Title: Marriage and Gender relations between the Ju & Singapore society

The government in Singapore plays a part in influencing marriages in Singapore, through its various policies, privileges and incentives. However the state’s interest in encouraging marriages is primarily in its role of procreation. This is best exemplified with the state privileging heterosexual marriages in favour of any other forms of marriages. Gay marriages for instance, are not legitimized by law and are therefore not given recognition or privileges because they do not serve the procreation function in society. It seems that the function of marriage in Singapore society is to fulfil its reproductive role, regulate sexual behaviour, socialize the young, and provide care and support.

When comparing this with the Ju/’hoansi, being based on a central principle of kinship, marriage takes on different functions and meanings to its people. Besides marriage serving its function of reproduction and continuity of one’s lineage, marriage also serves to “create an important bond between the two families and their camps” (Lee, 2012:95). Hence, marriage also serves to ensure “individual and group survival” due to the sharing of resources at waterholes between camps. Once again, marriage returns to the core principle of kinship ties, and further builds upon it.

In the case of Singapore society, the marriage of a couple does not necessarily create stronger kinship ties between their affinal relatives. There is also less dependency on each other for survival and therefore there is much less an incentive to maintain such kinship ties. Hence this also highlights how an industrialized society like Singapore does not hold kinship ties as a central principle unlike the Ju.

In analysing gender relations among married couples, the Ju’s case would certainly not support the feminist perspective used to analyse family relations in a society like Singapore. According to Lee (2012:99), both men and women work around the “home” (domestic sphere), with relative equality between the sexes. Hence this is definitely in contrast with the feminist perspectives we have learnt about families, where women are seen as oppressed by men within the family unit. This is seen when women have to juggle with dual roles in both the domestic and public spheres while men are only expected to engage in the public sphere. Issues on male aggression against women in the form of rape and sexual harassment are also implications of the power dominance of men over women in our society. Whereas, it is said that rape is “extremely uncommon among the Ju” (Lee, 2012:98). Hence we see a stark contrast in the gender relations between married couples among the Ju as compared to modern societies like Singapore’s.

In the case of Singapore society, though women have achieved an elevated status through education and employment and are no longer bounded to their traditional roles in the domestic sphere, inequality between men and women still exists especially in the workforce. The earnings gap still persists between men and women in the workplace where they are rewarded differently for the same work. This once again differs from the egalitarian lifestyle of the Ju/’hoansi.

Marriage in different societies and cultures therefore take on different functions and meanings depending on the kind of cultural principles the society is grounded upon.

More pages