[UPDATED on Monday, 3 March at 4pm: Adding update on bill introduction in Parliament]
The Ministry of Law on Monday introduced its anti-harassment bill in Parliament for its first reading.
First announced last Wednesday, it aims to criminalise harassment, provide a wider range of protection for victims of both offline and online harassment, as well as more severe punishment for offenders.
The Bill covers a broad range of behaviour such as stalking, bullying of children, sexual harassment within and outside the workplace as well as cyber-bullying.
Victims may apply for civil remedies such as a Protection Order from the court so that harassers will desist from doing anything that will cause further harm. Where appropriate, victims can also ask the court to order the removal of offensive material online. The court can “direct suitable notification” to alert readers of the false facts.
Harassment acts outside of Singapore will also fall under the law, under certain conditions. If an offence is committed against a victim in Singapore, and if the perpetrator knows the victim would be in Singapore, the penalties will apply.
Existing protection for public servants will also be extended to public healthcare workers and public transport workers.
Last Wednesday’s announcement by the Law and Home Affairs Ministries came after Law Minister K Shanmugam unveiled plans to clamp down on anti-social behaviour late last year.
The Ministry said stakeholders such as AWARE, the Singapore Children’s Society, the Coalition Against Bullying for Children and Youth, and lawyers who have represented harassment victims were consulted.
According to the Ministry of Law, 85% of people in Singapore support tougher measures to deal with harassment, and 71% agree that laws applying to physical harassment should be extended to online harassment as well.
In 2012, Microsoft released results of a worldwide survey, naming Singapore as one of the top-ranked countries where cyber-bullying is most pervasive.
Countries such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand have criminalized harassment offences. In Japan’s anti-stalking laws, making e-mail threats is considered an offence.
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