Forum: Root of sex offences lies in sexism, misogyny

Besides the Ministry of Education's (MOE) role in educating young people on safety and protection from sexual abuse, more must be done to educate young people on appropriate sexual behaviour and healthy sexual relationships (Sex offences: Systems, procedures must be in place to ensure students' well-being, Dec 11).

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam noted that a "deep mindset change" is required for men to view women as equals with respect. He said that sexual violence is "not just an offence that a man commits against a woman. It is a deep violation of fundamental values".

Just as society has failed victims of sexual assault and voyeurism, it has also failed the young sexual offenders who have hogged national headlines over the past few years. These young men often do not commit these offences merely because of some sexual compulsion or perversion, and stronger criminal penalties may not be the most effective deterrent.

Rather, Singapore must nip the root of such crimes - sexism and misogyny - in the bud by providing young people with the support and resources to develop healthy sexual values and relationships.

Singapore's sexuality education curriculum is inadequate to address these issues, and MOE should urgently implement reforms to provide open and comprehensive resources that meet the needs of our youth. Otherwise, young people may simply turn to other sources such as pornography that often perpetuate problematic ideas of sex and relationships.

A whole-of-government approach is crucial. Programmes to promote gender equality and mitigate the culture of toxic masculinity must go beyond schools.

The Ministry of Defence should play a bigger role to help boys become men who respect women. The circumstances of national service often lead young men to share in a culture of toxic masculinity where women's bodies are sexualised and objectified. For instance, during my basic military training, the common table in my bunk was fully plastered with the covers of FHM magazine.

Sexual offenders should not be treated simply as perverse criminals whose sexual deviance is wholly their own fault. Many of them are our classmates, friends or family members. We must do better to foster a culture where young men can receive the support and resources they need to build healthy sexual values and relationships.

Daryl Yang Wei Jian

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