The comprehensive and urgent reform of Singapore’s Penal Code in parliament on Monday (May 6) will put an end to marital rape immunity and will provide more protection to vulnerable adults, and young children.

According to Law Minister K Shanmugam, the amended law outlined groups of vulnerable victims that include children below 14 years old, vulnerable persons due to mental or physical disabilities, and domestic workers. Shanmugam added that penalties for all offences committed against the vulnerable will be enhanced by up to twice the maximum penalties otherwise prescribed for the offences.

Voyeurism, a crime brought about by advances in technology, is the newest category of sexual offences added to the bill.

Concerns over the increasing problem of voyeurism have prompted law changes that will make it a separate sexual offence with heavier punishments, possibly caning. Under the proposed changes, the non-consensual observation or recording of someone doing a private act will become a specific offence by itself.

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Shanmugam says: “It shows that the government is taking this very seriously. It is also a psychological, philosophical setting out that this is very serious.”

Those who “cannot protect themselves”

People who commit any type of crime against vulnerable people, such as young children, maids and the disabled, can be taken in by the police even without an arrest warrant. If found guilty, their punishment could be twice the maximum penalty, compared with the current 1½ times for some offences.

The change in the penal code “will allow the police to intervene quickly”, explains the minister.

The move is in regard to crimes committed against children below the age of 14, those with mental or physical disabilities, and domestic workers.

It is among the wide-ranging provisions of the Criminal Law Reform Bill, a major part of which gives stronger protection for those who cannot protect themselves.

Under the Bill, those in intimate or close relationships with their abusers will also be considered vulnerable victims./TISG

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