My heart leapt a few days ago when it appeared that Chan Chun Sing, the Acting Minister for Community Development Youth and Sports, was urging Singaporeans to be more accepting of unwed mothers. This group of women has faced official discrimination for the longest time – two examples: they’re not eligible for the same kind of tax breaks married parents receive, nor can they buy new government flats – so the Minister’s comments seemed particularly encouraging. After all, there are numerous reasons why women choose to have children. And the child of a single mother should be regarded as no less deserving of support as one born to a married couple.

Wow. An enlightened member of the ruling party. I was impressed, and judging from various Facebook postings, so were lots of other people.

But then, Chan issued this clarification:

“This is to state on record that at no time during the IPS Forum yesterday did I ever advocate raising our TFR by promoting children out of wedlock. A participant asked why Nordic countries have such high TFR. Someone from IPS then pointed out that if we deconstruct the numbers, we would realise that their TFR for married couples is rather similar to ours, but they accepted children out of wedlock. I then asked the audience if we as a society would ever accept that? It was obvious that I did not advocate accepting children out of wedlock as the way to improve our TFR.”

Oh, Chan Chun Sing, why you cheat my fewlings? Also, why are you so illogical? Do children born out of wedlock not contribute to our total population? Will they not grow up to become members of our society? Are illegitimate male children not called up for National Service? Are the products of such sinful unions not expected to pay taxes when they join the workforce? Is there like a special method of computing population such that you pretend they do not exist?

Are you suggesting that society not accept them?

Raising a child is stressful business. Most women I know would rather not have to go it alone. A partner would greatly lessen the burden. So why does our government feel the need to make life doubly hard for a woman who chooses to be a single parent? What would they rather she do? Abort the baby? Marry someone, anyone, just so she can satisfy the powers-that-be that she’s part of a happy, wholesome nuclear family?

Chan links Norway’s higher Total Fertility Rate to its people’s acceptance of unwed mothers. His clarification implies that Norway is somehow more tolerant of “loose” women with their “loose” morals than us, upstanding Singaporeans.

I can almost imagine the thought bubble:

We are not like that, are we? We are Singapore. We have very high standards. We live up to our watermarks! We will not accept sluttish behaviour!

But, but, but… what about Norway’s much-lauded family-friendly policies? These are apparently irrelevant to the debate at hand. You see, in the world according to Chan Chun Sing, we have no one but ourselves to blame for Singapore’s low TTR, because we are more morally upright than those liberal Norwegians.

The mind boggles at the screwed-uppedness of this whole line of reasoning.

Mr Kee Chiu, here’s a tiny insight from a single woman – imaginary Singaporeans in your imaginary world, with their imaginary values could do an about-turn tomorrow and become really accepting of unwed mothers. But that would still not make me more inclined to boost the TTR.