Parliament: Proposed Penal Code changes include allowing men to be considered rape victims

The proposed changes under the Criminal Law Reform Bill seek to expand the definitions of rape and sexual assault to make them more gender-neutral and accommodate more scenarios.
The proposed changes under the Criminal Law Reform Bill seek to expand the definitions of rape and sexual assault to make them more gender-neutral and accommodate more scenarios.PHOTO: ST FILE

Men can be considered victims of rape and Peeping Tom, under a Bill introduced in Parliament yesterday that will amend the Penal Code.

The proposed changes under the Criminal Law Reform Bill seek to expand the definitions of rape and sexual assault to make them more gender neutral and accommodate more scenarios. There will also be new offences that tackle the act of voyeurism under the Bill.

The Bill will broaden the definition of rape to include non-consensual penetration of the anus or the mouth using one's penis.

The current law defines rape as the penetration of a woman's vagina with a man's penis without her consent.

So, at present, only women can be victims of rape. Cases involving male victims are dealt with as sexual assault by penetration. This could change.

The Bill will also widen the scope of sexual assault to include instances where a woman forces a man to penetrate her vagina, anus or mouth, with his penis. The current law tackles only situations where a woman forces a man to penetrate her with other body parts.

The proposed amendments will protect men against sexual assault by women.

Besides widening the scope of offences, the Bill will also criminalise emerging crime trends like revenge porn and voyeurism.

 
 
 
 

It also criminalises revenge porn where one distributes or threatens to distribute an intimate image, and offenders can be jailed for up to five years with a fine and caning.

The Bill will also criminalise voyeuristic acts and crack down on Peeping Tom and those who take part in the supply chain of "upskirt" videos and photos.

The proposed offences will include observing or recording someone in circumstances where the person could reasonably expect privacy. Producing, possessing or distributing such recordings could also be a crime.

The maximum sentence for various voyeuristic acts could be a jail term ranging from two to five years plus possible caning or fine.

Another proposed change targets the act of flashing under the offence of sexual exposure, where the offender exposes himself to gain sexual gratification or causes distress or alarm to observers.

This will also deal with the emerging crime of "cyber flashing", where images of genitalia are sent to recipients without their consent.

Offenders found guilty of sexual exposure could face up to two years in jail and fined or caned.

The Bill also introduces a new section to clarify the types of "misconceptions of fact" that could negate consent in sexual offences.

For example, if one had given consent to sex under the misconception that it would expel an evil spirit from one's body, or that it would heal a chronic disease, such instances could impair consent.

Stealthing - a relatively new term where one covertly removes a condom when consent had been given by the other partner only for condom-protected sex - will also be dealt with.

A new provision under the Bill will criminalise situations where sexual activity is obtained by deception or false representation. This includes deception in the use of a sexually protective device or whether one is suffering from a sexually transmitted disease.

"In such cases, while consent is not legally negated... the consent obtained is compromised, and there is risk of physical harm to the victim," said the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Also, the Bill seeks to repeal marital immunity for rape and decriminalise attempted suicide.

Addressing concerns that repealing marital immunity for rape could lead to the rise of false rape allegations, the ministry said all alleged rape cases are treated with the same level of "evidential rigour". There are also safeguards to deter false reporting.

The Bill will also decriminalise attempted suicide, while maintaining that abetment of attempted suicide continues to be an offence.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2019, with the headline 'Proposed Penal Code changes include allowing men to be considered rape victims'. Print Edition | Subscribe