Government reviewing insult of modesty law as part of Penal Code review

Government reviewing insult of modesty law as part of Penal Code review

molest staged
File photo. 

SINGAPORE: A law that criminalises the insult of modesty against women is among those being reviewed by the Government as part of its overall review of the Penal Code, Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin said. 

Mr Amrin was responding in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 27) to Member of Parliament Intan Azura Mokhtar, who had filed a question about sexual harassment and insults of modesty at workplaces or through the use of technology. 

Dr Intan had asked for the number of police reports made on such cases, as well as the number made by men and women. She also asked if there were plans to strengthen the law on insult of modesty – Section 509 of the Penal Code – to include men as victims.

Currently, Section 509 sets out that anyone “intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture … or intrudes upon the privacy” of a woman faces up to a year in jail and a fine.

The issue first came to light in December last year, when a district judge denied a six-month jail term the prosecution was seeking for 27-year-old Teo Han Jern, who took more than 30 videos of men engaged in sexual and other acts.

The prosecution reportedly said that this would have been the sentencing benchmark had the victims been women.

“We are reviewing the Penal Code and one of the sections we are looking at is that particular section. So we will review it holistically and see what we need to strengthen,” Mr Amrin said in Parliament.

Separately, he said that between 2013 and last year, an average of 100 police reports were filed annually over "upskirting" – using mobile phones or other image-capturing devices to take unauthorised photographs under a woman's skirt.

During the same period, an average of 20 police reports were filed annually involving harassment or insults of modesty at the workplace.

About 97 per cent of reports filed on both issues were made by women, Mr Amrin said.

Source: CNA/mk