Sexual Sterilisation Rights in Singapore
Sexual sterilisation has been legalised in Singapore since 1974, and is governed by the Voluntary Sterilisation Act (VSA). The VSA aims to safeguard the process of voluntary sexual sterilisation by registered medical practitioners on medical, social, or eugenic grounds, and other related matters.
In this article, we will cover:
What is Sterilisation?
Sterilisation is a permanent method of birth control for both men and women. However, it does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). A latex or polyurethane condom should be used to protect against these infections if you are at risk of getting an STI.
Sexual sterilisation for men and women involve the following:
- Male sterilisation (i.e. vasectomy): The vas deferens is one of the two tubes that carry sperm from the testicles. Sperm becomes part of a man’s semen. In a vasectomy, the vas deferens tubes are tied, cut, clipped, or sealed to prevent the release of sperm into the semen. This prevents a woman’s egg from being fertilised with the man’s sperm during sexual intercourse.
- Female sterilisation (i.e. tubal ligation): Tubal ligation refers to the process where the fallopian tubes are cut, tied or blocked to permanently prevent pregnancy. This prevents an egg from travelling from the ovaries through the fallopian tubes and blocks sperm from travelling up the fallopian tubes to the egg.
Who Can Qualify For Sterilisation?
One must consent to the sterilisation procedure according to section 3 of the VSA. You must be:
- A consenting married or unmarried person of 21 years of age and older;
- A consenting married person if below 21 years of age;
- A consenting unmarried person if below 21 years of age, with the consent of at least one parent or guardian of the person; or
- A consenting married person who lacks capacity within the meaning of section 4 of the Mental Capacity Act, and who has the approval of the court after the person’s spouse has made the application; or
- A consenting unmarried person who lacks capacity within the meaning of section 4 of the Mental Capacity Act, and who has the approval of the court after the person’s parent or guardian has made the application.
The above consenting persons would then qualify to undergo sterilisation.
It is important to note that the person consenting to undergo sterilisation must not be someone who lacks capacity, within the meaning of section 4 of the Mental Capacity Act (unless court approval for the treatment is obtained, as mentioned above). A person who lacks capacity is defined as someone who is unable to make a decision for themselves in relation to the matter (i.e. the sterilisation) because of an impairment or disturbance in the functioning of the brain, to consent to the treatment and clearly understand the meaning and consequences of the treatment.
Do also note that section 7 of the VSA provides for strict penalties for anyone who compels a person to undergo sexual sterilisation. These penalties include a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 5 years.
Where Can Someone be Sterilised?
You can either go down the polyclinic route or make an appointment to see a urologist as a private patient.
A vasectomy would cost around $200 in a public hospital, and around $2,000 to $3,000 in a private hospital. Ligation, on the other hand, is significantly costlier and would cost around $1,000 in a public hospital and around $10,000 to $14,000 in a private hospital.
Sexual sterilisation must only be carried out in a health institution which includes any licensed private hospital, public hospital, specialist medical clinic, or any other facility that is licensed to carry out such services. It must also be carried out by a registered medical practitioner under the Medical Registration Act who is authorised to carry out such treatment.
Specialist medical clinics also offer sterilisation, but the medical practitioner must be registered by the Medical Council of Singapore as per section 22 of the Medical Registration Act and possess the prescribed surgical or obstetric qualifications.
While sexual sterilisation is generally a permanent and irreversible process, the possibility of reversal exists but you should bear in mind that there is no guarantee of it being successful. The longer the reversal procedure is performed after surgery, the lower the chances of conception.3 Choosing to undergo sterilisation is a major decision and you should speak to a licensed medical professional for advice and guidance on how you may further proceed.
You can also refer to the Ministry of Health’s guidelines on sexual sterilisation and HealthHub for more information on sexual sterilisation.
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