Underage prostitute deemed as victim in eyes of law

48 men have been charged for having paid sex with an underage prostitute. The identity of the girl has not been revealed in the media. It is also unclear whether she will face charges in court.

S Radakrishnan, joint managing director of Bernard & Rada Law Corp, in an interview with RazorTV, said he thinks that the girl would not be charged as prostitution in Singapore is not an offence per se.

But under the Children and Young Persons Act, the director of social welfare has certain powers and can order the girl to be moved to a "place of safety", Mr Radakrishnan said. A place of safety is a home that is run by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

"The girl's parents can also arrange for her to be moved to a place of safety," the senior lawyer added.

"In that sense, it would be a punishment for her as she would be sent there for training and perhaps rehabilitation."

But these powers are not easily enforced and the director has to invoke these powers.

The court has imposed a gag order on the girl's identity. It is an offence to republish any photo that may lead to the identification of the underage prostitute. For disobeying a gag order by the court, the offender can be jailed for up to a year and fined a maximum of $5,000.

According to a Straits Times report, Senior District Judge See Kee Oon in sentencing former school principal Lee Lip Hong, 39, said that the law regards the underage prostitute as the victim because she is underage and therefore deemed as incapable of having the capacity for mature judgement and discernment of an adult.

The judged said in his grounds of decision: "What the victim had done may be considered immoral by certain standards. However, this must be weighed against the morality of those whose demand for such services makes this a lucrative trade."

Lee was sentenced to a minimum nine-week jail term.

Section 376B of the Penal Code states that it is illegal to have paid sex with anyone under the age of 18. Anyone who does so may be jailed for up to seven years, fined up to $10,000, or both.

tonyng@sph.com.sg

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