AWARE misunderstood purpose of outrage of modesty crime prevention posters: Police

AWARE misunderstood purpose of outrage of modesty crime prevention posters: Police

MRT anti-molestation posters
Crime prevention posters, including ones that reference molest, are displayed on MRT trains. (Photos: Facebook/Aware Singapore)

SINGAPORE: Police on Saturday (Nov 16) issued a statement in response to comments by AWARE about its crime prevention posters, saying the women's rights group had misunderstood the purpose of the campaign. 

On Thursday, AWARE put up photos on Facebook of two posters it said were taken in an MRT train, warning would-be perpetrators about the penalties for outrage of modesty. 

Each poster featured the messages "Don't Do It" and "2 years' imprisonment. It's not worth it".

"What about the price that she will have to pay in this scenario, which the poster makes no mention of? Why are we putting a price on sexual violence at all, like it's a commodity to purchase and consume?

"Would one year's imprisonment be 'worth it'? Or six months? What is inflicting harm and trauma upon another human being worth?" said AWARE in its Facebook post.

"We desperately need a shift in the way we talk about and frame sexual violence," the group added. 

In their statement, police said that the visuals were meant to target potential perpetrators and "specifically highlight the punishments for committing the criminal acts, in order to send a strong deterrent message".

"AWARE has criticised the posters on the basis that they focus on the punishment and do not refer to the harm suffered by the victim. AWARE does not seem to have understood the purpose of the posters," said police.  

Police added that the posters were designed to "warn would-be offenders who were unable to exercise self-discipline or control themselves, regardless of their knowledge of the harm that their act will cause to the victim". 

Crime prevention posters (1)
(Image: Singapore Police Force)

"The visuals were designed to influence their behaviour by telling them what punishment they will face. AWARE's suggestion, on the other hand, is unlikely to have the intended deterrent effect on such offenders," the authorities said. 

Police also said they "fully acknowledge" that victims of outrage of modesty suffer from trauma and other consequences. 

"For this reason, the objective of these visuals is to prevent such harmful actions in the first place by driving home the point that outrage of modesty is an egregious offence with serious penalties," they said, adding that such crime prevention messages are "carefully curated based on our understanding of the profile of offenders". 

"It is unfortunate that AWARE has chosen to make these public judgments against the police without any attempt to contact us to understand our perspective, despite having worked with us in the past to enhance support to victims of sexual offences," the statement read. 

The posters were the result of a collaboration between Singapore Polytechnic (SP) and the Singapore Police Force (SPF) to revamp the visuals of the police's crime prevention campaign.

Students from SP’s Media, Arts and Design School were given a brief, after which they came up with several concepts including one which had criminal sentences attached to selected crimes, an SP spokesperson said in a statement.

"The thought behind it is that this would capture the attention of potential offenders and remind them of the severe consequences of such crimes," the statement read. 

"This concept was eventually selected by SPF for the latest campaign."

In a separate statement on Sunday, the Nation Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) Chairman Gerald Singham said the posters were "part of a series targeted at perpetrators of crime, to convey penalties in store for them should they commit such crimes".

"NCPC is certainly mindful of the hurt that victims of crime, especially sexual crime, suffer from. It was never our intention to downplay this," the statement said.

Mr Singham added that different messages are carried through different platforms and that in this case "we feel that crime prevention messages would be more impactful if it highlighted the personal costs to the perpetrator".

"In crime prevention, we seek pragmatic, effective solutions to keep our community safe," he said.

Source: CNA/hs/ec

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