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Is it sexual grooming?

The law targets sexual predators who prey on underage girls with the intention of having sex with them. -TNP
Linette Heng

Fri, Feb 08, 2013
The New Paper

SINGAPORE - Is Linda, a 15-year-old aspiring model, a victim of sexual grooming?

The law, which came into effect in 2008, targets sexual predators, aged 21 and above, who prey on underage girls with the intention of having sex with them.

Offenders can be jailed up to three years and fined.

Lawyers said this was not a case of sexual grooming as the photographer did not meet Linda.

And if they had met, there must be proof that he met her with the intention to commit an offence, for instance, outrage of modesty. But the photographer could still have committed a crime.

Lawyer Gloria James, from Gloria James-Civetta & Co, said: "He clearly committed an offence for insulting the modesty of a woman by word or gesture.

"As she's a young person who is above 14 years old and below 16 years old, he also committed an offence under Section 7 of the Children and Young Persons Act, which is the sexual exploitation of a child or young person."

Criminal lawyer Foo Cheow Ming thinks that the definition of sexual grooming is highly complex.

Only six cases of sexual grooming have been reported in the last three years, reported The Straits Times last year.

Confusion

Mr Foo said: "It becomes difficult for anyone to tell when does 'chatting up and dating' cross the line and become an offence.

"The confusion is compounded when so many people mislead others online about their true age."

Aspiring young models like Linda could also face problems.

Ms Sheena Jebal, a counsellor psychologist at Nulife Care and Counselling Services, had a case involving a 16-year-old aspiring model who neglected her studies and was nearly taken advantage of by talent scouts.

"She was so excited and taken in by the prospect of being a model. They gave her empty promises. Some of them just wanted to bed her or flaunt her as a girlfriend.

"In the end, she didn't continue with her Nlevels and couldn't afford a private school. She didn't become a model either. "

Ms Sheena, who has 19 years of experience in dealing with young people, said it often takes "two hands to clap" in such situations.


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