Singapore strikes against revenge porn

Surekha A. Yadav
Surekha A. Yadav

DECEMBER 29 — From January 1, it will be illegal to send non-consensual “dick-pics” (you know what I mean) across social media and chat applications in Singapore. 

It will also be illegal to take, share and possess voyeuristic photos — upskirt photos, photos of women using washrooms etc. 

New legislation will specifically target a range of cyber-crimes whose victims have overwhelmingly been women.

Crucially, new laws will not only make taking voyeuristic photos and videos illegal but will also make threatening to distribute them illegal. This will help victims take action against revenge porn. 

While we are yet to see these laws in practice, that they are being passed is promising.

The last few years have brought to light several cases where serious and repeat voyeurs have received mild sentences or faced no real legal repercussions due to an absence of relevant laws.

Famously a male student who took non-consensual videos of a female student bathing in National University of Singapore (NUS) dormitory showers received only a conditional warning.

There were calls to have the voyeur expelled from the university while others argued expulsion would have been too harsh.

Now there is a clear base for action in these cases. The sentences which range from two years in prison to fines and caning also indicate that these offences are being taken seriously by authorities. 

This is a welcome change. For too long “peeping Tom” and voyeuristic offences were seen as victimless crimes and women were supposed to put up with “boys being boys.” 

These new laws indicate that we’ve now moved beyond that stage but they are still only a beginning.

While legal protection is important, it is society’s attitudes — its assumptions and behaviour — that needs to change in order to put an end to the victimisation of women online and via modern technology. 

People, particularly men and boys, need to understand and fully accept that women are their equals and not simply or even partly objects to be photographed, videoed and gawked at for personal satisfaction.

On a very fundamental level, society has to make clear that men do not own women and have no right to control and dominate them.

Sadly, even today you still hear men saying things along the lines of “I wouldn’t let my girlfriend do that,” “why did you let her talk to him,” etc. 

There’s an idea that controlling women is a part of being a man and it’s absurd.

There is no reason for men to let women do anything — women can and should always do as they please (as long as it’s legal) but this still has to be explained to a much wider range of people than you’d imagine. 

This need to control, dominate and also threaten and humiliate women remains prevalent among men — as the vast number of dick pics and revenge porn clips floating around the internet indicates.

For this behaviour to be truly eliminated, laws will help but only a culture of genuine respect and true equality will see voyeurs and the like relegated to the very fringes of society. 

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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