Prostitution in Singapore
Prostitution in Singapore in itself is not illegal, but various prostitution-related activities are criminalized. This includes public solicitation, living on the earnings of a prostitute and maintaining a brothel. In practice, police unofficially tolerate and monitor a limited number of brothels. Prostitutes in such establishments are required to undergo periodic health checks and must carry a health card.
Commercial sex with underaged persons
Any person who obtains for consideration the sexual services of a person under 18 years of age (in other words, has commercial sex with such a person) commits an offence and may be punished with imprisonment of up to seven years or a fine or both. The term sexual services is defined to mean sexual services involving sexual penetration of the vagina or anus of a person by a part of another person's body other than the penis or by anything else, or penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth of a person by a man's penis. It is also an offence for a person to communicate with another person for the purpose of having commercial sex with a person under 18. These offences apply to acts that take place in as well as outside Singapore.
It is a crime for a person to:
- make or organise any travel arrangements for or on behalf of any other person with the intention of facilitating the commission by that other person of an offence under section 376C (that is, offences relating to commercial sex with a minor under 18 outside Singapore), whether or not such an offence is actually committed by that other person;
- transport any other person to a place outside Singapore with the intention of facilitating the commission by that other person of an offence under section 376C, whether or not such an offence is actually committed by that other person; or
- print, publish or distribute any information that is intended to promote conduct that would constitute an offence under section 376C, or to assist any other person to engage in such conduct.
A person who is guilty of the offence may be punished with imprisonment of up to ten years, or a fine, or both.
It is a criminal offence to:
- sell, let for hire or otherwise dispose of or buy or hire or otherwise obtain possession of any woman or girl with intent that she shall be employed or used for the purpose of prostitution either within or without Singapore, or knowing or having reason to believe that she will be so employed or used;
- procure any woman or girl to have either within or without Singapore carnal connection except by way of marriage with any male person or for the purpose of prostitution either within or without Singapore;
- by threats or intimidation procure any woman or girl to have carnal connection except by way of marriage with any male person either within or without Singapore;
- bring into Singapore, receive or harbour any woman or girl knowing or having reason to believe that she has been procured for the purpose of having carnal connection except by way of marriage with any male person or for the purpose of prostitution either within or without Singapore and with intent to aid such purpose;
- knowing or having reason to believe that any woman or girl has been procured by threats or intimidation for the purpose of having carnal connection except by way of marriage with any male person, either within or without Singapore, to receive or harbour her with intent to aid such purpose;
- knowing or having reason to believe that any woman or girl has been brought into Singapore in breach of section 142 of the Women's Charter or has been sold or purchased in breach of section 140(1)(a), to receive or harbour her with intent that she may be employed or used for the purpose of prostitution either within or without Singapore;
- detain any woman or girl against her will on any premises with the intention that she shall have carnal connection except by way of marriage with any male person, or detain any woman or girl against her will in a brothel;
- detain any woman or girl in any place against her will with intent that she may be employed or used for the purpose of prostitution or for any unlawful or immoral purpose; or
- attempt to do any of the above acts.
The penalty is imprisonment not exceeding five years and a fine not exceeding $10,000. A male person who is convicted of a second or subsequent offence under the first six offences listed above is liable to be caned in addition to being imprisoned.
Prostitution and Law Enforcement in Practice
In Singapore, police unofficially tolerate and monitor a limited number of brothels, where the prostitutes are regularly screened for health check-up; however prostitution outside these brothels also exists such as via social escort agencies that usually adopt an internet website or Facebook cyber presence. There are also internet websites for private independent escorts who own their own businesses. One such website goes so far as to "verify" the escorts listed on the site as real independent sex workers who own their own businesses. Prostitution outside the informally designated red-light areas operates from 3 main places 1) internet advertisement, 2) street solicitation, 3) Karaoke/massage parlor. The "internet advertised" girls are hosted in anonymous hotels, and the profile of each girl is available from the internet advertisement. Interested clients contact the "girl's agent" through SMS, who arranges the timing and gives the client hotel address. Girls operating from such illegal pimps come primarily from Thailand, China and Philippines to Singapore for a short tourist visit, and therefore are not screened for health check-ups. There may also be local Singaporean masseurs, therapists, call girls or social escorts in the industry working as sex workers on the pretext of beings students at a local educational institution such as a polytechnic, models, working office professionals or ex-air stewardesses, some may claim of themselves as being certified therapists. Apart from the usual bilingual Singaporean Chinese that speaks English as well as a mother tongue such as Mandarin, other ethnic races of the island such as the Malay and Indian girls are also known to be working social escorts often under the pretext of an English name, alongside Eurasians and Russians. Vietnamese prostitutes in Singapore charge high prices for their services.
