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Vibrant online market for voyeuristic videos

This article is more than 12 months old

They come in collections and instalments, but these videos bought, sold and traded online are not Hollywood blockbusters.

They are part of an illicit trade in voyeuristic videos marketed on adult forums here, which made headlines last week when a jobless woman was convicted for taking and selling videos of other women in states of undress.

Heng Li Ying, 29, had secretly filmed the victims in the changing rooms of a gym she frequented.

She sold the videos online to 22 people and earned about $1,540, charging 10 to 20 cents per second of video. She even offered potential buyers additional videos as freebies to generate more sales.

Heng was sentenced to 30 weeks' jail. Experts say Heng's act is an anomaly as most offenders do it for self-gratification instead of profit.

But a quick check proves that the illicit trade is bustling online.

Such videos and pictures of women, which include upskirt shots and those in various states of undress in toilets and changing rooms, are highly sought after on adult forums here, with many users wanting to trade, sell and buy such material.

In one such thread, there have been 30 posts since February requesting to buy and trade, or advertising the sale of such videos. Requests continue to pop up even after news of Heng's conviction.

The forums also have many 'sniper' threads, a term referring to those who take upskirt or down-blouse clips.


Users share self-taken videos and pictures with the "community" for free.

Addiction specialist Thomas Lee from The Resilienz Clinic said those caught for voyeuristic acts are often found with hundreds or even thousands of clips in their handphones and computer hard drives.

"These are sometimes for bragging rights or like trophies. The more they collect, the more they want. And sometimes, they build a 'tolerance' and that's when they need a 'higher dose' and either buy, trade or film the clips themselves," he said.

Under the Films Act, it is illegal to make, reproduce or distribute obscene films. The maximum penalty for making or reproducing such films is a $40,000 fine and two years' imprisonment for first-time offenders.

For distributing, first-time offenders face a fine of at least $2,000 per film or a maximum of two years' jail or both.

The act of filming such videos is classified under insulting the modesty of a woman. Police statistics show there were 597 insult of modesty cases in 2015 and 540 last year.

While the numbers have dipped from the 634 cases in 2014, psychiatrists and psychologists say they are seeing more people coming to them for treatment.

They added that it is rare for people to come to them voluntarily and their clients are those who have been caught or have finished serving their sentences.