Published: 13 September 2021
1. Mr Speaker Sir, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
2. We last undertook an extensive review of the Penal Code in 2018 and 2019, and amendments were made in 2019.
3. That included amendments to strengthen the protection for minors and other vulnerable victims; deal with new crime trends; and better deal with sexual offences.
4. This Bill proposes to amend the Penal Code to (i) increase the penalties for three sexual offences, (ii) expand and clarify the scope of certain offences and defences, and (iii) modernise the language of certain provisions.
5. I will speak on some of the amendments relating to sexual offences.
6. My colleague, MOS Desmond Tan will take the House through the amendments in greater detail.
Increasing Penalties for Three Sexual Offences
7. As this House is aware, we have made significant changes in legislation over the years, to deal with sexual crimes and strengthen the protection for women, children, and vulnerable persons.
8. These are set out in an Annex to my speech.
9. Sir, with your permission, can I ask the clerk to distribute the Annex to Members? [Speaker: Please do.] Thank you.
10. Members can also access this material through the SG Parl MP mobile app.
11. In particular, we made several key changes to the Penal Code in 2019. I will highlight a few as relevant background before I deal with the Bill.
12. First, in 2019, we provided for enhanced punishments of up to twice the maximum prescribed penalties, for some offences committed against vulnerable victims, and persons in intimate or close relationship with the offender.
13. Second, to better protect minors under 16, we increased the penalties for the offences of rape, sexual assault involving penetration, and sexual penetration of minors, where the offender was in an exploitative relationship with the minor.
14. Third, we extended protection to minors between 16 and 18 years of age. Sexual activity with this category of minors was criminalised where the relationship was exploitative.
15. These minors, above the age of 16, they are slightly above the age of consent for sexual activity, they can consent, but in reality, they are susceptible to exploitation by those who are in a relationship of trust with them. In such cases, the minors’ consent is compromised and we dealt with that.
16. Fourth, we introduced the offence of procuring sexual activity by deception or false representation, to deal with cases where the victim’s consent was compromised, due to the offender misleading them on the use of, for example, sexually protective measures, or the absence of a sexually transmitted disease.
17. This sought to protect victims from violations to their sexual autonomy, and the serious risks that arise from that.
18. Fifth, we specifically made voyeurism an offence to address technology-facilitated offences.
19. Previously such offences would be dealt with under the rubric of ‘insulting the modesty of a woman’. The new offence of voyeurism doubled the maximum imprisonment term from 1 to 2 years, and provided for the possibility of caning as well.
20. In the Bill before the House today, we also deal with sexual offences, amongst other matters.
21. As I stated in my Ministerial Statement in March, the maximum penalties are, in our view, properly calibrated for most of the offences. There are, however, three sexual offences for which we intend to increase the maximum punishments.
22. First, on Outrage of Modesty (“OM”), under section 354(1) of the Penal Code.
23. We have seen an increase in the number of OM cases.
24. From 2016 to 2020, we had an average of 1,190 cases reported each year. This was a 24% increase from the previous five-year period from 2011 to 2015.
25. We propose to increase the maximum imprisonment term for OM under section 354(1) of the Penal Code from two years to three years.
26. This will enhance deterrence, ensure that egregious cases are punished more severely.
27. This maximum imprisonment term of three years is only for the primary offence of OM under section 354(1).
28. There are other aggravated variants of the offence, such as OM against minors under 14, or where hurt is caused to the victim in order to commit OM, which already attract higher penalties.
29. Second, we will raise the penalties for two sexual offences against minors. First, the offence under section 376ED(3)(b) of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a minor between 14 and 16 years of age, or causing a minor between 14 and 16 years of age to view a sexual image. The offence under section 376EE(3) which prohibits the same conduct against a minor between 16 and 18 years of age where the offender is in an exploitative relationship with the minor.
30. An exploitative relationship may be found where the offender is, for example, between a parent or step-parent, teacher, sports coach, or musical instructor of the minor and so on.
31. Currently, the maximum imprisonment term for these two offences is one year. We will increase that to two years.
32. This will bring the punishment in line with similar offences involving sexual communications with minors.
33. Apart from increasing the penalties for these three offences, the Bill also makes amendments to other sexual offences, such as sexual assault involving penetration, procuring sexual activity by deception or false representation, sexual penetration of a corpse, offences relating to voyeurism and intimate images, and offences relating to child abuse material.
34. These amendments will clarify the scope of the offences and fine-tune them further.
35. MOS Desmond Tan will take the House through other amendments in his speech.
36. Sir, in conclusion, the amendments will strengthen our laws against sexual offences, signal the importance of building a society that embodies the fundamental values of equality and respect.
37. I beg to move.
Annex (128kb, .pdf)