In recent years, outrage of modesty in Singapore has become a growing concern. This form of sexual harassment involves the unwanted touching or molestation of an individual, often in places like pubs, public transport systems, driving schools, etc.
Despite efforts by the government and various organisations to combat this issue, the number of reported cases has risen in recent years.
Statistics from the Singapore Police Force show that there were 773 cases of outrage of modesty reported in the first half of 2022, which is almost a 5% increase in the same period last year.
But what exactly is an outrage of modesty in Singapore? We delve more into this subject should you find yourself a victim or accused in an outrage of modesty case.
1. What Counts As Outrage Of Modesty In Singapore?
Section 354 of the Penal Code defines the outrage of modesty offence as assaulting or using criminal force on a person with the intention to outrage modesty (molest).
The specification “use of criminal force” is necessary to limit the scope of the legislation since simply staring at a person cannot count as an outrage of modesty.
The law does not discriminate based on the gender of the offender. Even if a woman were found committing outrage of modesty, she would be charged and tried in the same manner as a man.
2. What Does It Mean When An Individual Outrages Someone’s Modesty?
There is no express provision and definition in the Penal Code of the word “modesty”, which can lead to ambiguous understanding for the common folk. This is because outrage of modesty cases vary based on context, period, and even the victim’s race or religion.
Nevertheless, multiple outrage of modesty cases have been reported in Singapore in recent years. Here are some examples:
- A driving instructor was charged in mid-2022 for allegedly molesting a 19-year-old student in Woodlands. Aside from the criminal charge, the man also had his driving instructor’s licence revoked.
- A man received a 1-week jail sentence for repeatedly touching the thigh of a sleeping woman next to him on the train.
- A male offender and pastor was jailed for eight weeks for taking upskirt videos of women. Though this was a case of outrage of modesty, additions to the Penal Code would’ve likely had this offence charged under voyeurism or section 377BB.
- A 60-year-old man was imprisoned for 18 months after molesting a boy in a fast food chain. He was also charged with the outrage of modesty for touching a woman’s buttocks on the bus.
- A repeat sex offender received a 10-year detention, plus three strokes of the cane because he repeatedly trespassed into women’s toilets to molest them.
3. Is It Considered Outrage Of Modesty If The Alleged Victim Consented To The Act?
Outrage of modesty offences are non-consensual. Therefore, if the victim has expressed clear consent to the intimate physical act, it is not considered an outrage of modesty. Only if the accused knew or intended to molest the victim will they be guilty of the offence.
For example, if a woman meets a man at a bar and they consent to mutual touching, it will not be a case of outrage of modesty. The issue will likely not hold up in Court, especially since the accused did not intend to molest the woman or obscenely touch her without consent.
4. What Is The Punishment For Committing Outrage Of Modesty In Singapore?
If found guilty of committing outrage of modesty, the offender can face imprisonment for up to three years, a fine, or both. In more severe cases, the offender can face imprisonment for up to five years and caning, which involves being struck with a cane on the buttocks.
Additionally, the punishment can be more severe if the offender is a repeat offender or if the victim is a minor. The severity of the punishment is meant to deter individuals from committing such acts and to protect the safety and well-being of individuals in Singapore.
As outrage of modesty is a case-specific offence, the Court may consider other factors:
- The degree of the victim’s molestation or sexual exploitation.
- Whether or not the crime was pre-planned or premeditated.
- Excessive use of criminal force.
- Other physical threats.
- Degree of harm caused to the victim.
After determining the offence’s severity, the Court will categorise the offence in either one of three bands of punishments.
