More protection for victims of sex assault as ministry reviews law
Law Ministry to look into allowing singles to apply for protection orders more easily
Victims of sexual assault and harassment will soon find it easier to report and have action taken against perpetrators.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam announced yesterday that the Law Ministry is reviewing the Protection from Harassment Act (Poha) and will be streamlining and expediting processes under the Act.
He added that the ministry also intends to make breach of some of the orders under Poha an arrestable offence.
Currently, when breaches to orders such as the personal protection order (PPO) occur, the offender can only be arrested in a limited context - such as if the breach occurred in the view of the officer.
Under the proposed law, as long as the offender breaches the order, the police are able to arrest the perpetrator immediately.
The minister said that Singaporeans can expect to see changes put in place in 2019.
Mr Shanmugam also addressed the issue of intimate partner violence, or violence between couples in unmarried relationships.
He said that while overall numbers are low, there has been an increase in the number of such cases, and stated that in the coming year, the ministry will relook some of the related legal frameworks.
He explained that now, victims have to be married in order to apply for PPOs and expedited protection orders under the Women's Charter.
Otherwise, they can appeal to legal remedies under the penal code.
While ummarried victims can also currently apply for protection orders under Poha, Mr Shanmugam said the ministry will relook the processes so as to allow all victims, including unmarried victims, to apply for protection orders more quickly and cheaply.
He said the ministry is reviewing the adequacy of our laws and existing punishments.
He said that he intends to ensure that penalties are enhanced and processes are made easier.
PROTECTION FOR ALL
Mr Shanmugam also stressed that the same protection applies to all, regardless of sexual orientation.
He said: "For me, violence is violence, whether persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or anyone else. And it will not be tolerated."
The announcements were made alongside women's advocacy group Association of Women for Action and Research's (Aware) launch of its new Aim for Zero campaign, held at the Social Service Institute in Central Plaza in Tiong Bahru Road.
The two-year-long campaign seeks to end sexual violence in Singapore and was launched yesterday, along with a video in which 10 sexual assault survivors shared their experiences.
The campaign is Aware's response to the viral #MeToo campaign in the US.
Aware's executive director Corinna Lim said: "All over the world, very prominent men have been held accountable for past and current cases of sexual violence...
"We saw little of this in Singapore. But that does not mean it did not have a significant impact. Right after #MeToo went viral last year, the Sexual Assault Care Centre of Aware saw a 79 per cent increase in the number of people reaching out for help."
She added that as part of the campaign, Aware will be rolling out several initiatives, including training for professionals in the social, health and educational sector to allow them to effectively support sexual violence survivors.
She said that Aware will also expand its training for companies and the public on preventing and managing workplace harassment.
Ms Lim said according to its 2015 survey, one in three young persons in Singapore has faced some form of sexual violence, but only 6 per cent reached out for help.
She added: "Of the people who came to our centre, seven in 10 survivors did not report to any authority."