Sexual Harassment

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Sexual harassment can take on many forms. It could involve ​receiving threatening, abusive or insulting words, behaviours or other forms of unwanted communication of a sexual nature. The victim does not consent to this and the harasser’s acts can cause feelings of harassment, alarm, distress or discomfort.

Some examples include:

  • Voyeurism (non-consensual observing or recording of someone else’s private parts or an intimate act)
  • Unlawful stalking
  • Receiving sexual comments, gestures or questions in real life, through social media or calls
  • Spreading rumors about someone’s personal sex life
  • Pressuring for sexual favours or dates
  • Forcing the victim to touch someone else

For sexual harassment in the workplace, please click here.

What can I do if I’m experiencing similar scenarios?
  • Remember that whatever has happened is not your fault
  • Speak to trusted individuals
  • Document evidence if possible
  • Seek advice or counsel from AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC). They also provide befriender services to accompany the victim to the police, court or hospital.
  • For cases on university campus, contact campus security and/or respective departments handling sexual misconduct.
  • Make a police report for violations under Protection from Harassment Act or Penal Code.
  • Take legal action or seek legal help here.

If the harasser is related to your work, find workplace-specific advice here.

What should I do if I witness an act of sexual harassment?

Without compromising your own safety, you can

  • Approach victim to provide support
  • Distract harasser or seek help from others
  • Call out undesirable behaviour
  • Alert and seek help from management or security personnel

If you are a colleague of the victim and/or harasser, find workplace-specific advice here.

How can friends and family support the victim?
  • Avoid victim blaming.
  • Offer a listening ear to the victim. Do not judge or impose your opinion on the victim.
  • Validate their feelings and experience (eg. ‘That must have been very difficult for you’)
  • Point the victim to other formal sources of help (i.e. helplines) but let them decide what to do next.

If you are a colleague of the victim, find workplace-specific advice here

What can organisations do to prevent sexual harassment?
  • Organisational Policies
    • Serious disciplinary punishments to emphasise zero tolerance stance
    • Clear response procedures (such as steps for victim to take and how the organisation will respond to the case and support victim)
    • Education on sexual harassment and how to respond to it
    • Adopt advised workplace harassment guidelines here (includes procedures for workplace sexual harassment).
  • Infrastructure measures (also applicable for commercial establishments)
    • Anti-spycam design or regular checks for spycams
    • Heightened security (i.e. CCTV, security staff equipped with relevant response skills)
How can I seek legal help?
The following are laws related to sexual harassment

Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) Sections 3, 4, 5, and 7 consider intentionally causing harassment, alarm, or distress, causing fear, provocation, and facilitation of violence, and unlawful stalking as offences. Under Sections 3, 5 and 7, offenders are liable for imprisonment, or fine, or both. Under Section 4, offenders are liable for fine. POHA provides legal protection in the form of:

 

  1. Protection Order / Expedited Protection Order
  2. Non-publication order
Penal Code Section 377BA criminalises acts intended to insult the modesty of a person. Offenders are liable for imprisonment, or fine, or both.

Under Sections 377BB and 377BC, offenders are liable for imprisonment, and fine or caning. Under Section 377BD, offenders are liable for imprisonment, or fine, or both.

Section 377BE criminalises the non-consensual distribution of an intimate image of a person. Offenders are liable for imprisonment, and fine or caning.

Section 377BF criminalises sexual exposure. Offenders are liable for imprisonment, and fine or caning.

Section 354 considers assault or use of criminal force with intent to outrage modesty as an offence. Offenders are liable for imprisonment, or fine, or caning, or any combination of such punishments.

Section 511 considers attempts to do any of the above as an offence.

Take legal action either by self-representation or getting a lawyer.
● Civil remedies: apply for PO/EPO/NPO or monetary compensation under POHA
● Criminal sanctions: Police Report

For self-representation, start the process by approaching the Harassment Cases Registry at State Courts. They will assess your situation and suggest the various options available (civil, criminal or other alternative remedies). Detailed procedure can be found here.

For legal advice, you can approach any of the below (this does not mean getting a lawyer to represent you, unless requested):

Community Justice Centre
Community Legal Clinic by The Law Society of Singapore
SCWO Legal Clinics
● AWARE’s SACC (6779 0282 or sacc@aware.org.sg)
● Check with your neighbourhood Community Center. They may be holding regular legal clinics.

Singapore Statistics

Voyeurism cases have increased. In 2017, there were about 230 reported voyeurism cases involving hidden cameras compared to some 150 cases in 2013 (Channel NewsAsia, 2019).

From 2017-2019, NUS and NTU (combined) had 56 cases involving sexual offences, ⅔ were voyeuristic in nature (The Straits Times, 2019).

  • Of the respondents, males tended to be more tolerating of sexual actions than females (exhibitionism, sending explicit messages, lewd jokes)
  • 49% of females and 40% of males felt they have been subjected to at least one form of sexual misconduct (mostly lewd jokes, sexualised games during orientation, explicit messages/pictures)
    ■  90% did not report the incidents to the universities
  • 70% agreed university was not clear about policy on sexual offences