Each band has different jail terms, depending on the aggravating factors and whether or not there was an exposure of the victim’s private parts. Here are possible aggravating factors and the corresponding punishment for each:
- Number of charges
- Absence of remorse from the accused
- Past criminal charges/offences
|Band 1||No more than 1 aggravating factor||Less than 5 months in jail and no caning|
|Band 2||Two or more aggravating factors||5-15 months in jail, in addition to caning|
|Band 3||Three or more aggravating factors||15-24 months in jail, and caning|
Mitigating factors are also considered for outrage of modesty cases in Singapore. These factors are not meant to justify the offence committed, but instead, the Court uses them to determine the appropriate sentence or punishment:
- Pleading guilty
- Degree of remorse displayed by the offender
- The offender’s mental state (a lighter sentence may be imposed if the offender is suffering from a mental health condition, as the condition has rendered them unable to understand the gravity of their actions).
- Offender’s age (minors or young offenders may receive lighter sentencing)
Penalties For Outrage Of Modesty Offences Involving Victims Below 14 Years Old
According to section 354(2) of the Penal Code, anyone found guilty of committing outrage of modesty offences against persons below 14 years old will be imprisoned for up to 5 years, fined, receive caning or a combination of all three.
The Court will also consider the same sentencing guidelines as any ordinary outrage of modesty case, but cases involving persons of this age lead to harsher penalties.
Penalties For Outrage Of Modesty Offences Involving Domestic Helpers
There was a recent case of an employer’s husband who was imprisoned for 14 months and two weeks after indecently exposing himself to and molesting a domestic helper on multiple occasions.
Though the primary legislation for outrage of modesty is under section 354, section 73 of the Penal Code outlines harsher punishments for offences committed against domestic helpers.
Any employer charged and found guilty can face up to twice the maximum jail term for outrage of modesty (up to 6 years in prison, fine, caning, or a combination of the three).
5. Is Attempted Outrage Of Modesty Punishable?
Section 511 of the Penal Code, “Attempt to Commit an Offence”, further sheds light on whether or not attempted outrage of modesty can result in punishment.
In such cases, attempts to outrage someone’s modesty, unsuccessful they may be, are still punishable. Examples include bringing the victim to a place where you planned to commit the act, stalking the victim, or preying on them.
Remember, the Court determines the punishment for outrage of modesty on a case-to-case basis. Though accused individuals caught in failed attempts may receive the same sentence as in ordinary cases.
6. Can You Be Arrested For Outrage Of Modesty?
An arrestable offence is one wherein the police don’t need to issue you with a warrant before you’re handcuffed.
For instance, if you are suspected of committing outrage of modesty, police don’t need to secure a warrant from the Court before arresting you. But you may post bail or a personal bond for temporary release. In aggravated outrage of modesty, your release will depend on the Courts or police.
Conclusion On The Outrage Of Modesty
Outrage of modesty is a serious offence that can have significant consequences for both the offender and the victim.
While the law in Singapore provides punishment for this crime, it is crucial to keep in mind that every case is unique and can involve various mitigating factors that can affect the outcome.
If you are accused of committing outrage of modesty, consider legal representation from a criminal lawyer who can help you navigate the legal system and protect your rights.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Outrage Of Modesty
What To Do If I’m Accused Of Committing Outrage Of Modesty?
If you believe you’ve wrongfully received molestation/outrage of modesty charges, it’s best to seek legal representation as quickly as possible. You may want to represent yourself in Court, but having a knowledgeable lawyer in your defence is a much more prudent option.
Can A Victim Of Outrage Of Modesty Sue The Offender In Singapore?
If someone has inappropriately touched you in public or elsewhere, you may file a report to the police. It’s also best to gather evidence of the act or any information that can aid in the police investigation and lead to an arrest of the perpetrator.
What Are Some Defences For Outrage Of Modesty?
Lack of Intent is a possible defence for outrage of modesty. An accused individual has to show that they did not intend to outrage the victim’s modesty. But due to the uniqueness of each case, engaging with a criminal lawyer in Singapore is essential to develop a defence strategy which can hold up in Court.
How Can I Report An Outrage Of Modesty Incident To The Police?
If you need to report a molestation case in Singapore, you can call the police hotline at 999 for emergency assistance. If the matter is not urgent, you can call the police hotline at 1800-255-0000 for non-emergency assistance.
Alternatively, you can report the case through the Singapore Police Force’s e-Services portal.