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Singapore President Halimah Yacob’s decision to review the law exempting older sex predators from caning has generated a lot of buzz online recently.

Yacob yesterday spoke up about how she thinks that rapists aged 50 and above should not be spared from caning and called for a review of the law following a recent spate of sexual assault cases involving children. 

“It’s timely that we review this law. It’s our duty to protect our young and we must not fail them,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

This came after MP Murali Pillai suggested in Parliament last September that the age limit for caning be raised. Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam rejected the idea, saying that there is a “significantly lower” number of men over 50 years old who are arrested for the sorts of serious offenses that are punished with caning.

Under Singapore’s Penal Code, a convicted rapist can be jailed for up to 20 years and fined or caned, except for those above 50 years old, who can be sentenced to a longer jail term instead.

There have been a number of high-profile cases of sexual abuse involving older men preying upon children recently. Yesterday, a 68-year-old bus driver pleaded guilty to molesting children, including an autistic boy and abused children, since 2006. A 54-year-old man was sentenced last Thursday to just over four years in jail without caning for molesting his daughter repeatedly since she was 10 years old.

In the president’s post, she wrote that while there are punishments already put in place for sexual predators, it is still insufficient as more needs to be done to prevent children from becoming victims of rape at home.

“I worry that there could be many more unreported cases. I can’t even begin to imagine how much pain and damage these young victims had to suffer,” she wrote. 

She said that it’s “ironic” that rapists who are 50 years and above could escape from being caned when they have inflicted a lifetime’s worth of trauma on their victims. She noted that there have been cases where the abuse was only reported after the predator turns 50, even when it took place much earlier.

Yacob also laid out the patterns she noticed in such cases. The victims are usually groomed from a young age by predators who are their fathers, stepfathers or male relatives so they think that such behavior is normal. The victims only find out that it is not when they grow up and are exposed to sex ed classes.

Even so, the victims might still be “reluctant” to bring it up to avoid causing rifts in their family or because they are threatened to keep silent.

Agreed! But how about…

Many of the comments on Yacob’s post agreed that there should be heavier punishments for all sexual abusers, regardless of age.

“Should just be caned regardless of age, why bothered to even consider the penetrator’s age when they don’t even care about how young and vulnerable is the victim at the point of trauma caused?!” Poh Peh wrote.

Some suggested alternatives to caning such as introducing chemical castration, which is the use of chemicals or drugs to reduce libido and sexual activity.

“They are not deterred by jail it seems so castration will be a better [deterrent],” Min Zheng wrote.

Then there were suggestions arguing for full-on emasculation and even the death penalty for severe cases.

“Some of their deeds destroyed lives.. the victims may not be murdered but their lives [are as] good as destroyed or worse than death,” wrote Jeffrey Poh, who suggested the death penalty.

Another suggested starting sex ed classes in schools earlier so children could learn to pick up on red flags sooner.

“Maybe the sex education can start earlier in their school journey because kids nowadays are smart & pick up faster, so maybe we can start when they are 3-4 years using dolls,” Fauziah Hanim Akdogan wrote.

Some also raised the question of why female sex offenders of all ages are spared the cane.

“Women rapists should also be caned. Why spare them at all? Rapists are rapists,” User Jypt98 wrote.

Last March, a 45-year-old housewife was sentenced to only a year in jail for raping her daughter’s underage male schoolmate, who is intellectually disabled.

AWARE: Caning ‘normalizes violence’

But not everybody agreed with Yacob’s proposal.

In a statement released today, Women’s rights group AWARE explained why they disagreed with Yacob’s views and the entire concept of caning, arguing that punishing criminals using violence only leads to more violent acts and toxic masculinity by attempting to establish authority through “physical domination.”

“We are opposed to corporal punishment, both generally and as a response to acts of violence in particular. […] Instead of reducing the culture of violence, corporal punishment normalises violence, furthers its cycle and plays into sexist ideas that correlate masculinity with physical strength,” it wrote.

The group cited an October survey by Singapore Children’s Society and Yale-NUS which found caning children at home to be “ineffective but detrimental” to their relationship with their parents. Supporting the use of caning would influence and worsen “domestic life,” they said.

If you or someone you know needs help dealing with domestic abuse, you can contact Pave, an integrated service for family violence and child protection, at 65550390.

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President Halimah Yacob proposes that old rapists should get caned, public suggests harsher alternatives | Coconuts

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