A judge debunked the idea that maintenance was an "unalloyed right" of a woman and suggested a wider Marriage Charter might someday replace the current Women's Charter.
Justice Choo Han Teck said a woman who is truly independent and equal in a marriage would not need patronising gestures of maintenance, which belie "deep chauvinistic thinking".
His comments came in decision grounds released yesterday explaining why he rejected a woman's $120,000 maintenance claim from her former spouse after their 10-year marriage ended in 2012.
He noted the idea for women to seek maintenance evolved out of the 1961 Women's Charter that was passed to protect women when many were housewives supported by their husbands.
But this was "yoked to an old attitude that should be changed", he said. "If it were to continue even where the protection is no longer needed, it might lead to the suppression of women in the name of chivalry."
He added to award her even a token sum "would be wrong if it was merely symbolic. That symbol for women has to be torn asunder in fact and in spirit".
He said the time may come for a "wider, more encompassing Bill" suitably named the Marriage Charter but stressed it was for Parliament to decide " when that moment might be".
The couple, he a 47-year-old senior prison officer and she a 48-year-old regional sales manager of a multinational firm, married in 2002 and lived apart after six years. She has a 17-year-old son from a previous marriage whom he adopted and for whose maintenance he pays $1,000 a month, which the court upheld. The parties cannot be named under the law.