SINGAPORE - The police will closely watch dating platforms in which younger "sugar babies" are matched with older, wealthier men and women, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee told Parliament on Monday (Feb 5).
If money is being exchanged for sexual services among users of such sites,the police will take action under the Women's Charter, including possibly against the website and its owners, he said.
He was responding to questions by Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) and Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson), who wanted to know the Government's position on Malaysia-based dating platform, TheSugarBook.
Ms Tin had also asked what measures there were to protect young people from such platforms that aim to capitalise on their emotional or financial vulnerabilities and exploit them sexually.
Warning about the sites, Mr Lee said they encourage young people to enter into transactions that are tilted in favour of older and wealthier people, and expose the young people to the risk of being exploited and abused.
"But what is of greater concern is that the site targets young people who are in their late teens and early 20s, even while they are still students at polytechnics or universities," he said of TheSugarBook.
The platform, which started operations in December 2016, had sparked concern after it was cited in news reports saying that it wanted recruit more "sugar babies" in Singapore with promotions targeting undergraduates.
Marketing itself as a discreet dating community, its website says it caters to "well-established wealthy individuals" who wish to pamper sugar babies with financial support in return for love and companionship.
It has 75,000 members, with the second-largest group of users from Singapore, and the biggest group of users, at 28,500, from Malaysia.
Mr Lee said blocking such sites would not be an "enduring way" to protect young Singaporeans from risks.
A more effective and enduring solution lies in increasing their awareness to the dangers, so that they can exercise discretion and good judgment when navigating the online world, he added.
He cited how school students are taught to establish boundaries for personal safety when managing both online and offline relationships.
"At the same time, parents play a critical role in guiding their children and helping them to stay away from undesirable online content," he said.