Law needed to act against 'revenge porn', says Aware

There should be a law requiring online platforms to delete photos and videos that were uploaded without the subject's consent, sometimes called revenge porn, the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) has said.

The gender equality advocacy group said instances of sexual harassment are increasingly being facilitated by technology like digital cameras, social media and apps.

In its report released yesterday, it said a major challenge facing victims of tech-related sexual violence lies in having their images removed from the Internet after they were uploaded non-consensually.

The report said one way to tackle this is to mandate the removal of such materials within 24 hours of receiving a court order to do so.

Aware also proposed other ways to tackle the problem of sexual violence against women, including legal and regulatory changes as well as education and research efforts.

Cases of rape and molest have risen in recent years, but many continue to go unreported, it said.

Based on its experiences operating the Sexual Assault Care Centre, Aware said the most common reasons for not filing a police report included the fear of not being believed, and worries about how one's family or friends would react.

In order to make the criminal justice system more victim-centric, Aware proposed establishing a specialised court to deal with all sexual violence cases. There should also be subsidies for the medical and legal fees borne by survivors of sexual violence, it added.

Aware also said that much attention has been paid to sexual assault incidents on university campuses, but not to those on polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education campuses, despite these other institutes of higher learning (IHLs) having similar numbers of reported cases.

There should be a national code of conduct common to all IHLs, as well as first responder and bystander intervention training programmes, Aware suggested.

For workplaces, Aware said that a national survey it did this year with market research firm Ipsos found two in five workers in Singapore have experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment in the last five years. These include sexual or sexist remarks, and unwanted physical touch.

Aware said employers should be legally obligated to respond to complaints of sexual harassment.

Aware also renewed calls to address what it called gaps in Singapore's legislative framework to deal with sexual violence. These include defining consent in the Penal Code, replacing outdated language such as insult or outrage of modesty with terms like sexual harassment and assault, and removing marital immunity for sexual activity with minors aged 13 to 15.

It also wants to expand the scope of the Women's Charter to make its protections more gender-neutral, and change its name to the Family Charter.

On sex education, Aware called for the curriculum to include in-depth discussions of consent, gender-based violence and gender inequality and media literacy, and for programmes to help parents talk about sex and consent with their children to be scaled up.

Some of the paper's recommendations were aimed at men, such as more accessible mental health services, higher quotas for paternity leave and greater support for male victims of sexual violence.

Aware also proposed commissioning a national study on the dominant forms of masculinity here and their effects on boys and men.

Rei Kurohi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2021, with the headline 'Law needed to act against 'revenge porn', says Aware'. Subscribe