Is law effective?

Is law effective?

SINGAPORE - If you are planning to have sex with a prostitute, you may want to take one more step before you do so - ask for her identity card to check her identity and age.

If there's even the slightest doubt, it is better not to indulge, lawyers said.

With more than 100 men charged and some jailed for having sex with underage prostitutes, the cases should serve as reminders to others to be careful when they seek illicit sex.

While prostitution is not illegal in Singapore, a 2008 amendment made having commercial sex with a minor below the age of 18 an offence that carries a jail term of up to seven years, a fine or both.

Then Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs, Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee, had told Parliament then that young people, because they were immature and vulnerable, could be exploited and should be protected from providing sexual services.

Has the law been effective so far?

Awareness

Mr Alfred Dodwell, a lawyer of 17 years, said that media publicity over the underage sex cases would have created awareness among the public.

He said: "A lot of people who were caught were ignorant and many did not know the girl was underage because the pimp said she was of age.

"But now, (with the publicity) people have no excuse. Now, they can't say they are ignorant of the law."

Mr Dodwell, who is representing a client with a similar offence, said the onus is on the clients to ensure they have not been deceived.

He said: "Even though you have been deceived, you are still liable. She's a young girl - you cannot say that she has deceived you because you are the older man."

The law was passed then to protect women and to deter human trafficking.

Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Law and Home Affairs Hri Kumar Nair said the issue of sex with underage prostitutes was a concern that needed to be addressed with a multi-pronged approach.

He said: "By making underage prostitution illegal, we target the market.

"If the law deters people from paying for sex with underage prostitutes, there will be less incentive for pimps and traffickers to force or entice young girls into the trade."

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