Definition of rape to include female perpetrators & male victims under Criminal Law Reform Bill
The present law only allows for women to be victims because of how rape is defined under the Penal Code.
The definition of rape will be expanded by the Singapore government to include instances of sexual assault by women against men, and men against men.
In a joint press release by the Ministries of Home Affairs and Law on Feb. 11, the government announced that it would:
“expand the definition of rape to include both non-consensual penile-anal and penile-oral penetration.”
The expansion of the offence’s definition comes as part of the Criminal Law Reform Bill, which introduces amendments to the Penal Code so that it remains relevant and up to date.
The Bill is based on reviews conducted by the Penal Code Review Committee (PCRC), which gave recommendations aimed at enhancing protection for vulnerable victims and tackling emerging crime trends, among others.
How is rape currently defined?
At present, rape is defined under Section 375 as the penetration of a woman’s vagina with a man’s penis, without her consent.
This means that only a woman can be considered a rape victim.
In instances where a woman forces a man to penetrate her vagina with his body parts, the PCRC noted that it was covered under Section 376(2), as sexual assault by penetration, and excluded the man’s penis.
In both situations, the maximum punishment prescribed is the same, with an imprisonment term of up to 20 years, along with caning or a fine.
However, in instances where a male, aged 16 and above, is forced to penetrate woman’s vagina, mouth or anus with his penis, the PCRC highlighted that it is likely the case will end up being prosecuted under Section 354 — Outrage of Modesty — instead, where:
“Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any person, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage the modesty of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years, or with fine, or with caning, or with any combination of such punishments.”
Expanding the definition of rape for better protection of male victims
Where the rapist is female
The PCRC stated that, in principle:
“a woman who violates a man’s sexual autonomy by forcing the man to penetrate her vagina, anus, or mouth with his penis, as the case may be, is guilty of sexual assault.”
What’s more, it did not see why the potential scenario of an adult male being forced to penetrate a woman unwillingly with his penis should not be covered by the Penal Code.
Where the rapist is male
In the case of a male who is raped by another male, the PCRC proposed that the definition of rape also be expanded to include non-consensual penile penetration of the anus.
The PCRC added that the basis for this was because:
“forced penile-anal penetration, which, like penile penetration of the vagina, carries with it the dangers of forced transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.”
It also highlighted that in jurisdictions that have expanded the scope of rape, no reason was found as to why male or female victims of forced penile penetration should be treated differently.
Revising Section 376(2) to cover both instances
As such, the PCRC proposed that to cover both instances of rape, Section 376(2) be revised to state the following:
“Any person (A) who —
(a) sexually penetrates, with a part of A’s body (other than A’s penis, if a man) or anything else, the vagina or anus, as the case may be, of another person (B);
(b) causes a man (B) to penetrate, with B’s penis, the vagina, anus or mouth, as the case may be, of another person including A; or
(c) causes another person (B), to sexually penetrate, with a part of B’s body (other than B’s penis, if a man) or anything else, the vagina or anus, as the case may be,
of any person including A or B,
shall be guilty of an offence if B did not consent to the penetration or if B is under 14 years of age, whether B did or did not consent to the penetration.”
The PCRC also proposed that the title of Section 376 be changed from “Sexual assault by penetration” to “Sexual assault involving penetration”, given that in an instance of a female rapist, the assault would not be by penetration.
The government has since accepted all of the PCRC’s recommendations.
Additionally, the press release highlighted that the government has also accepted feedback from the social sector to have non-consensual penile-oral penetration covered as well.
Top image from Alessio Gaggioli Facebook