With a proliferation in cases of sexual offences in Singapore, including a four-fold increase in cases of child sex abuse since 2010, there have also been sexual offence cases between family members, as well as within schools and workplaces, and cases involving voyeurism, affecting all genders.
In response, Singapore’s Courts announced the Act 15 of 2019, which took effect in the beginning of 2020, with new laws to better protect women, including consent for marital sex, as well as laws to protect minors from sexual grooming, including those between the ages of 16 and 18.
Although these recent amendments may seem like the reason there have been more such cases in court these days, the new laws also mean there is a need for clearer definitions and education on what exactly is a sexual offence.
If you are currently seeking legal advice regarding a possible sexual offence case, you should speak to a lawyer.
The Main Difference is Consent
Most sexual offences are committed without the victim’s consent. In a previous article, we explained the meaning of sexual consent in the context of the law and their respective conditions. However just as with most cases involving intimacy, there will be certain grey areas, usually shaped by moral codes within society.
A common issue in marital rape cases is that there is an expectation by the husband that sex is an entitlement in the marriage but according to Section 375(4),(5) of the Penal Code, the husband may have committed a sexual offence against his wife if she did not provide consent.
However, if the victim of a sexual offence is below the age of 14, then consent is inconsequential.
What are Sexual Offences?
Is a gentle slap on your friend’s buttocks harmless? Should you give your attractive colleague a nickname based on an adult actor you know? Is it okay to watch someone else changing their clothes from your own window? Is it okay to secretly film and watch videos of your colleagues even if you don’t mean to share them? The short answer to these questions is no. In fact, they might get you into trouble.
Sexual offences can be looked at as a broad spectrum of actions that involve the exploitation of someone else’s modesty or dignity. This can include acts such as making sexual innuendo jokes about a person or their physical appearance, which may seem harmless and funny for some, but may be extremely hurtful and offensive for others, to much more serious offences such as sexual assault and rape.
Sexual Assault and Rape
According to Section 375 of the Penal Code, any man who penetrates another person’s vagina, mouth or anus with his penis, either without her consent, or if she’s below 14, will have committed rape and will be liable for up to 20 years imprisonment including caning or a fine.
If the offender physically hurts or even issues verbal threats before or while committing the offence, the person will be liable to a minimum of 8 years imprisonment and at least 12 strokes of the cane.
For sexual assault cases involving penetration, Section 376 of the Penal Code will apply when the offender causes another person to commit the sexual offence either on themselves or on someone else without the victim’s consent, or if the victim is below 14.
If found guilty, the offender will be liable for up to 20 years imprisonment including caning or a fine and similarly, if there was physical hurt or verbal threats included with the offence, then the offender is liable to a minimum of 8 years up to 20 in prison, and at least 12 strokes of the cane.
In Part 2, we will explain how the new changes in the law will better protect minors from sexual grooming and exploitative relationships.
Engaging a Lawyer
If you are currently in a situation that requires mediation or legal advice, it’s best to consult a lawyer who will be able to guide you through your options.
Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Corporation has represented numerous clients in a wide variety of matters over the years from traffic offences, high-profile criminal cases – to family and divorce matters. With a vast knowledge of Singapore’s laws and a wealth of experience, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, feel free to contact us for a consultation.