No box around families - they are all different

No box around families - they are all different
National Family Council member Anita Fam.

The Health Promotion Board advisory sparked quarrels about the notion of family. Given this context, how should we define family?

I don't think we should draw a box and say families are defined as X,Y,Z. You can't pigeonhole family, because if you did, then you're sure to leave someone out.

There is a conventional idea of father, mother, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, but if you think about it, who is family?

Family comprises the people around you, the people you were raised with, the people who brought you up, who are there for you. They are your loved ones. You don't define them by sexual orientation, race or religion.

There is one camp that says you cannot be LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender)-friendly and still be pro-family.

I recognise that everyone has different views. Both camps are very passionate in how they feel and the views expressed at the moment are extreme views. You will probably never get these two groups of people to reach middle ground.

But I don't think that is any reflection of what the majority of Singaporeans think. Some voices are more strident than others, and these are the voices that we hear.

So does this affect the family as a building block of society?

That's thinking too much into what family is. To me, simplistically, family are the people who surround you and, in most cases, love you.

So, not at all. Everyone is born into a family, no matter what. Whether or not there are differences in views, it doesn't affect what the core of family is. You will always have a mother and father.

As a parent (with publisher husband Goh Eck Kheng, 58) of two teenagers, how have you approached this issue with them?

We teach them that mutual respect is important. To remember that: I may not agree with them but that does not mean I condemn their views. They are fully entitled to their own views.

We've raised our kids to be colour-blind and sexual-orientation-blind. I don't think they've ever thought of themselves as being Chinese, or seen their friends as being Malay, Indian, English or Chinese, and they've never seen someone as being straight or gay.

But the thing that we've always taught them - and this is within the confines of our personal faith (as Methodists) - is that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Notions of marriage seem to be changing. Anecdotally, there seems to be more infidelity. Has there been a shift in values?

At heart, we still have very traditional Asian values. Sex before marriage and having a child out of wedlock, infidelity - these are still frowned upon.

That's why single mothers in Singapore still don't get an easy time.

But there seems to be greater acceptance of divorce. In a recent Institute of Policy Studies study, only 43 per cent of respondents felt it was always wrong.

I was surprised that it was as conservative as it was. People still cling to the more traditional values of being married.

I don't think divorce rates have really gone up if you look at these over the last few years. They even went down last year.

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