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Thursday, September 15, 2011

On what constitutes Outrage of Modesty (Molest) in Singapore

"In modern America, anyone who attempts to write satirically about the events of the day finds it difficult to concoct a situation so bizarre that it may not actually come to pass while the article is still on the presses." - Calvin Trillin


Just a touch and you're in trouble: Expats prime targets in molest scams

"There is rising concern from some quarters that women are making false claims of molestation in order to extort money from foreign men.

At least two foreign missions here, the British High Commission and French Embassy, have issued grim warnings on their websites...

Even popular Australia-based travel websites such as World Nomads have warned of such scams...

Western men 'tend to be more tactile and flirtatious', he noted. They are also 'totally unaware of the Singapore High Court ruling that any form of physical contact can amount to molestation so long as the woman complains', he added...

Faced with poor chances of persuading a judge of their innocence, the humiliation of a public trial, the stress on their families, and the very real danger they might lose their jobs, most men choose to avoid a trial at all costs, said Mr Chia. Some offences, such as simple molestation, can be settled out of court if the offender pays compensation to the victim, usually between $5,000 and $10,000. But Mr Chia has heard of settlements upwards of $15,000. The breadth of molestation laws, the prevalence of large financial settlements, and difficulty disproving allegations may lead some women to take advantage, he noted...

A woman accused [a man] of inappropriate contact. Although his friend protested his innocence, the police arrested him. However, McDonald's security footage proved he was not at fault and he was released the next day"

Why just *foreign men*?

When a partner of Chia Wong LLP confirms what we already knew (with reference to a High Court ruling), that "any form of physical contact can amount to molestation so long as the woman complains" - and further that the man is essentially screwed if accused, the floodgates are essentially open (note that this just refers to "Assault or use of criminal force with intent to outrage modesty" - even if you don't touch her she can whack you under "Word or gesture intended to insult the modesty of a woman")

Addendum: Assault or use of criminal force to a person with intent to outrage modesty is Section 354 of the Penal Code

It was put to me that the least you need to do is to caress a thigh or slap a buttock lightly, but this is not the case since a buttock "caress" during a photo-taking session that could very plausibly have been accidental got Wee Chor Kian a $4,000 fine (as can a man making a woman touch his shoulders).

And the most ridiculous case of all: kissing a woman's hand got Francis Ngien Tai Ho 2 weeks in jail (hand kissing got him a fine previously).

It is one thing to say that you shouldn't kiss hands without permission - it is quite another to send someone to jail for it (even a "stern warning" would be extreme). This is one of those social infractions that is bothersome enough to be a nuisance, but not so horrible as to warrant state sanction; one can look at how Anti-Social Behavior Orders (ASBOs) are abused in the UK (e.g. slapping noisy kids at playgrounds with them) to clue one in on why involving the legal system in areas formerly reserved for social sanction might not be a wise idea.

It could also potentially lead to interesting (if unfortunate) cultural misunderstandings like those previously mentioned; while "kissing the woman’s hand instead of shaking it on that first introduction can earn you OODLES of Romance Points in her book", here it might get you a short jail term.

This is especially interesting, as one would assume that outrage of modesty (assuming, for the sake of argument, that men too have modesty to outrage) can only be done by an inherently sexual act. The implication is that grabbing and kissing someone's hand, then, is a sexual act (but then so too, it might seem, is taking a picture of a female in public in a non-compromising position)
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