President Halimah’s call to allow caning for rapists above 50 draws mixed reactions
Under Singapore's laws, convicted rapists aged 50 and above cannot be caned.
SINGAPORE: President Halimah Yacob’s call for rapists aged 50 and above to receive caning has drawn mixed responses, with the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) expressing its opposition to corporal punishment.
On the other hand, Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) president Adrian Tan said those “fit enough to rape ... should be fit enough to be caned”.
Under Singapore's Criminal Procedure Code, only men below 50 years old can be caned if they are found medically fit.
In a Facebook post on Monday (Dec 19), Mdm Halimah noted the recent spate of cases involving children raped by their male relatives, calling the offences "highly disturbing and sickening".
"We need to look at other ways to help our children and stop them from falling prey to such rapists," she said, adding that organisations like PAVE could work with government agencies to address the issue.
"Also, rapists should not be spared the cane just because they are 50 years old. It’s ironic that they could escape from the pain caused by caning despite the lifetime of severe trauma and irreparable damage that they cruelly inflicted on their victims which will last a lifetime."
PAVE, which deals with domestic violence and child protection, said it supports Mdm Halimah’s sentiments.
"The trauma of abuse never goes away. So we must do all we can to protect our children," it added.
AWARE thanked the President for her “empathetic post” and for stating the reasons why it is often difficult for survivors of child sexual abuse to come forward.
However, the advocacy group said it does not agree with her suggestion to cane rapists aged 50 and above because it is opposed to corporal punishment, “both generally and as a response to acts of violence in particular”.
“Corporal punishment enforces the inherently violent idea that authority and norms should be established through physical domination," AWARE said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
“Instead of reducing the culture of violence, corporal punishment normalises violence, furthers its cycle and plays into sexist ideas that correlate masculinity with physical strength.”
There has been no clear evidence that caning deters sexual abuse or is a superior choice over imprisonment, rehabilitation programmes or non-violent penalties, AWARE added.
It said that survivors may, in fact, be more reluctant to come forward when faced with the prospect of their abusers being punished more harshly. This was especially if the survivor depends on or bears emotional attachments to their perpetrator.
AWARE cited a survey by the Singapore Children’s Society and Yale-NUS conducted in October, which found that half of the parents who frequently cane or spank their children think these are ineffective disciplinary methods.
“We should consider, therefore, how the state’s judicial practices may be influencing domestic life (for the worse),” AWARE said.
Apart from harsher penalties, what matters is ensuring that all parts of the criminal justice system are “survivor-centric and trauma-informed”, it added.
CUT-OFF AGE IS "PURE AGEISM"
LawSoc’s Mr Tan wrote in a LinkedIn post that he does not agree that offenders above 50 should be exempted from caning.
The partner of litigation and dispute resolution at TSMP Law, who took over as head of LawSoc about a year ago, said he feels that caning is an appropriate punishment due to the principles of deterrence and retribution.
Mr Tan quoted the late former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew who said: "You put a person in a prison, it makes no difference. He will not change.
“Because you observe certain rules, there's enough food, enough exercise, fresh air, sunshine ... But if you cane him, and he knows he will be given six of the best on his buttocks, and it will hurt for one week that he can't sit down comfortably, he will think again.”
Mr Tan is of the opinion that there are many in their 50s who are physically active, and not caning offenders due to their age is “pure ageism”.
“At 50, you aren’t even old enough to withdraw your CPF (Central Provident Fund), meaning that the State thinks you still can work. And frankly, if you’re fit enough to rape, you should be fit enough to be caned,” he said.
Addressing a point about whether it is “bloodthirsty” to cane offenders, Mr Tan noted that society has a “natural desire” to see wrongdoers receive the appropriate punishment.
“For violent crimes, such as rape, people feel that an appropriately violent punishment must be inflicted on the wrongdoer. Otherwise, the punishment is inadequate, and society and victims won't feel that justice is done,” he added.