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Friday, January 01, 2010

Women's bodies as Sacred Temples in Singapore Law

"My one regret in life is that I am not someone else." - Woody Allen


In the wake of a Straits Times article ostensibly about teens having consensual sex (the subtext - whether by commission or omission - is obvious):

yax-1087 Stone-age sex law hidden in plain sight

"A boy, then aged 15, had sex with two girls aged 15. The sexual encounters are described as consensual -- one girl even skipping school to make the tryst. The boy is charged and faces up to 10 years in jail. There is no mention of the girls being charged...

Would AWARE, the feminist group so keen on gender equality, be taking this up as an issue, I wonder?

It so happens that a similar case is taking place in Ireland, with the difference that there, at least some people see the injustice of it. Defence lawyers don't just roll over, advise their clients to plead guilty and merely make an appearance for mitigation. The Irish lawyers are mounting a challenge against the State on the ground of discrimination, with the possibility of the case going all the way to the European Court of Human Rights."

If you think the law treats males fairly when a sex crimes case pitting a man vs a woman comes up, you must be a feminist.

raist previously drew my attention to the Evidence Act, which reads:

"Section 148. When a witness may be cross-examined, he may, in addition to the questions hereinbefore referred to, be asked any questions which tend — (c) to shake his credit by injuring his character [...]

157. The credit of a witness may be impeached in the following ways by the adverse party or, with the consent of the court, by the party who calls him:

(d) when a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character."

Yet, this fits in perfectly with the conception of women in Singapore law as Inviolable Sacred Beings.

Since anything you can do to a woman can be an offence, if the woman has already "soiled" herself, then it doesn't matter what other people do to her.

Addendum: Here, I am referring to "Word or gesture intended to insult the modesty of a woman", where men have been prosecuted for showing women their middle fingers. Also, this was removed in August 2012 - but other legislation enshrining women as Sacred Temples remains.

Indeed, revealing "immoral character" would be relevant in some cases. For example, a Charles Steadman of Wisconsin was accused of rape in 1993, but "was prohibited from revealing that his accuser was currently facing criminal charges of having sex with minors, and thus had an excellent reason to claim that the sex with Steadman was not consensual. Such evidence was deemed related to his accuser's sexual history and thus inadmissible".

In any case, the letter and the practise of the Law are very different (which is why underaged boys can be charged for having sex with underaged girls), so women can get the benefits of "protection" without suffering the costs.

In fact, I'll buy a drink for the first person who can dig up a case of a prosecutrix being of generally immoral character (and thus, having her testimony invalidated) in the last 5 years, failing which, takoyaki for the first one who can dig up one in the last 10.

Addendum 2: Case where a man was charged for flashing his middle finger at a woman:

Australian accused of molest walks free

"An Australian living in Singapore as a permanent resident walked out of the district courts a free man today after he was allowed to compound a molestation case.

The Straits Times reported that James Anthony Woodburn, 44, settled the matter by apologising to a 26-year-old woman and compensating $10,000 to her.

He allegedly grabbed her breast in the shopping area at Marina Bay Sands at 12.20am on Oct 15.

Mr Woodburn was also charged with insulting her modesty by showing her his middle finger at about the same time.

In his apology, Mr Woodburn - who is a regional manager of a marketing firm - said he was "genuinely and truly remorseful" for his conduct and deeply regretted his actions.

The victim, who is described as slim and 1.7m-tall with shoulder-length hair, told reporters that she agreed to compound the matter as she wanted to put the incident behind her."
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