Thursday, 24 Sep 2020

Stricter laws and penalties to prevent brothels from popping up in heartland of Singapore

SINGAPORE – From Friday (Aug 7), stricter laws and stiffer penalties will take effect in a move to stem the rising trend of vice in the heartland of Singapore.

To curb the setting up of brothels in residences, a home owner or tenant who rents or sub-lets the premises that are used as a brothel will be criminally liable, unless they can show they had no knowledge and could not have, with reasonable diligence, ascertained that the place was to be used for such a purpose.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said on Thursday (Aug 6) that it is also partnering the Council for Estate Agencies, property agencies and agents to assist and advise property owners and tenants on conducting due diligence checks.

It also reminded Housing Board flat owners to do regular checks to ensure their tenants do not misuse the flat, further rent out any part of the flat, or create nuisances to their neighbours.

The ministry added: “The changes to the Women’s Charter strengthen the laws against online vice, and enhance the police’s levers against vice syndicates. These changes will help to stem an increasing trend of vice in the heartland.”

The amendments to the Women’s Charter were passed in Parliament on Nov 4 last year.

The move against online vice follows a rising trend of women arrested for vice being involved in online syndicates as well.

In 2015, 16 per cent of women arrested for vice were involved with online syndicates. In 2018, it soared to 55 per cent.

In the same period, seven in 10 foreign women arrested for advertising their services online were providing sexual services in residential estates.

Those found guilty of committing prostitution-related crimes face extended maximum jail terms as well as fines that can be 10 times higher than previously.

The new preventive measures also require homeowners and landlords to exercise “reasonable diligence” by doing identity checks of prospective tenants or sub-tenants through face-to-face interviews.

If they are overseas, owners should engage an agent to conduct such interviews on their behalf, added the ministry.

The new laws also widen the jurisdiction of the authorities, allowing them to take more decisive action against those who use remote communication services to offer sexual services in Singapore, even if the websites used are hosted overseas.

The definition of “brothel” will also be broadened to include any place that has been advertised or represented as being used or is likely to be used for the purpose of prostitution.

Currently, it is defined as a place that is used by at least two women or girls for prostitution purposes.

With the enhanced penalties, the maximum jail term will be raised from three years to five years for first-time offenders. For more severe offences, it will be raised from five years to seven years.

Repeat offenders face a maximum jail term of seven years, up from five years. The maximum jail term for more severe offences among repeat offenders remains at 10 years.

For fines, the maximum fine for a first offence will be raised to $100,000, and increased to $150,000 for repeat offenders. This is 10 times higher than the previous range of $2,000 to $10,000 for a first conviction, and $10,000 to $15,000 for repeat offenders.

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