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S'poreans can have more flexibility in deciding child's race
by Dawn Tay

PARENTS of different races can now include both races in their children's registration forms, said Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee in Parliament yesterday.

So, their children could be identified as, say, Caucasian-Chinese, or Malay-Indian.

They have to choose a dominant race - which would be listed first - for their children, Associate Professor Ho added.

For example, an Indian father and a Chinese mother who choose Chinese as their child's dominant race will register the child as being Chinese-Indian.

But what happens when, say, a Chinese-Indian marries a Caucasian-Malay?

In cases where two people with double-barrelled race classifications marry, they will have to choose two of the four races to be declared as their child's race, said Prof Ho.

He urged parents not to rush to register their children's race at birth, as they can do so at other points in time before the child turns 15.

Prof Ho was responding to Member of Parliament Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), who asked whether the Government would allow parents of different ethnicity to reflect both races on their children's identity cards.

The changes are on top of an earlier move this month that let children of mixed-race marriages take on the race of either the mother or the father.

Previously, a child's race followed that of his father.

The double-barrelling of race will give parents in mixed-race marriages even more flexibility when deciding their child's race, said Prof Ho.

The need for flexibility stems from the increasing diversity of Singapore's demographics, with the inflow of immigrants and more locals marrying foreigners.

In response to Nominated Member of Parliament Paulin Straughan's question on the need to identify a dominant race, Prof Ho said: "Societal trends suggest that a child of mixed parentage tends to identify more closely with one of the two races."

Parents would probably have already decided which race their children would embrace, he added.

Choosing a dominant race is also necessary for facilitating multiracial Singapore's ethnic integration policies, such as the Housing Board's efforts to maintain a mix of ethnic groups within blocks and estates, he said.

In other countries like France, "to be politically correct they do away with recording and reflecting race", he said. "But that does not mean the problems will go away."

Following the changes, Chinese- Singaporean Carol Loo, 28, and her 29-year-old Indian-Singaporean husband have decided that their future children will be registered as "Indian- Chinese".

Ms Loo, a financial consultant, said: "It's good to open our minds to the idea that Singapore is not made up of just four races.

"However, I think this fancy race thing is just a paper formality. People will find easier ways to define themselves and others."

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