Voyeurism refers to the practice of spying on people who are engaged in a private act, such as having sex and undressing. This definition has been extended to acts of ‘upskirting’ and ‘downblousing’ – looking at, taking video recordings or photographs up someone’s skirt or down a blouse without their permission.

Voyeurism has been a hot topic of discussion in Singapore lately due to an incident at the National University of Singapore, whereby a male student had filmed a fellow female student with his mobile phone while she was showering in her hostel’s toilet.

The victim had initially shared her experience on her own social media account, but it went viral very quickly and soon made it to mainstream news outlets.

Since then, many have aired their grievances and shared their experiences in relation to the crime. The government discussed and addressed the public’s concerns in Parliament during the second reading of the Criminal Law Reform Bill on 6 May 2019.

Other discussions included reforms for crimes such as attempted suicide, and marital rape, amongst other things.

The current statute governing voyeurism is Section 509 of the Penal Code, which covers any ‘word or gesture intended to insult the modesty of a woman’. The punishment imposed is imprisonment for a term which may extend to 1 year, or a fine, or both.

With the increasing prevalence of such misdemeanours, the reform seeks to create a statute purely for voyeurism, which would better encapsulate and impose an adequate punishment for the wrong.

The proposed punishment for the possession, observance and making voyeuristic recordings is an imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years, and a fine or caning.

For distributing voyeuristic material, one may be imprisoned for up to 5 years, or fine, or caning, or a combination of any of the punishments. A key point to note with this reform is that males can now also be considered victims of these voyeuristic acts.

The government is clamping down on sexual predators and imposing these severe punishments to reflect society’s changing perceptions and the need to stop exploiting technological advances in this manner.

There is a call for a general deterrence against these acts to keep the community safe and hopefully the proposed  enhanced punishments will be a strong deterrence for all who consider to commit such an offence.

To know more about what we do, or to get a consultation, feel free to contact us to speak to our team of lawyers led by Amarjit Singh Sidhu.

Amarjit has vast experience in Singapore’s laws and has defended numerous clients, including some highly-publicised criminal cases. He has guided clients over the years with his deep knowledge, as well as his compassionate approach, and supported by a strong team of lawyers.

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