ST Forum: Preserve marriage as an institution (Jul 18)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

July 18, 2007

Preserve marriage as an institution

I REFER to Mr Janadas Devan's article, 'Can mum, mum and kids make a family?' (ST, July 7), and Dr George Bishop's letter, 'Special-needs kids thrive, thanks to mum and mum' (ST, July 11).Both writers had used anecdotal examples of children having been raised by same-sex parents and, based on the high divorce rates in the US, suggested that children of same-sex couples were not worse off in any way. They argued, therefore, that the idea of same-sex couples having children, whether by adoption or otherwise, should be tolerated, indeed even legislated.

Such a line of argument is flawed. Using similar logic, one might say that since we might know of some smokers who are still alive and healthy, and there are a number of non-smokers who still develop lung cancer anyway, smoking should therefore be tolerated, even promoted.

It has long been known by human intuition and affirmed by studies, that the presence of both a nurturing mother and a nurturing father play a critical role in a child's well-being. Children are best served when raised in a home with a married mother and father. In addition, the parental, mother-father relationship provides children with a model of marriage - the most meaningful, enduring relationship that the vast majority of individuals will have during their lives.

The fact that many marriages are 'unhappy' or 'on the rocks' does not mean that marriage in itself is a faulty institution. We need to look into the varied reasons that plague marriages today, notably so in many 'tolerant' Western countries.

Let us use an analogy. A doctor may give the best and most well tried medication to his patient to treat an illness. If the patient is not doing well despite the medication, the doctor does not immediately dump that medication and try a new one, especially so when it is one that is risky and hardly tested at all. The good doctor looks into other reasons for the patient's poor response: Has the patient been taking the medication as instructed? Has he taken to habits that are detrimental to his health? Has he been mixing the medication with other concoctions?

The same goes for marriage. The fact that many marriages are threatened today does not mean that it is losing relevance. Rather, we should as a society examine ourselves and see how it has been misused, indeed abused, in recent times. As a bastion of civil society, it has served us remarkably well, and it will continue to do so, as long as we put right our values that must necessarily complement it.

True creativity lies not in blindly aping all the values of the West, but rather in acknowledging those that help promote the public good, and integrating them with our own in a way that continues to build upon the important pillars of our country, an essential part of which is the family, founded upon the marriage between a man and a woman.

Dr John Hui Keem Peng