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Police and AWARE argue over outrage of modesty posters

The gender equality advocacy group and the police expressed different viewpoints as the group felt that the posters were tantamount to putting a price on sexual violence as if it were a commodity while the police justified it as sending a strong deterrent message




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Singapore—The country’s Police Force and one of its gender equality advocacy groups seem to be currently caught up in an argument concerning messaging on recent outrage of modesty posters that the police have put up.

In a social media post on November 15, AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research) took issue with posters put up in public transport systems by the police, which are meant to curb molestation.

The posters show what seem to be price tags on the hands of would-be molesters who are about to touch some women inappropriately, with tags that read, “2 years’ imprisonment: It is not worth it.”

AWARE asked the question as to why a price on sexual violence was put in the first place, writing

“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?

We desperately need a shift in the way we talk about and frame sexual violence. #AimForZeroSG

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The Police responded to AWARE’s post with a statement saying that the advocacy group did not seem to understand the posters’ purpose.

The statement from the Police explains that the posters are part of crime prevention visuals produced in collaboration with the National Crime Prevention Council and Singapore Polytechnic’s Media, Arts & Design School. These visuals include anti-theft and dishonest misappropriation of property messaging as well.

Furthermore, the Police said that the anti-molestation posters “target potential perpetrators, and specifically highlights the punishments for committing the (sic) criminal acts, in order to send a strong deterrent message.”

Claiming that “AWARE does not seem to have understood the purpose of the posters,” the police said further that the visuals are designed to warn would-be offenders, who are unable to exercise self-discipline or control themselves, regardless of their knowledge of the harm that their act will cause to the victim. The visuals were designed to influence their behaviour, by telling them what punishment they will face.”

According to the police, the suggestion from AWARE would be an unlikely deterrent to such offenders, and added that “the crime prevention messages are carefully curated, based on our understanding of the profile of offenders.”

The Police also called out the advocacy group for making “public judgments against the Police” without endeavouring to talk to the law enforcers, “despite having worked with us in the past to enhance support to victims of sexual offences.”

In response, AWARE also issued a statement to clarify the group’s position, acknowledging that both the Singapore Police Force, the Ministry of Law and the Ministry of Home Affairs have been instrumental in addressing sexual assault issues, and supporting the police’s “key deterrence message.”

AWARE’S STATEMENT ON THE "OUTRAGE OF MODESTY" POSTERSAWARE posted a brief comment on social media on 14 November about…

Posted by AWARE Singapore on Sunday, 17 November 2019

The group clarified what it found problematic with the messaging.

“We are, however, concerned with how the message was conveyed in these new posters. Namely:

  1. the visual motif of the price tag on the molester’s hand
  2. the tagline “2 years’ imprisonment: It is not worth it”.

Putting a price on molest likens the victim to an object on a store shelf that can be purchased if one is willing to pay the price. The poster does not say that this act is wrong, only that it is expensive. This analogy has the effect of erasing the experience of the victim and any viewer’s empathy for the victim.”

AWARE’s full statement can be read here-/TISG

Read also: AWARE says better public education needed to address recent spate of teachers sexually abusing students

AWARE says better public education needed to address recent spate of teachers sexually abusing students

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