Apart from these regulated brothels, commercial sex workers can be found in many "massage" or "spa" establishments. Some massage parlours, including tui na outlets, employ women from mainland China and offer massages as a pretext for 'special' sexual services. These activities are illegal, and the operators of such massage establishments risk jail if exposed by anti-vice police raids. Yet, virtually everyone who visits these establishments in particular is fully aware of the sexual services provided within, and are there precisely because of it. The main red-light district in Singapore is located in Geylang. Orchard Towers, nicknamed the "Four Floors of Whores", is a shopping centre frequented by prostitutes. Some bars in Duxton Hill also offer sexual services, the most controversial ones being located at Adelphi basement which also houses a handful of law firms in the same building as well as within walking distance from the Ministry of Law in Singapore.
As the year 2015 came to an end, there has been a remarkable increase of around 40% of commercial crimes including prostitution or sex-related scams involving the internet; the public has been advised by the National Crime Prevention Council (Singapore) to be wary of controversial practices such as sugar mommies, credit-for-sex or internet love scams. With sensual massage palours and other sex-related vice activities also appearing in suburban heartlands such as Woodlands, Sembawang, Sengkang, Jurong West, Yishun, Chinatown and River Valley, the Government of Singapore is looking at various options of regulating and punishing violations such as cases of unlicensed prostitutions or operators of brothels.
There are also reported cases of nightly vice activities involving transvestite prostitutes soliciting at a carpark in the old Woodlands Town Garden which is adjacent to the Johor-Singapore Causeway. These are possibly Malaysian transvestites working full-time jobs in Singapore, moonlighting to save money for sex-change operations. Member of Parliament Halimah Yacob announced in 2016 a series of changes involving National Parks Board to clean up the sleaze in the area that involves upgrading the pre-existing park and malls there.
There are also rare cases of policemen impersonation on the pretext of robbing sex workers. These are offences punishable by the law in Singapore, as in the case of Teo Zhi Jie, Melvin Tan Shen Kang, Andrew Tan Zhi Wei and Lee Qing Yew. Teo Zhi Jie has since been sentenced to two years and seven months in jail and 12 strokes of the cane.
- "2008 Human Rights Report: Singapore". U.S. Department of State. 25 February 2009. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
- Penal Code (Cap. 224, 2008 Rev. Ed.), s. 376B(1). It is not an offence to obtain sexual services from one's own spouse: s. 376B(3).
- Penal Code, s. 376B(4).
- Penal Code, s. 376B(2); the penalty is imprisonment for up to two years, a fine, or both.
- Penal Code, s. 376C.
- Penal Code, s. 376D(1)(a).
- Penal Code, s. 376D(1)(b).
- Penal Code, s. 376D(1)(c). Publication of information means the publication of information by any means, whether by written, electronic or other form of communication: s. 376D(2).
- Penal Code, s. 376D(3).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(a).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(b).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(c).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(d).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(e).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(f).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(g).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(h).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(j).
- Women's Charter, 140(1)
- Women's Charter, ss. 140(1)(a) to (f).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(2).
- "More bang for your buck: How new technology is shaking up the oldest business". The Economist. 9 August 2014.
