The wealthiest and most developed nation in Southeast Asia, Singapore elicits images of a highly cosmopolitan city, efficient and organized public transportation, and a polished society.
Earlier this month, however, a man was sentenced
to 29 years in jail and to 24 hits with the cane in a case that shocked the country – and gave its society a peek into the dark, depraved underbelly of prim-and-proper Singapore.
According to an analysis
by Channel News Asia, the case dates back to 2009, when the convict, recently a married man, logged on to an explicit sex forum and engaged in conversations that revealed his depraved fetish: to see his wife used by other men.
In the years that followed, the man’s lewd fantasies spiraled outwards as he roped in six other men and their wives. The culprits used sedatives to make sure their sexual assaults went without a hitch.
While the mastermind of the entire depraved sex ring was given 29 years of jail time, his accomplices were sentenced to 13.5 to 22 years in prison. One culprit was given a 3-year sentence as he had the lowest involvement in the crime.
This case, while likely one of the worst cases of sexual abuse in the country, hardly comes as a shock. A 2021 analysis by The Kontinentalist showed that sexual violence in Singapore is a “crisis
.” Between 2017 and 2020, for instance, there were more than 9,000 victims, mostly young and below 20 years of age.
As in the wife-rape case, most of the perpetrators were men, most victims were women, and most assaults happened at home.
Despite the prevalence and gravity of sexual assault in the country, law enforcement appears to have taken a lax approach. In total, only some 8 percent
of perpetrators are convicted.
In contrast, Singapore has employed an especially strict and unforgiving approach to arguably less severe crimes, particularly as regards illicit drugs. Earlier this month, the Southeast Asian nation sent a convicted drug mule to the gallows
, despite him only being an accessory to the smuggling, and had not even come into direct contact with the drugs.
This tight grip on illicit substances, however, appears to not extend to their role in sexual violence – Singapore does not “track the use of alcohol, drugs, or the prevalence of diagnosis of psychiatric conditions,” in relation to sexual offenses, Shanmugam Kasiviswanathan, Minister for Home Affairs, said in a 2021 statement
With such lax and inconsistent safeguards, how can women, alongside children and other vulnerable populations, feel safe in an otherwise ultra-modern city?