MHA reviewing laws on sexual offences on minors and protection of domestic helpers

Hannah Teoh
Senior Content Producer
Singapore’s parliament building.

The government is reviewing laws relating to sexual offences on minors and the protection of domestic helpers.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday (3 April), Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said the ongoing review will assess whether additional laws have to be put in and whether punishment needs to be enhanced.

The review is expected to be completed by the end of the year, Shanmugam added.

In response to a question from Macpherson MP Tin Pei Ling on whether the penalties for such offences would be enhanced, the minister said it is premature to say which way the laws are “going to go in a certain direction”.

On domestic helpers, Shanmugam said they are also considered a vulnerable group that can be subject to exploitation. These helpers have to be treated with a “certain dignity”, he said, adding that the law already provides for punishments to protect vulnerable victims among the helpers.

“They are not slaves and if they are ill treated to the extent where they suffer physical and mental torture, I think we also need to look at the law… There is certainly reasonable basis for taking the view that the punishments have to be stiffer.”

Shanmugam’s comments come one week after a Singaporean couple – Lim Choon Hong and his wife Chong Sui Foon – were jailed for starving their Filipina domestic worker over a period of 15 months between 2013 and 2014. Lim was jailed three weeks and fined $10,000, while Chong was jailed for three months.

According to media reports, the prosecution will appeal against the sentences, having asked for a year’s jail for each of them. For their offences, the couple could have been jailed up to one year and/or fined $10,000 each.