Singapore: Constitutional Rights

Posted by under Human Rights Education on 8 November 2004

This International Human Rights Day, Think Centre calls for Citizenship education to be formalised in the curriculum. What are the fundamental liberties provided by Singapore's Constitution? What are the restrictions?


Your Constitutional Rights

Constitutional Rights are human rights provide in the Constitution. Everyone is born with equal human rights regardless of the persons background, poor, rich, disabled, race, language, culture, colour, descent etc.

In Asia and other parts of the world, in the past, the peoples were denied their human rights and they suffered from caste, slavery, torture, racial and religious persecution; painful misery is suffered when people are denied economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights.

Today, people suffer when they are tortured, discriminated due to their gender, race, religion, social background, poverty; and this is make worst when people are denied economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights!

The Singapore government has given priority to securing basic needs [UDHR Article 23, 24, 25] like food, adequate housing, health, and employment [increasing structural unemployment] for which the people are required in the short-term to sacrifices their civil and political rights. Economic growth should strengthen fundamental rights of the peoples and should not weaken respect for human rights. Economic progress can no longer legitimize curtailment of fundamental liberties even if the government argue that national security, social stability and public order are necessary for development.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights is enshrined in the Constitution

On 10th December 1948 [Human Rights Day], the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR] was adopted by the United Nation General Assembly. Many countries, including Singapore, have enshrined the UDHR in the constitution.

The UDHR also recognizes that fundamental liberties are not absolute: "Determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society."

In 1995, Singapore ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC] and UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women [CEDAW].

Fundamental liberties enshrined in the constitution

Fundamental liberties enshrined in Singapore's constitution includes:

  • Right to life and personal liberties;
  • Equality - not to be discriminated against because of religion, race, descent or place of birth;
  • Freedom of speech, assembly and associations;
  • Freedom of movement;
  • Freedom of religion;
  • Education rights; ...etc

Fundamental Liberties

Restrictions: Legislative and Policy


1. Liberty of the Person

  • freedom not to be deprive of life

  • freedom from arbitrary arrest

Penal Code
Internal security Act
Criminal Law [Temporary Provision] Act
Criminal proceduce Code Misuse of Drugs Act
** Death Penalty

2. No Slavery and Forced labour

  • not to held in slavery
  • carry out forced labour

Enlistment Act
Prisons Act Criminal Law [Temporary Provision] Act

3. No retrospective criminal laws and repeated trials

4. Equality

  • all persons are equal before the law and provided with equal protection of the law
  • right not to be discriminated against due to race, religion, descent or place of birth in;
    any law, job in public sector, law on property ownership, law on setting up/doing business, profession .. etc

Policy on restricting marriages between Singapore citizens and work permit holders.

5. No Banishment

  • Right not to be banished

Banishment Act
Immigration Act Internal Security Act
Passports Act
National Registration Act

6. Freedom of Movement

  • freedom to move freely and live in Singapore

Housing policy on ethnic eligibility

7. Freedom of Speech, Assembly & Association

  • freedom of speech and expression
  • to assemble peacefully and without arms
  • to form association

  • Speakers Corner
  • Speech must not be inflammatory towards any race, religion, and/or against the interest of national security and public order

Sedition Act
Undesirable Publications Act
Newspaper and Printing Presses Act
Penal Code Internal Security Act
Public entertainment Act
Trade Unions Act
Societies Act
Mutual Benefit Organization Act
Rules and regulations on Speakers Corner

8. Right to a lawyer

Restricted by economic status of an individual

9. Freedom of Religion

  • right to profess and practice religion

Religious harmony Act

10. Education Right

  • right not to be discriminate against on the basis of religion, race, descent or place of birth: admission of pupils or payment of fees

Policies on admission of children to schools eg. sterilization and educational achievements of parents

Sources and Relevant Links:


WWlegal Know Your Rights: Constitutional Rights

Parliament Parliamentary Education HOW ARE LAWS MADE?

Singapore Association of Women Lawyers You and the law

Think Centre Citizenship education: Curriculum on constitutional rights 03 November 2004

UN HCHR The International Bill of Human Rights consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols.

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