Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process in May 2011. The government either rejected outright or contested the premises of many recommendations for improvements in civil and political rights. Concerns cited included the use of preventive detention, the use of defamation suits to silence critics, restrictions on public protests, regular use of corporal punishment for a wide range of crimes, and criminalization of same-sex relations between men.

“Singapore’s claims of exemption from human rights standards are just lame excuses for abuses,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The people of Singapore deserve the same rights as everyone else, not more clever stories justifying government oppression.”

Singapore. Ban foreign domestic workers in Singapore from dangerous practices such as the cleaning of exterior window panes – that was the rallying cry of about 1,000 such workers who gathered yesterday at Kallang Theatre to celebrate Mother’s Day.

The event – organized for the first time by the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (Home), a non-government group – featured performances by the workers, who also shared stories of their employment here.

The festivities were mixed with calls by both activists and the workers to improve safety standards for the migrant community here.

Eight Indonesian foreign domestic workers have died this year while cleaning windows, hanging out laundry or hanging up curtains in high-rise flats.

Between 2007 and last year, 69 workers here fell from such flats, and 24 of them died.

“These women came here to make a living, and they’re returning home in coffins because of window-cleaning. It’s outrageous,” said Bridget Tan, the president of Home.

The group plans to collect 1,000 signed petitions to ban the practice here and submit them to Minister of State for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin.

Home will also reach out to the embassies of countries such as the Philippines and Myanmar, which send large numbers of workers here, to persuade them to enact tougher protection laws.

Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports Halimah Yacob, who was the guest of honor at yesterday’s event, said the government has introduced measures to improve workers’ welfare, such as a mandatory weekly rest day, to take effect from next year.

She noted in her speech that domestic workers continue to be among the most vulnerable groups of workers: “Unlike other workers, (they) can feel isolated as they work in individual homes.”

“They need support and encouragement, especially when they first arrive here, and are beginning to adapt to the new environment and their employers’ expectations,” she said. –Strai