There is no doubt that Singapore is a safe country.
After all these years of death penalty for drugs, death penalty for firearms and death penalty for kidnapping, I have peace of mind enough to go home in the middle of the night or go for a 10pm run alone and never would I worry about my physical safety to want to bring along a bottle of pepper spray as a mode of self-defence.
However, as many girls and women in Singapore can attest, there is the obviously unlawful behaviour that no one ought to be subjected to ever — and then there is the lawful but socially not okay behaviour that those with XX chromosomes have to put up with.
In other words, being on the receiving end of creepy behaviour is more the norm than an aberration.
Ask your sister, cousin or female friend
News flash: Girls and women in Singapore are subjected to creepy behaviour.
Related article: Man filmed filming woman sitting opposite him on North East Line MRT
The reality is this: Ask a sister, a female colleague or your wife and girlfriend, and they can attest to being creeped on in public before and left feeling more than borderline uncomfortable as a result of the experience.
Uncomfortable enough to still remember the experience, because no, it is not flattering and never an open invitation to be approached.
You name it: Being followed, being watched, being inappropriately propositioned or having their photograph or video taken without permission, girls as young as those in their tweens have been on the receiving end of unwelcome attention.
Why? It’s really just being at the wrong place at the wrong time — and the need for some people to learn social graces.
What is creepy behaviour?
Yes, we understand: Singapore is a crowded place, people brush up against other people all the time unintentionally. Some people are obviously just trying to be friendly, and not everything is about making a pass at someone else.
But what plenty of girls and women have experienced is beyond the realm of simple intrusion of personal space or an attempt to make small talk about the weather.
The following examples related below stems from experiences girls and women have experienced in Singapore that are uncomfortable enough for other girls and women to commiserate with.
Because they aren’t the first time these things have happened.
And if, for whatever reason, you really have to interact with a stranger, a fellow commuter on the public transport or someone you come up against on the street, in the food court or at the mall, whatever, just keep it classy and keep it socially acceptable.
It never hurt to leave a better impression.
Here are some examples that have been less than savoury and you can judge for yourselves if they fall under the realm of normal:
“I was in the second last row of a relatively empty bus. A male, in his late teens, boarded and sat right behind me, in the last row.
At the stop right before the expressway, the few other commuters that were scattered around the bus alighted. That was when he came and sat beside me instead.
We were the only passengers left on the bus. As we entered the expressway, he took out a packet of Ribena pastilles and offered it to me, touching my arm as he did so. I withdrew my arm, rejected his offer, and looked out of the window.
I did not dare to move, because that would mean potentially brushing past him. He continued to offer me the pastilles even after repeated rejections.
When it was finally my stop, I managed to alight without coming into physical contact with him. He did not follow me.”
Man with clipboard:
“I was walking home from the bus stop, in the middle of the day. A man in his late 20s approached me while holding a clipboard. My estate is considered non-mature, and had no one around at that time.
He asked if I could help with a survey. I agreed since I had time to spare. He gestured towards the multi-storey car park, and told me to follow him so I could take the survey there. He told me it would be cooler in there, since it was out of the sun.
I refused to follow him. He did not insist.”
“I was on the train. A man came up to where I was seated (right next to the train doors) and spoke to me. Assuming he was asking for directions, I took out my earpieces.
He bent down and repeated himself: “Could you spend the night with me?”
Shocked, I said no, and proceeded to hide my face behind my hair (useful). He thanked me and alighted at the next stop.”
Stop and stare:
“I was standing on the train, near the doors. There was a middle-aged man in the middle of the cabin, and he kept staring at me. Not darting glances, and not periodical stares, either. They were obtrusive, intense stares that didn’t stop even when I glared at him.
I thought he was a distant relative at first, but decided that didn’t make sense. I switched positions to stand at the set of doors behind him. He turned around and continued staring.
I changed cabins. He didn’t follow.”
“I was walking along a relatively wide walkway when I felt someone bump — full on — into me. I turned around to see a young boy of about 15, holding a basketball. He apologised and ran on.
Around the same time the following week, I found myself at the same place. Someone bumped into me again. It was the same full on contact — like how you would expect someone you knew intimately to greet you.
I turned around to see the same boy rushing along, still holding a basketball. He abruptly asked me for the time. I got suspicious, so I glared at him and told him this was the second time he had bumped into me.
He said a hasty sorry and moved on. But strangely enough, he made a u-turn after running a short distance — which meant he wasn’t rushing anywhere in particular in the first place, which gave him no excuse to “bump” into me along a walk way that was neither narrow nor crowded.
The path he took after the u-turn was about half as narrow and had an old man walking along it, but young boy managed not to bump into him. At all.”
The secret recorder:
“I was at the gym doing some stretching, when this guy stepped into the area, stood facing me, and started on his stretching routine. At that point of time, I didn’t think anything of it as it’s quite normal for gym members to share the stretching space since it’s quite small.
So I continued with my routine, using the mirror to guide my movements when I noticed that the guy (his back was facing the mirror) was filming me with his phone. I could see everything clearly through the mirror. I even had to do a double take because I couldn’t believe he actually had the guts to do it in such a public space.
Of course, I felt really creeped out so I got up and moved away. I didn’t report him partially because I was too shocked and partially because I was afraid.”
Here’s an article you should check out:
Cover photo was posed and taken with consent specifically for this article.