When Fetishes go too far
Flip through the newspaper every other day and you’re bound to see an article reporting a case of an “outrage of modesty.” It is so common, that Straits Times has a topic section dedicated for these types of cases. Be it a case of a man groping a woman’s buttocks or a someone filming an upskirt videos of random women in the gym, these scenarios can happen to anyone.
If you’re worrying that your actions may have resulted in an act of ‘Outrage of Modesty,’ or think someone you know has committed it either on you or someone you know, there are several things for you to take note.
What is Outrage of Modesty
So what then is an “outrage of modesty?” More commonly known by the general public as the act of ‘molest,’ the term ‘outrage of modesty’ originates from Section 354 of the Penal Code. It criminalizes any “assaults or uses of criminal force to any person, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage the modesty of that person.” Generally, an act of outrage of modesty would include offending actions such as groping a woman inappropriately, hugging and kissing a woman, slapping someone’s buttocks, grabbing or fondling of erogenous or non-erogenous parts of the victim’s body. They are non- exhaustible and will differ from case to case depending on the facts of the case.
The Penal Code does not explicitly define what constitutes an outrage of someone’s modesty. This may be due to varying views of what would comprise an outrage to modesty which changes over time and may thus be arguable according to the context of the case.
The important thing to note is the element of criminal force in the act. So if you had accidentally brushed your female colleague’s bottom and you can prove that it was unintentional, it is unlikely that you can be charged for outraging someone’s modesty. The offender, must have intended or knew that his actions would cause an outrage of modesty for the offence to take place. Only when there is no consent involved between the parties, can the victim can file for assault or use of criminal force with intent to outrage modesty.
What this means is that a couple hugging intimately would not be considered an outrage of modesty as there is consent for between both parties to behave in such a manner. Also, a doctor who is examining a patient would not be found to have committed an act to outrage the modesty of the patient, as long as the examination was done in accordance with approved medical procedures.
More often than not, reported cases commonly feature male offenders and women or children victims. However, the laws covering outrage of modesty is not confined for just women and children. Outraging someone’s modesty is a gender-neutral crime, meaning anyone can commit the act and anyone too can fall victim to it.
Insulting Modesty of Woman
That being said, aside from cases of ‘Outrage of Modesty’ which covers sexual harassment from physical contact, a person can also be charged for non-physical harassment. Under Section 509 of the Penal Code, any act that has an intention to insult and the act of insulting a woman’s modesty is a crime. If found guilty, you could be sentenced to up to a year of imprisonment, or fined, or both.
It must be made clear that unlike crimes of outrage of modesty, crimes that involve insulting the modesty of a woman are gender specific, meaning the victim must be a female. For instance, taking nude or upskirt videos of women without their consent, flashing one’s private parts to a woman or spouting sexually derogatory remarks towards a woman can be considered as examples of acts of ‘Insulting Modesty of Woman.’
An example of this is a recent case of a former SCDF major Poh Siok Peng, was sentenced to five weeks imprisonment for filming upskirt videos of his colleague on two separate occasion. The Court had found that Poh would often go to her office cubicle to chat with her. Instead of standing by her desk, he would often sit in front of her, especially when she was wearing a dress or skirt to work, and would constantly bend down as though he was reaching for something under her desk, all the while, taking the opportunity to take upskirt photos of her. The Court agreed that there was premeditation on Poh’s part as he had pretended to chat with the victims to commit the offences.
Another recent case of insulting a woman’s modesty is that of Heng Li Ying who had filmed unsuspecting victims in the changing rooms of Suntec City Mall’s True Fitness outlet. She would then advertise these videos online, selling them to at least 22 different people. The marketing executive was sentenced to 30 weeks of jail after admitting to three counts of intruding into the privacy of a Caucasian woman and two unknown women.
In both these cases, it is clear that both perpetrators had committed an act which insulted the modesty of a woman. Evidence was present in the form of the videos to prove their guilt resulting in their respective offences. The standard of proof required for a criminal offence must be one that is beyond reasonable doubt and that the evidence provided must be able to be corroborated and prove that the offence was committed beyond reasonable doubt.
Pursuant to Section 73 and 74 of the Penal Code on enhanced punishments, any outrage of modesty offences under section 354 or insult to modesty of woman against a domestic maid or racially or religiously aggravated offences can be charged with one and a half times the normal maximum charge possible.
Also, section 354(2) of the Penal Code provides for harsher punishments in cases where the victims are below the age of 14 years. Likewise, any acts that would outrage the modesty of a person committed in lifts, physical threats, voluntarily causing hurt, wrongful restraint, and death regardless of their age, would result in an aggravated punishment.
On 2nd May 2017, Benjamin Tan Jook Min was sentenced to jail for 27 months and given four strokes of the cane in the State Courts. He pleaded guilty to using criminal force with the intent to outrage the modesty of the 27-year-old woman. Tan donned with his working gloves, covered the mouth of her victims and molested her at Havelock Road – all because he felt the urge to touch her buttocks.
Simple attempts at trying to commit an outrage of modesty crime or insulting a woman’s modesty, including failed attempts to commit an offence are also punishable under section 511 of the Penal Code. For example, if you had attempted to record an upskirt video of someone but failed because you did not click record can be considered to be mere attempts at committing a crime and as such will be charged accordingly.
How Can We Help You
Cases involving outrage of modesty crime or insulting to a woman’s modesty are delicate cases for you to deal alone. At I.R.B Law LLP we have experienced Criminal Litigation Lawyers who are passionate about justice and fairness. Our lawyers will be able to guide you through Singapore’s Criminal Justice System and each and every stage of the proceedings. We firmly believe that everyone should be entitled to a second chance and be allowed the opportunity to turn over a new leaf and live life anew. Should you be in a position where you may need our assistance, please do not hesitate and contact us at Hello@irblaw.com.sg or call us at 6298 2537 so that we can advise you on your matter.
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