Singapore — AWARE Singapore said on Tuesday (Sept 14) that it opposes the idea, raised in Parliament yesterday, that male sex offenders over the age of 50 be eligible for caning.
In a Facebook post, the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) oppose the use of caning as a form of criminal punishment entirely, particularly for crimes that involve violence. The organisation added that it opposed “the use of caning as a form of criminal punishment entirely, particularly for crimes that involve violence”.
Bukit Batok Member of Parliament (MP) Murali Pillai said in Parliament on Sept 13 that serious sex offenders should be caned regardless of their age, as this would serve as a stronger deterrent against sexual offences.
He also proposed that the current cut-off age of 50 years for caning is “not fit for purpose”, as he made an observation that middle-aged offenders tend to target younger victims, and they should therefore be strongly deterred from doing so.
Mr Pillai said he was in favour of the bill, which increases penalties for offences such as outrage of modesty, engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a minor, and causing a minor to view a sexual image.
However, Mr Pillai pointed out that in keeping with the aims of the bill to protect women, children, and vulnerable persons from sexual predators, that “there should not be an age limit to caning as punishment”.
He added, “Instead, we should look to whether the person is medically fit to be caned. If it is found to be so, it should be no impediment.”
Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam responded to Mr Pillai’s concerns, and reiterated that “there is no reason to raise the age limit”.
Mr Shanmugam responded to Mr Pillai’s claim about sexual offenders aged 50 and above:
“The number of men over the age of 50 arrested for serious offences that attract caning are significantly lower, compared to men under the age of 50.”
Mr Shanmugam also highlighted that in lieu of caning, if an offender is not eligible, the court can impose an additional prison term of up to 12 months, if it assesses that there is a need.
In its Facebook post, AWARE said: “Corporal punishment suggests that authority and norms are rightly established (among men, at least) through physical domination—an idea that predicates much abusive and violent behaviour in the first place. Instead of reducing the culture of violence in society, caning normalises violence, furthers its cycle and plays into sexist ideas that correlate masculinity with physical strength”.
AWARE also explained that it has not seen clear evidence that caning is a deterrent in sexual abuse cases “or is superior to prison terms, rehabilitation programmes or other non-violent penalties”. /TISG
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