Govt boosts law to fight online vice

Posed photo of a man watching online sex sites and forums.
Posed photo of a man watching online sex sites and forums. ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW

The Ministry of Home Affairs told The Sunday Times that it expects online vice to rise, given the increasing access to the Internet, but it has put more teeth into the law with new additions that will help the police to fight the problem.

"The trend has been driven by the emergence of specialist websites, apps and other Internet technologies, which have enabled vice syndicates and sex workers to reach a wider audience, hide behind the anonymity afforded by the Internet and conduct vice activities discreetly," a ministry spokesman said.

"This presents some challenges for the police (who are working) to prevent and detect criminal groups conducting such illicit activities."

The police have also observed an increase in the number of foreign women arrested for vice-related activities in apartments in Geylang.

But along with regular anti-vice operations, the changes to the Women's Charter make it an offence for persons here to run any website in Singapore that offers or facilitates prostitution, or to provide a service which aids in the prostitution of another person.

The spokesman said the police will continue to take action against any organised groups and apartment owners who allow their units to be used by vice workers.

He added: "It is not realistic to expect vice... to be eliminated. The police are focused on maintaining law and order in Geylang and have taken strong enforcement actions against those involved in illicit activities."

Initiatives, such as better lighting conditions in the lorongs and backlanes of Geylang and the installation of more police cameras, have helped to reduce the number of streetwalkers there.

He said the police will continue to conduct enforcement operations regularly to deter and detect such activities, and work closely with the community and other agencies to clamp down on vice activities and stamp out vice syndicates.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 10, 2016, with the headline 'Govt boosts law to fight online vice'. Print Edition | Subscribe