Sexual crimes remain under radar in S'pore

Sexual crimes remain under radar in S'pore

LAST Friday, an unemployed 24-year-old was sentenced to jail for impregnating two teenage girls. The same day, a 38-year-old army officer was also sentenced for sex with an underage prostitute.

In recent weeks, a religious teacher, a recently released convict and a national serviceman were also sentenced - all for raping or sexually assaulting women and teenage girls.

These crimes did not make international headlines. They were all done by someone known to the victims.

As Singapore marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women today, it is timely to ponder how common, really, are sexual crimes here?

After a steady rise in the middle of the past decade, reported rape cases here have fallen in recent years - from 202 in 2009 to 132 last year. Meanwhile, outrage of modesty cases here - mainly molest cases - has risen from 1,273 to 1,420.

Data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which compiles yearly statistics on the issue, show that there were 1,546 crimes involving sexual violence reported to the police here in 2011, the latest year for which global statistics are available.

Rather than report only rape, the UN figures include less serious sexual offences, since these too can cause deep psychological scars. In some cases - like that of a teenage Institute of Technical Education student who jumped to her death after complaining of being molested by her lecturer - they can even trigger tragedy.

Significantly, the UN figures from Singapore do not include data on crimes such as sexual assault, attempted rape and sex with minors - all routinely reported by developed countries. Had these been publicly available, Singapore's overall sex crime rates could be higher.

Interestingly, international statistics show that largely peaceful, developed countries have far higher rates of reporting sexual violence than developing nations with well-documented histories of violence, war and strife.

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