Teenage Pregnancy and Rights of Teen Parents in Singapore
What if you are a teen who has become pregnant, or who has gotten your teenage girlfriend, under the age of 16, pregnant? Here are Singapore’s laws on the rights of a teen who is pregnant or becomes a parent.
This article will explain:
- Whether a teenager will be penalised for impregnating their teen girlfriend
- If the claim of being mistaken about a teenager’s age can be used as a defence
- If counsellors/therapists must maintain confidentiality regarding a teen’s pregnancy
- The laws on abortion in Singapore
- Whether teenage mothers can keep their babies
- What happens if either or both teen parents refuse parental responsibility
- Where teenage girls in a pregnancy crisis can go to for help
Will a Teenager be Penalised For Impregnating Their Teen Girlfriend?
Yes, teenagers can be penalised for impregnating their teen girlfriend. However, the age of the pregnant teenager determines the severity of the punishment (see below). The fact that the other party had consented to intercourse is unlikely to lessen the accused’s sentence.
What if the teenagers are underage?
First, you must be 16 years old to legally have sex in Singapore. Intercourse below the age of 16 is a punishable offence under section 376A of the Penal Code.
However, if both teens are underage, the police has the discretion to decide whether to file charges.
If only the impregnated teen is underage, and is:
- Below age 14: The teen’s partner may be found guilty of rape regardless of whether the impregnated teen had consented to having sex. If so, he will face imprisonment of up to 20 years and will also be liable to a fine or caning.
- Between age 14-16: The teen’s partner may face imprisonment of up to 10 years, a fine or both. However, punishment is more severe in exploitative relationships, i.e, the accused is in a position of authority over the victim. For example, the relationship between a student and teacher. In such cases, the accused may face up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine or caning.
Besides imprisonment, the court may choose to sentence the accused to alternative sentencing options, at its own discretion. For example, in January 2021, a 17-year-old boy who got his 15-year-old girlfriend pregnant was required to serve probation and community service, rather than jail time.
Can the Claim of Being Mistaken About a Teenager’s Age be Used as a Defence?
Being reasonably mistaken as to the age of the other party is generally not a defence to sexual offence charges. Meaning, stating that you would not have had intercourse with someone had you known that they were underage is unlikely to be a defence accepted by the court.
Must Counsellors/Therapists Maintain Confidentiality Regarding a Teen’s Pregnancy?
Counsellors/therapists must maintain confidentiality with their teen clients. However, exceptions apply.
For example, counsellors/therapists are required to disclose information about you if your parents have communicated that they want to be informed about your circumstances. This also depends on the guidelines of the agency you are seeking counselling/therapy from.
Factors such as redirecting a teen to a pregnancy agency or documenting consultations will not be seen as breaching confidentiality.
What are the Laws Regarding Abortion?
A teenager has the right to get an abortion in Singapore. Parental consent is not compulsory.
For those between 14-16, you must receive counselling from the Health Promotion Board Counselling Centre and obtain a special permit from it. If you are below 14, your parents will likely be informed as intercourse under the age of 14 is considered statutory rape.
To get an abortion as a teenager in Singapore, you must be:
- A citizen of Singapore;
- Residing in Singapore for at least 4 months before the abortion is carried out; or
- Dealing with special circumstances where it is essential to carry out the abortion to save your life.
Should you get an abortion despite not meeting any of the above requirements, you may face jail time up to 3 years and/or be fined up to $3,000.
An abortion cannot be carried out if the pregnancy exceeds 24 weeks. However, exceptions apply in cases where the teen’s life is at risk.
Additionally, you must undergo mandatory counselling before the abortion and then wait 48 hours to make your final decision.
For more information, please refer to our article on abortion in Singapore.
Can Teenage Mothers Keep Their Babies?
There are no laws preventing teen mothers from keeping their baby. However, there are no public housing schemes available to mothers who are below 21 years old.
Further, children born to unmarried mothers are considered illegitimate. This means if a mother passes away without a will, her child will not be legally entitled to her assets. To change this legal status, the mother can adopt her child so that her child can stand to inherit her assets if she passes away without a will. Alternatively, the mother may consider writing a will to leave assets to her child.
There are also no laws stopping teen parents from raising and making legal decisions for their child. However, underage parents can apply to the court for a court-appointed guardian to ensure their child’s welfare.
What Happens If Either or Both Teen Parents Refuse Parental Responsibility?
Will the child be put up for adoption?
If both teens refuse parental responsibility, the child can be put up for adoption if certain requirements are fulfilled, such as:
- The child is a resident of Singapore; and
- The parents/guardians of the underage teen parents consent to the adoption.
Here are 2 ways of going about adoption:
- Contact the Family Service Centre, which will help place your child under state care until he or she has been adopted; or
- Reach out to accredited adoption agencies such as Touch Community Services for further information.
Where Can Teen Girls in a Pregnancy Crisis Go For Help?
An unplanned pregnancy can be a difficult time for anyone regardless of their age. Teenage girls facing such a pregnancy crisis may approach the following services for assistance:
- Babes and the Pregnancy Crisis and Support Services offer case management to guide teenagers through the pregnancy process.
- Family Service Centres offer parenting materials such as how to improve parent-child relationships.
- Lakeside Family Services offers specialised therapy, temporary residential services and pre and post-natal equipping.
You may also hire our family lawyers to seek advice regarding your pregnancy rights and for further assistance on your specific situation.
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