Forum: We shouldn’t have to alter our behaviour and plan lives around crime risks

A person is free to do whatever he pleases – including to wear whatever he pleases – as long as it is lawful. This is a fundamental principle of our legal system and our society.

Unfortunately, Forum writer Lim Chee Khiam’s letter calls on people to forfeit this liberty because of those who behave unlawfully (Standing by principles alone may not be enough to prevent sexual assault, Nov 29).

Mr Lim, in effect, calls on us to treat crime as an inevitable force of nature – as he puts it, a risk – and plan our lives around the risks that crime poses to us. In my view, this is wrong not only in principle, but also in practice.

It would mean that, in deciding what to do or what not to do, we have to go out of our way to accommodate the desires and actions of sexual assailants, thieves and other offenders.

Surely the focus should be on changing criminals’ behaviour so that they do not infringe on the freedoms of other members of society.

Why should the unlawful choices of thieves and molesters constrain our lawful behaviour, and not the other way around?

Instead of going out of our way to remove offenders’ opportunities to commit crimes, we should focus on tackling the reasons why offenders choose to take these opportunities.

I am glad Mr Lim agrees that it is morally wrong to sexually assault someone because morality does matter. It tells us what is wrong and what is permissible.

In other words, morality should prompt us all to focus on condemning crime (which is immoral), rather than having to alter our behaviour (which is not immoral) to accommodate it.

More importantly, it should remind society to treat offenders as moral agents whose views, choices and behaviour can be changed, rather than resigning ourselves to the view that crime is an ordinary incidence of life that we have no choice but to accept.

Benjamin Joshua Ong

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