed to these books as a young child. If someone is homosexual, the reality of not being accepted by some members of society would more than make up for any possible "encouragement" that these books may give.
So is it really necessary to destroy the children's books and not even allow them to be sold? ("Books will not be given away"; Sunday).
I am pro-family, neither atheist nor agnostic, and I have no intention of promoting homosexual lifestyles. But that does not mean I have to be anti-homosexual.
Homosexuality is less of a threat to families than adultery, yet there is less organised activity against the latter.
Let us be more balanced in our approach. Let us not import from other countries the partisan and intransigent positions taken on various issues. Let us find ways to engage cordially, as we have done on issues of race and religion.
Caroline Chee (Ms)
This article was first published on July 15, 2014.
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