Women in Singapore politics


(Learn how and when to remove this template message)

Traditionally, women in Singapore played a small role in the country's political scene. In recent years, however, the city-state has seen an increase in female representation as more women chose to run for political office.

Notable female politicians include the two former ministers: former Acting Minister for Community Development Seet Ai Mee and former Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Hwee Hua; Minister of State Yu-Foo Yee Shoon; and Amy Khor Lean Suan, a district mayor. Several women also became Nominated Members of Parliament, representing a range of societal interests such as women's groups and conservation groups. On 1 October 2015, Grace Fu was appointed the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth.

History of women in politics

Early years

Unlike other countries, like the United Kingdom and the United States, Singapore practiced universal suffrage since democratic elections began.

The first women representatives in the Legislative Council reflected English-educated and middle-class interests. Chinese-educated women leaders came into prominence as the proportion of women voters expanded from 8% to 50% in the 1955 elections. However, some of these Chinese-educated leaders, such as Linda Chen Mock Hock, were linked to communism and thus were subsequently repressed by the fiercely anti-communist Lim Yew Hock administration.

As the People's Action Party rose to power in 1959, as many as four female PAP candidates were voted into the self-governing Assembly. They included Women League’s founders Chan Choy Siong and Ho Puay Choo. The PAP-Barisan Sosialis schism caused two women members to defect to the Barisan Sosialis.

Absence of female representation

With the retirement of Chan Choy Siong in 1970, there were no women in parliament for 14 years from 1970 to 1984. Nonetheless, there were sporadic failed electoral bids by female opposition candidates.

Return of female representation

In 1984, the dominant PAP fielded 3 women candidates who all entered parliament successfully. They were Dr. Dixie Tan, Dr. Aline Wong, and then Minister of State Yu-Foo Yee Shoon. Another woman, Dr. Seet Ai Mee, joined the trio in 1988, and she subsequently was promoted to Acting Minister for Community Development. Widely expected to be promoted to full minister after the 1991 General Election, Seet lost her seat in Parliament to Singapore Democratic Party’s Ling How Doong in election. Lim Hwee Hua eventually became the first female Cabinet minister in 2009 when she was appointed Minister in the Prime Minister's Office. However, she lost her parliamentary seat to the Workers Party team in Aljunied GRC in the 2011 General Election.

The ruling PAP Women's Wing was formed in 1989. In 1992, Dr. Kanwaljit Soin became the first female Nominated Member of Parliament and played a major role in raising important social issues, such as violence against women, in the parliament. Other notable NMPs include Claire Chiang and Braema Mathiaparanam.

Current women parliamentarians

Since the 1990s, the number of women participating in politics has progressively increased. There are currently 27 elected women parliamentarians out of a total of 93 elected members, 24 from the ruling PAP and three from the Workers' Party, while there is one NCMP from the Progress Singapore Party. There are three full Ministers, two Senior Ministers of State, three Ministers of State and one Parliamentary Secretary.

Elected MPs

Name Party Constituency Terms Remarks
Cheryl Chan PAP East Coast GRC 2  
Cheng Li Hui PAP Tampines GRC 2  
Foo Mee Har PAP West Coast GRC 3  
Grace Fu PAP Yuhua SMC 4 Minister for Sustainability and the Environment
Gan Siow Huang PAP Marymount SMC 1 Minister of State for Education and Manpower
He Ting Ru WP Sengkang GRC 1  
Indranee Rajah PAP Tanjong Pagar GRC 5 Minister in the Prime Minister's Office
Second Minister for National Development and Finance
Amy Khor PAP Hong Kah North SMC 5 Senior Minister of State for Transport & Sustainability and the Environment
Sylvia Lim WP Aljunied GRC 3[a]  
Low Yen Ling PAP Chua Chu Kang GRC 3 Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth & Trade and Industry
Mariam Jaafar PAP Sembawang GRC 1  
Nadia Ahmad Samdin PAP Ang Mo Kio GRC 1  
Ng Ling Ling PAP Ang Mo Kio GRC 1  
Rachel Ong PAP West Coast GRC 1  
Joan Pereira PAP Tanjong Pagar GRC 2  
Denise Phua PAP Jalan Besar GRC 4  
Poh Li San PAP Sembawang GRC 1  
Raeesah Khan WP Sengkang GRC 1  
Rahayu Mahzam PAP Jurong GRC 2 Parliamentary Secretary for Health
Sim Ann PAP Holland–Bukit Timah GRC 3 Senior Minister of State for National Development & Communications and Information
Hany Soh PAP Marsiling–Yew Tee GRC 1  
Sun Xueling PAP Punggol West SMC 2 Minister of State for Education & Social and Family Development
Carrie Tan PAP Nee Soon GRC 1  
Jessica Tan PAP East Coast GRC 4  
Josephine Teo PAP Jalan Besar GRC 4 Minister for Manpower
Second Minister for Home Affairs
Tin Pei Ling PAP MacPherson SMC 3  
Yeo Wan Ling PAP Pasir Ris–Punggol GRC 1  
  1. ^ In addition to one term as NCMP.


Name Party Terms
Hazel Poa PSP 1

Women in opposition

In 2003, Sylvia Lim, a lecturer at Temasek Polytechnic, became the first female Chairman of the Workers' Party (WP). She became the first female elected MP not from the PAP in 2011, although she had served as non-constituency MP from 2006.

The second woman opposition member to be elected was Lee Li Lian, also from the WP, after she won the Punggol East by-election in 2013. However, she lost her seat in the 2015 general election.

He Ting Ru and Raeesah Khan are the third and fourth opposition members to be elected into Parliament after they won Sengkang GRC in 2020. Both are from the WP; the latter is currently the youngest and first opposition MP from a minority race.[1]


  1. ^ "Singapore GE2020: The Workers' Party team that won Sengkang GRC". Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  • Wong Aline and Leong, W. K., Singapore Women: Three Decades of Change, Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1993 (ISBN 981-210-031-8).

External links