Budget debate: Review of sentencing framework for hurt and sexual offences completed

Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling noted that the Budget builds on continuing efforts to support women and their families. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A review of the sentencing framework for hurt and sexual offences has been completed, and a ministerial statement on the matter will be made at a later date, said Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling.

Announced last July, the review by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Law examined, among other things, the extent to which an offender's background, including educational status, should be a relevant factor in sentencing.

It came after public disquiet arose over the sentence meted to a dentistry student who tried to strangle his former girlfriend and put his thumb into her eye after she rejected him.

Yin Zi Qin, 23, will not have a criminal record after completing his sentence, which included a short detention order of 12 days and 80 hours of community service.

Ms Sun on Thursday (Feb 25) added that participants in the ongoing dialogue to review women's issues had raised the topic of what punishment should be meted out for sexual and hurt offences.

"We are cognisant of the fact that regardless the progress that Singaporean women have made on many fronts, we must continue to guarantee the protection and well-being of our women and girls," she said.

In her speech in Parliament, she noted that the Budget builds on continuing efforts to support women and their families, by supporting women in caregiving, supporting vulnerable women, and supporting women in their career aspirations.

The Government has made efforts to expand pre-school capacity and increase access to affordable childcare, so that women have peace of mind should they decide to go back to work when they have a young child, said Ms Sun (Punggol West).

"Budget 2021 builds on these efforts and goes further. We know that caregivers with young children with developmental needs may find it even more challenging to care for their children," she said.

In an online survey by the Inclusive Pre-school Workgroup that she co-chairs, parents and caregivers of children with developmental needs had rated travelling time between pre-schools and early intervention centres as one of their top three concerns.

The new Inclusive Support Programme pilot announced in this year's Budget aims to address this concern by providing in-school support for children who require up to medium levels of early intervention, and eliminating the back and forth shuttle, she said.

She added that the $900 million Household Support Package will also help women in need.

Other MPs also called for more support for Singaporean women.

Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson) said empowering more women to pick up digital skills will help to address the pressing digital talent shortage worldwide and generate greater economic growth.

She said: "Looking ahead, we can anticipate the strive towards a future economy would mean there are more job opportunities, better career prospects and wage growth in the tech and innovation sectors. If we do not help women to capture these opportunities, they risk falling behind further."

Her suggestions included introducing more scholarships and education awards to encourage girls to study technology and related subjects in school, continued emphasis on cultivating girls and women in tech in Singapore, as well as creating and facilitating more peer-networking and mentoring platforms for women or aspiring women in tech.

"We have hidden gems within our women population, waiting to be discovered or for the opportunity to shine," added Ms Tin.

Parliamentary Secretary for Health Rahayu Mahzam noted that there has been increasing awareness about women who have spent a large part of their lives not in formal employment, but toiling to care for their families.

"Over time, there's also been conversations around the uneven distribution of the caregiving load and equal opportunities for women. Indeed, there are gaps that we need to work on. Gender bias and stereotypes and the disparity between men and women continue to exist," said Ms Rahayu (Jurong GRC).

"Women have much potential to help Singapore emerge stronger from this pandemic. I urged the whole community to have an open mind and provide unfettered opportunities for women. Do not underestimate the roles, responsibilities and contributions of women," she added.

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