Halimah Yacob is calling for more to be done to protect young girls from paedophiles beyond Singapore's legal framework.
The president situated her Sep. 14 Facebook post within the context of recent cases of convicted paedophiles in Singapore, as well as the parliament's decision to increase the jail terms for sexual offences.
Halimah listed three cases where the perpetrators were convicted in 2021 alone:
- A father who raped his daughter since she was seven years old
- A step-grandfather who raped his step-granddaughter since she was nine
- A paedophile who raped a 15-year-old schoolgirl
She pointed out that in the first two cases, the perpetrators had groomed their targets by showing them pornographic materials.
However, the acts only came to light when the rapes were reported, often after intervention from a third party.
Therefore, the president put forth that these cases as possibly "just the tip of the iceberg", which is why more should be done to protect young girls.
"I’m aware that there are some programmes that are in place but I’m not sure how effective these are especially when sexual predation takes place within the home," she added.
For instance, a paedophile might employ tools of fear, shame, intimidation, and familial ties to ensnare and manipulate their victims.
Furthermore, while they walk free after serving his term, the child will remain "trapped for a long time in pain and agony" from psychological trauma that may last a lifetime.
"Little girls need to know that it’s safe and alright for them to talk to someone about adult behaviours that they are uncomfortable with, and where to get help. They also need to know what are the red lines or behaviours that are unacceptable whatever the circumstances. [...] We can do more to protect our children from sexual predators."
Serious sex offenders should be caned regardless of their age: Murali Pillai
In parliament on Sep. 13, Bukit Batok Member of Parliament (MP) Murali Pillai canvassed for offenders over 50 to be eligible for caning as well.
Singapore currently does not cane convicted persons who are over 50 years old, even if the law lists caning as one of its penalties.
Instead, the court can impose an additional prison term of up to 12 months, if there is a need to.
Murali argued that in keeping with the aims of the bill to protect women, children, and vulnerable persons from sexual predators, there "should not be an age limit to caning as punishment".
"Instead, we should look to whether the person is medically fit to be caned. If it is found to be so, it should be no impediment," he said.
Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam responded to Murali's concerns, but reiterated that "there is no reason to raise the age limit [for caning]".
Shanmugam said: "The number of men over the age of 50 arrested for serious offences that attract caning are significantly lower, compared to men under the age of 50."
Top image via Bill Oxford/Unsplash, Halimah Yacob's Facebook page