SPEECH BY ER DR LEE BEE WAH, MP FOR NEE SOON GRC, AT THE SECOND READING OF THE WOMEN’S CHARTER (AMENDMENT) BILL 2019 IN PARLIAMENT
Mr Speaker Sir,
We would have read of news reports about several prostitution syndicates rounded up by our Police. These syndicates were conducting their business on the internet, and some are even based overseas. Hence, the proposed regulations to bring harsher punishments to such syndicates are timely.
I note that the Police have arrested people in a Telegram group that was sharing obscene videos and photos of women. Some media reports also alleged that independent sex workers, or perhaps even their syndicates, were advertising sexual services in the group. How will the amendments help in such cases? Will they help us to round up those who are advertising sexual services from overseas? Do the anonymity clauses hinder investigations, and if so do we need stronger laws in this respect?
I support firm action against homeowners and tenants who knowingly let out their premises for vice activities. Certainly, they should be held responsible.
However, I disagree that conducting identity checks at the point of signing lease agreements could be helpful in determining the tenant’s motives. I note that the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) property agencies and agents will be brought in to assist homeowners and tenants to conduct due diligence checks. This is a commendable move that will help the less knowledgeable property owners. However, a respectable local or foreigner with all their paperwork in order could rent the place, and then lie low for the first few weeks of occupancy, before beginning their operations behind the back of the property owner. Some landlords might also be overseas and not be able to conduct checks. Is it fair to hold landlords responsible for tenants’ actions under such circumstances?
In my opinion, it would be more meaningful for homeowners and property agents to establish a communication channel with neighbours and managing agent if any. These people are better positioned to blow the whistle if anything is amiss. May I suggest intermediate property inspections by the landlord or agent, of course while respecting the tenant’s privacy and time? This is a common practice in places such as Australia. Tenancy contracts will have to evolve to reflect this.
I am pleased to note that penalties will be enhanced to deter vice syndicates who profit off their sex workers, and those who bring in foreigners for sex work. With freelance sex workers on the rise, it would also be necessary to extend the new regulations to any person who serves as their intermediary, regardless whether the sex worker was procured to work as one.
However, penalties are still reactive measures. We should also examine the root of the issue. Have we noticed a rise in prostitution? Is this purely because of increased accessibility of online platforms, or are there other reasons? What are the demographics of the people who use such services? Can we do anything to educate these people about illegal prostitution and the risks involved?
Sir, I support this Bill, and I believe the new amendments will help safeguard the peace of affected residents. Thank you.
In Chinese please. 这项法案提出，如果租客在屋内卖淫，屋主也须负责任。政府和房地产代理理事会将协助屋主检查租客的背景。但是，就算租客背景清白，他们还是可能在屋内进行卖淫活动。要屋主负责任，对屋主是否公平？
Watch the speech here
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