- Koh, Hui Theng (18 Apr 2012). "He wanted massage, but was offered 'special'". The New Paper. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- "ENGELIN TEH PRACTICE LLC". Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- "Contact Us". Genesis Law Corporation. Genesis Law Corporation. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- Cheong, Danson (23 Feb 2016). "Online "sugar mummy" scams on the rise: police". Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- "Don't be a victim Know the scams". Scam Alert Singapore. National Crime Prevention Council. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- Foo, Jie Ying (7 November 2015). "One-woman anti-vice squad". Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- Cheong, Danson (10 July 2015). "34 women, 2 men arrested in 2-day anti-vice sweep". Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- Hussain, Amir (11 Feb 2016). "Online vice ring pimp who received nearly $2.6m in revenue over 5 years jailed". Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- Hussain, Amir (12 Feb 2016). "Online pimp jailed and fined for evading more than $26,000 in income tax". Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- Cheong, Danson (11 October 2015). "MP pledges to clean up sleazy Woodlands park". Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- "'Sisters' peddle sex in cars at park". Straits Times. 11 Oct 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- Chong, Elena. "Man robbed, tied up 2 Chinese masseuses". my paper. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- Further reading
- Archibald, C.P. [et al.] (6–11 June 1993), "Improved Knowledge but Unchanged Behaviour Following a Safe Sex Intervention among Prostitutes in Singapore", International Conference on AIDS, 9: 825.
- Lim, K.B. [et al.]; Tham, SN; Sng, I; Tan, T (August 1984), "Screening for Cervical Cancers in Prostitutes" (PDF), Singapore Medical Journal, 28 (4): 300–303, PMID 3423794.
- Ratnam, K.V. (December 1986), "Awareness of AIDS among Transsexual Prostitutes in Singapore", Singapore Medical Journal, 27 (6): 519–521, PMID 3589723.
- Ratnam, K.V. (February 1990), "Efficacy of Health Education Programme on Awareness of AIDS among Transsexuals" (PDF), Singapore Medical Journal, 31 (1): 33–37, PMID 2333540.
- Warren, James Francis (1994), "Chinese Prostitution in Singapore: Recruitment and Brothel Organisation", in Maria Jaschok & Suzanne Miers, eds., Women and Chinese Patriarchy: Submission, Servitude, and Escape, Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong, pp. 77–107, ISBN 978-1-85649-125-9.
- Warren, James Francis (1990), "Prostitution and the Politics of Venereal Disease: Singapore, 1870–98", Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Cambridge University Press, 21 (2): 360–383, doi:10.1017/S0022463400003283, JSTOR 20071198.
- Wong, M.L. [et al.] (6–11 June 1993), "A Qualitative Investigation of Condom Use Negotiation among Prostitutes in Singapore", International Conference on AIDS, 9: 113.
- Wong, Yang Joel (1996), "Brothels, Pimps and Prostitutes: The Administration of Criminal Justice vis-à-vis Prostitution", Singapore Law Review, 17: 154.
- Tan, Roger (2012), Singapore Sex Guide 2013, Singapore: Amazon.com.
- Lim, Gerrie (2008), Invisible Trade II: Secret Lives and Sexual Intrigue in Singapore, Singapore: Monsoon Books, ISBN 978-981-05-9209-7.
- Lim, Gerrie (2004), Invisible Trade: High-class Sex for Sale in Singapore, Singapore: Monsoon Books, ISBN 981-05-1033-0.
- Brazil, David (1993), No Money No Honey, Singapore: Angsana Books, ISBN 981-00-5129-8.
- Warren, James Francis (1993), Ah Ku and Karayuki-san: Prostitution in Singapore, 1870–1940, Singapore; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-588616-0.
- Lai, Ah Eng (1986), Peasants, Proletarians, and Prostitutes: A Preliminary Investigation into the Work of Chinese Women in Colonial Malaya, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, ISBN 978-9971-988-38-8.
- Nicholl-Jones, S.E. (1941), Report on the Problem of Prostitution in Singapore, [Singapore]: [s.n.].
|Library resources about
Prostitution in Singapore
- Singaporeans fight sex trade with street lamps
- Prostitution wave hits 'squeaky clean' Singapore
- Singapore may raise minimum prostitution age to 18
- Country Narrative – Singapore
- Prostitution is not illegal in Singapore