SPEECH BY ER DR LEE BEE WAH, MP FOR NEE SOON GRC, AT THE SECOND READING OF THE CRIMINAL LAW REFORM BILL IN PARLIAMENT
Mr Speaker Sir,
Abuse cases are gaining more prevalence, not just in Singapore, but also globally. I hope it only means that more are seeking help.
It is a basic human right to live in safety and freedom free of fear from others. Those who deny this right must be severely dealt with. This Bill comes shortly after the Vulnerable Adults Bill was passed last year. The stronger penalties proposed will strengthen deterrence measures against criminals who prey on vulnerable individuals. It is a testament to the government’s resolve to protect victims against perpetrators of abuse.
Aside from criminalising and penalising abusive behaviour, we need to continue working hard on preventive measures.
Just recently in February, a couple involved in a high-profile maid abuse case was convicted and jailed. It was three years for the woman, for a number of terrible deeds, including forcing the maid to drink water mixed with floor cleaner and making her pour hot water on herself. The man was jailed for six weeks for punching the maid. What drives them to do such things? Why did they treat another fellow human in such a despicable manner? Has any research been done on this to see how we can correct such behaviour and get them to attend some rehabilitation while under detention? What is being done to ensure that their attitude is corrected? This include not just abusers, but abettors and those who repeatedly witnessed the abuse but did nothing.
We also need to look out for those who fall through the cracks.
Such examples would include elderly and mentally-disabled people who are confined at home all day, and less-educated foreign domestic workers who do not have a social network here and are confined to working at home most of the time. Also, some victims of domestic abuse refuse to seek help because they do not want the abuser to go to jail, which they feel will bring shame on the family. Some are financially dependent on the abusers. Others believe they can change. Therefore, we all need to look out for possible abuse cases amongst us and help the victims who might not want to seek help.
Last year I asked in Parliament how MSF can better assess risk of domestic abuse. I shared that in the US, data analysis programmes help to identify the risks, complementing case workers‘ judgments. Is this something we can explore with data analytics technology? Also, when people call helplines asking for help for issues like addictive behaviour or family disputes, should we proactively check if there is domestic abuse? After all, these are often factors related to domestic abuse.
While we’re on the subject of domestic abuse, I would like to pledge my full support for the removal of marital immunity for rape. A marriage is a union of two individuals, and these individual’s personal rights should continue to be preserved and respected. Non-consensual sex is rape and it must be treated as such. I acknowledge the concerns about difficulty in proving consent or lack of between a married couple, and this law may even be abused when parties are negotiating a divorce for example. Can the authorities elaborate on how they intend to navigate this challenge?
I am also glad to see that the government is doing more to criminalise any action that could lead to sexual trauma to children, including exposing minors to pornographic material. There are some questions that beg solutions. Why are some minors on dating websites, or open to dating adults? What are the underlying issues and can we do something about it?
There were also incidences whereby the minor initially rejected the predator’s sexual advances, but still gave in to requests to send nude pictures or even met up with the predator, which then leads to rape . What is happening here? I am very worried for our young girls and boys who put themselves in such dangerous situations. Is there a lapse in our sex education programme?
A report in 2017 by the SACC, the only specialised centre in Singapore serving sexual assault survivors, revealed that in 90% of the cases received on sexual abuse suffered during childhood or adolescence, the perpetrators were family members or known to the survivors . Child sex predators have taken the form of neighbours, family friends, mother’s boyfriend, son or relative of someone close.
I think in cases where parents have clearly disregarded their child’s safety, and also, when they ignore their child’s claims of sexual abuse or clear signs of it, some action should be taken to haul up the parents or guardian for failing in their duty.
Recently the issue of peeping toms is being covered in the media. I’m glad to see that the bill specifically outlaws voyeurism and making, distributing, possessing and distributing voyeuristic images and videos. This is a long overdue move. When someone has been the victim of a peeping tom, it’s bad enough. But if a video taken by the peeping tom goes online, then the victim probably feels hurt all over again, every time someone watches the video. As I’ve said in my PQs, I hope we can have a public campaign, telling people it’s immoral and illegal to forward or watch such videos.
Whether it’s peeping tom or other sexual offences, police should go all out to find the person.
And the same principles should apply, no matter where the crime was committed. Offenders should be dealt with strictly and tougher action is to be taken.
I support the Bill.
In Chinese please. 这次修法的目的是更好地保护较脆弱的族群，让每个人都能远离恐惧，享受应有的自由。
Watch the speech here
Watch the response by MHA here