21 October 2005

First, An Announcement

Every week Mr Wang gets several emails in his email account from people he's never met before. They point to this report or that report in the newspapers, or on the Internet, and then they ask Mr Wang for his views and opinions on the legal aspects.

Mr Wang regrets to inform his readers that due to lack of time, he may not always be able to respond to all these emails nor to write about the relevant event here in this blog. But Mr Wang always finds your emails interesting, so keep them coming anyway.

Mr Wang's latest email is from Crumbs Crumby, who drew Mr Wang's attention to this Internet forum discussion about the case of a 14-year-old girl who systematically prostituted herself to various men, and then, for reasons best known to herself, went on to make a police report. Now, of course, the men are in trouble for having sex with an underaged girl.
Oct 19, 2005
Cash-short girl, 14, asked boyfriend to get men for her

By Selina Lum

A 14-YEAR-OLD girl who needed money to pay her bills hit on a shocking solution: she asked her boyfriend if he had friends who would be willing to pay for her sexual services. Then, after she had slept with at least five of them, she reported them all, including her boyfriend, to the police.

The girl's boyfriend, a 19-year-old national serviceman, had invited each of them to pay to have sex with her.

Two months later, in September last year, she made a police report stating that she had had sex with several different men on different occasions. The boyfriend, now 20, and five others were later charged with having sex with an underage girl.

Yesterday, operations assistant Muhammad Taufiq Sahak, 21, became the fifth person convicted for having sex with her. He was jailed for two months.

Two others have been jailed, one for eight months, the other for three. Another was sent to a boys' home. The fourth was given probation.

The case of the boyfriend, who faces nine charges of having sex with her, is expected to be mentioned on Nov 21. Police investigations are ongoing to trace the rest.

A person convicted of having sex with an underage girl can be jailed for up to five years and fined up to $10,000.
Crumbs Crumby has asked Mr Wang to comment. Here are Mr Wang's thoughts:

The relevant provision of the Women's Charter is designed to protect underaged girls. Essentially it is a crime to have sex with a girl aged below 16. In determining whether the crime has been committed, the girl's state of mind is irrelevant. In other words, whether or not she initiated the sex does not matter. Whether or not she consented does not matter (of course, if she had not consented, it is likely that the man would have been charged for rape, a much more serious offence).

In the facts of our present case, there seems to be an element of unfairness. After all, the girl was the one who thought up the whole idea and actively made arrangements to find men to have sex with. And she collected money out of the whole arrangement as well. Obviously she was no sweet innocent young thing herself. Young, yes, but not very sweet nor very innocent.

How does the law take those elements into accout? It probably goes into the sentencing. The girl's own behaviour would probably lead the judge to decide to impose a less severe sentence on the men, than he would otherwise have done. At least, if I were the judge, that's the way I would have approached the case.

However, personally I would find it quite difficult to argue that just because the girl was such a slut herself, the men should not be prosecuted or convicted at all. To proceed down that line can be quite dangerous from a public policy perspective. It could lead to a situation where you end up inadvertently endorsing child prostitution. You could have young girls aged 14, 13 or 12 years old, with terrible sexual morals, offering themselves to men, and the men would take full advantage, again and again, and never be punished at all. This isn't exactly an ideal situation either.

What then is the solution? Hey, don't keep looking at Mr Wang like that. Yes, Mr Wang is clever. But he certainly doesn't have all the answers to all the ills of society.


Han said...

is it a defence if the men were mislead to believe that she is of an age in which she could legally give consent?

also, are there any 'romeo-juliet' exceptions to this crime? (e.g. a boyfriend not more than a certain age older than the girl in question)

tscd said...

Doesn't the girl get into trouble for soliciting or illegal prostitution?

Anonymous said...

Section 375(e)...Rape is sexual intercourse "with or without her consent, when she is under 14 years of age." In fact, if you have sex with a female under 14, you are raping her even if she "really asked for it."

Sinc it provides that 14 yr old is no go zone (penal code 375) - Mr Wang can dun worry about the 13,12 year old with terrible sexual morals.

This whole thing is also based on "consent" - because if you are below 16 - you cannot "really" consent to intercourse.

Section 140(1)(i) of the Women's Charter states that if any person has carnal connection with any girl below the age of 16 years (except by way of marriage), that person shall be guilty ...

they (the legislature) know some girls at the age of 14,15 are still innocent and gullible and have to protect - so they make the "punishment" much less severe. This is clearly a utilitarian weighing scale (again. utility model)) On this weighing scale - you run the risk of punishing more men (multiply by less punishment) but you protect more girls.

(There are also "deep" moral tones to this legislation)

Based on this "consent" basis - it is "arguable" that this girl umm, was prostituting herself? There is "no room" to say a girl under the age of 14 was prostituting herself - because 375(e) makes it clear her consent is irrelevant because she has yet to reach the age of consent...

I think there might be room to say that section 140(1) also says the same thing that the girl cannot consent basically(if the 160 standard borders along strict liability). If that is the case, how can a girl who the court has ruled that she cannot consent to sex consent to sex for money?

that will be patently absurd. Of course you can say that illegal prostitution has nothing to do with age. you can argue that different sections have different levels of tests and the "age of consent" should be different for one and the other...e.t.c. (there are lots of argument one can bring up for differences in the requirements in each section)

But whatever "age test" you have for prositution - say you say you find the girl is illegal prostituing herself at the age of 15 - many will find it inconsistent then to say if she can "prostiute" herself illegally - she cannot consent to sex....

it does not appear consistent (principled)...i am not saying its impossible to argue that she is illegal prostituting hereself - just wun think its exactly consistent...

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Classics -

No, the point is not whether section 375 applies or not. The point is whether you wish to take action against the man, in cases where the girl is underaged, but obviously an active agent and a willing partner.

If you think that the correct thing is not to take action, then you would not take action - whether under section 375 or under the Women's Charter.


Your question is a fine one. As a general principle, ignorance of the law would not be an excuse but a mistake of fact could be. In other words, if you did not know that 16 was the legal minimum age, that would be not excuse - but if you believed the girl to be above 16, that could be.

Prostitution is not illegal in Singapore. Although pimping is.

lbandit said...

Does prostitution need a license to be not illegal in Singapore?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Nope. Prostitution is just not illegal in Singapore. Actually the same applies in many other countries. Muslim countries being a clear exception.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

It's an interesting thought, quite unusual - I think it might work, but I also think that most likely the prosecution would not even have thought of it.

In the hurly-burly of daily work, small exotic points like these do crop up from time to time, but are often missed, I dare say, by all parties - police, prosecution, defence and judge too.