Community Problems and Social Work in Southeast Asia: The Hong Kong and Singapore Experience

Community Problems and Social Work in Southeast Asia: The Hong Kong and Singapore Experience

Community Problems and Social Work in Southeast Asia: The Hong Kong and Singapore Experience

Community Problems and Social Work in Southeast Asia: The Hong Kong and Singapore Experience

Synopsis

In this volume of collected studies, social workers in Hong Kong and Singapore tell of their experience in attempting to resolve some of the problems that exist in the communities of these two city-states.

Excerpt

Ann Wee

In this essay Ann Wee, who has been involved in adoption work since 1956, draws also on research undertaken by social work students, under her supervision. the difficult and delicate task of interviewing adult women who had been adopted was undertaken by Daphne Pereira.

At Tamil weddings in Singapore the women guests sit apart, at one side of the temple court, a shimmering spectacle of vivid saries, jet-sleek hair and glittering gold. the entire assembly are dressed and bedecked in traditional South Indian style: but a quick glance will soon pick out from among the crowd of dark, strong features, a small number of pale round Chinese faces. For the most part these are women who, way back in their early infancy, passed from Chinese parents to childless Tamil adopters.

The poor among the Chinese have always had some rough measure of the number of children for whom provision could be made, and throughout history have sought to maintain minimal living standards by disposing of surplus fertility. in dynastic China what the late Irene Teauber described as 'assisted female mortality' was tolerated, and the sale of children into slavery was common place. For Singapore Chinese the means of disposal have always been transfers in some form of adoption, arrangements which, up to the 1950s could approximate very closely to the fringes of chattel slavery.

Until recently, the supply of babies usually outstripped demand among the Singapore Chinese: Chinese adopters obtained babies in a 'buyer's market' and could afford to be highly selective about such matters as complexion, birth-weight, heredity and horoscopic traits. At least partly in consequence of this excess in supply, a sizeable but only partially documented number of Chinese baby girls passed in adoption to Indian and Malay families. of those who are now adult, the majority almost certainly changed hands on a de facto basis, but in recent years the facilities available for legal adoption have come to be widely used by all communities in Singapore.

A Singapore Tamil couple are confronted by a range of problems if they seek to adopt a baby of their own ethnic background. To begin with such babies are rarely available, as illegitimacy rates are low and the Tamil poor have no tradition of manipulating living standards by the off-loading of excess children. Even if they did have, this would not for the most part solve the problems of the childless among the Tamil 'white-collar' class.

Extreme darkness of skin colouring and lowliness of caste are generally seen . . .

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