The term “Outrage of modesty” is a formal term used to describe an act of molestation. Incidents of outrage of modesty or molestation may happen at anywhere, anytime. Such crimes have unfortunately been on the rise in Singapore, most notably on our public transport system, and in nightlife hotspots.
According to the Mid-Year Crime Statistics for January to June 2018 by the Singapore Police Force (SPF), there is a 37% increase in the number of outrage of modesty cases at public entertainment nightspots, whilst cases occurring on public transport went up by 43.8 % [see the full SPF release here].
Outrage of Modesty / Molestation cases
There are numerous cases of molestation or outrage of modesty that have happened in Singapore. Some examples include:
|Man jailed for a week for molesting sleeping woman on MRT train||Male offender touched the thigh of a sleeping woman (more than once) sitting next to him on an MRT train.||Jailed for 1 week after a guilty plea|
|Man on his way to lunch molested a woman||Male offender, after dropping off his wife and son, went to park his car and then molested a 34-year-old woman while on the way back to meet his family for lunch.||Fined $4,000|
|Pastor jailed eight weeks for taking upskirt videos of women||Male offender crept up on unsuspecting women to record 12 upskirt videos.||Jailed for 8 weeks|
|Jail for an engineer who molested tutor on a bus||Male offender molested a part-time tutor on a bus by rubbing his thigh against the 23-year-old’s several times.||Jailed for 3 weeks|
|Man gets 10 months’ jail for molesting maid and expectant mother in a lift||Male offender molested a domestic maid and expectant mother in the lift in separate incidents within the space of an hour.||Jailed for 10 months|
|Repeat sex offender given stiffer sentence after molesting woman 2 months after release||A male offender with a history of trespassing into women’s toilets to molest his victims.||Preventive detention for 10 years with three strokes of the cane|
|Man, 60, jailed for 18 months for molesting a boy, 6, at Burger King||He first molested a six-year-old boy at a fast-food restaurant. Less than 15 minutes later, he touched the buttocks of a 60-year-old woman on a bus.||Jailed for 18 months|
|Employer’s husband jailed for 14 months and 2 weeks for molesting maid, insulting her modesty||The male offender molested domestic helper and exposed himself to the victim twice||Jailed for 14 months and 2 weeks|
What is the meaning of “Outrage of Modesty”?
This term can be located in section 354 of the Penal Code which states that:
“assault or use of criminal force to a person with intent to outrage modesty”.
According to the provision above, the “use of criminal force” is a requirement to find a person guilty of this crime. Therefore, the act of staring at someone inappropriately is not considered as an outrage of modesty.
There is no express provision in the Penal Code which clearly explains the meaning of “modesty”. The rationale behind this is probably due to the opinions on what is considered an outrage of modesty may change from time to time, it is also based on a case-to-case basis, and the race and/or religion of the victim.
Both men and women can be found guilty of this crime although there is evidence that shows men are mostly the culprits of such a crime.
What about “upskirt” photographs?
Invasive conduct such as the taking of “upskirt” photographs is considered an outrage of modesty although there may be no criminal force or assault involved.
Any words or gestures intended to “insult the modesty” of women is considered as an outrage of modesty (section 509 of the Penal Code).
Consent, Intention and Knowledge
There is no outrage of modesty if consent is given, for example, intimate physical acts between couples, doctors’ act of examining a patient by following proper medical procedures etc.
It is an outrage of modesty if the perpetrator has the intention or knowledge that his or her acts are probably considered as an outrage of modesty.
Enhanced Penalties in Special Cases
There are harsher penalties implemented to penalise the convicts of certain cases as follows:
• Section 73 of the Penal Code: outrage of modesty offences against domestic maids.
• Section 354(2) of the Penal Code: outrage of modesty offences involved victims below 14 years old.
• Section 354A of the Penal Code: outrage of modesty offences committed in lifts, physical threats, voluntarily causing hurt, wrongful restraint, and death.
Mere Attempts / Failed Attempts
Mere attempts or even failed attempts to outrage a women’s modesty are still considered as an outrage of modesty (section 511 of the Penal Code).
If you are charged with the offence of committing an outrage of modesty, it is highly advisable that you consult a criminal defence lawyer for legal advice.
What factors are taken into account for sentencing under 354 of the Penal Code
The following is a non-exhaustive list of factors highlighted by local courts for sentencing in outrage of modesty cases:
- Which part of the victim’s body did the offender touch?
- How did the offender touch the victim/the manner in which the victim was molested?
- How long did the molestation last?
- Was the offence premeditated or committed on the spur of the moment?
- Were the circumstances in which the offence was committed inherently reprehensible?
- Is the offender recalcitrant?
- Is the offender suffering from a mental disorder or intellectual disability?
- What is the relationship between the offender and the victim?
Consult a lawyer even if you have admitted to a crime
IRB Law Partner Muntaz Binte Zainuddin explains why you should always consider hiring a lawyer if you’ve admitted to a crime.