Do more to curb sexual predation at home: President

Call for more aid for minors follows new law allowing harsher penalties against offenders

Longer jail terms for sexual offenders that were passed in Parliament on Monday are "badly needed", but more has to be done to curb sexual predation at home, said President Halimah Yacob.

In a Facebook post yesterday, she said: "My stomach churns every time I read about convicted paedophiles who raped young, defenceless girls, often within the sanctity of the home, which is supposed to be a safe haven."

On Monday, Parliament passed legislation to mete out harsher punishments for several sexual offences. These include engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a minor aged between 14 and 16, or causing them to view a sexual image, as well as similar offences committed against minors aged between 16 and 18, where the offender is in an exploitative relationship with the minor.

The Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill will increase the maximum jail term for these two offences from one year to two years.

But legislation can be used for intervention only if the offence is reported, said Madam Halimah, adding that she was unsure how effective existing programmes are against sexual predation at home.

The new law comes after three paedophiles were convicted and sentenced this year.

In April, a 44-year-old man was sentenced for sexually assaulting and raping his daughter over 7½ years, starting when she was three years old. While her mother was at work, he also showed her child pornography.

Last month, a former Singapore Armed Forces regular serviceman, aged 24, was sentenced for sexually violating a 15-year-old girl and preying on other victims, including a former schoolmate.

This month, a 71-year-old man was sentenced for raping his step-granddaughter when she was nine. He had also watched pornography with the victim, who learnt how to search for such videos online from observing him.

Of these three convictions, Madam Halimah highlighted that two cases were revealed only when people related to the victims reported the incidents.

Calling for more to be done beyond the law to protect such victims, Madam Halimah said girls need to know that it is safe to talk to someone about adult behaviour they are uncomfortable with and be aware of where to get help.

About 40 per cent of sexual assault cases reported to the police from 2017 to 2019 involved victims below the age of 16, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said in response to parliamentary questions in January.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2021, with the headline 'Do more to curb sexual predation at home: President'. Subscribe