SINGAPORE - She was sitting with her friends at Sentosa's Siloso Beach, anticipating a relaxing Saturday by the sea.
The group of nine young girls had put on their bikinis and spread their towels by the beach, enjoying the afternoon sun as families whizzed by on bicycles and gathered around picnic mats.
But these girls, aged between 16 and 18, soon became the centre of unwanted attraction.
Crystal (not her real name) said they soon caught the attention of a group of men, who appeared to be South Asians.
She said these men had already gathered at the beach when they arrived.
But after the girls changed into their bikinis at around 1.30pm, Crystal said the men came closer, took out their mobile phones and starting snapping pictures of them in their bikinis.
"It was a bizarre situation to be in and, to be honest, all of us were very frightened when it happened," said the 18-year-old, who is a student at an international school.
"I felt really disappointed really, we just wanted to enjoy the holiday," she told The New Paper of the incident that happened last Saturday, the second day of the Chinese New Year.
The frightening experience also left her wondering: Should such voyeurism be condoned, especially when it is done so blatantly? Crystal said the group did the best they could to drive the men away.
One of her friends even angrily told them to stop taking pictures.
But they were ignored and the men kept on snapping.
She said: "It was the first time such an incident had happened, we've all been to Sentosa.
"We told them to stop taking pictures, but they didn't.
"Even though they didn't try to talk to us or get in our way, we felt very violated, especially with the knowledge that our pictures are now in some stranger's phones."
Some of the other people on the beach approached them to ask if everything was okay, she added.
And "minutes" after the men started taking pictures, Crystal said Sentosa's beach patrol officers (BPO) came over to help defuse the situation.
When contacted, a spokesman for Sentosa Leisure Group confirmed the incident.
The spokesman said that while on patrol at around 1.30pm, their officers had noticed the men taking pictures of the girls.
The BPOs activated its rangers and auxiliary policemen to disperse the crowd.
Crystal said one of the BPOs hoisted a megaphone and told the men to move away and to cease taking pictures.
They ignored him, until the police officers arrived.
"Some walked away after that, but many still hung around, staring at us," said Crystal.
"Eventually, the policemen came to us and advised us to move to another location," she added.
The whole unpleasant episode lasted just an hour.
By 2pm, the girls packed up and left for their friend's home at Sentosa Cove, said Crystal.
"It did not matter who they were, I just feel that it was a violation of privacy. We were at a public place and didn't do anything out of the ordinary," she added.
Crystal's parents were outraged by the incident.
The girl's father, a 52-year-old photographer, told TNP: "I can see my daughter is still traumatised by that incident and that still upsets me.
"They are just kids. Besides, being in a swimsuit by the beach is nothing out of the ordinary."
I can only imagine how upset they must have felt
I remember an incident on the train when I was still a student.
Clutching the handrail tightly, I was nodding off from a long day in school, until the unmistakable shutter sound of a smartphone camera roused me from my sleep.
When I turned in the direction of the sound, all I saw was a middle-aged man hurriedly putting his mobile phone, with its camera previously aimed at me, away.
Close to a decade has passed, but I am still perturbed by that man's intentions in taking that photo.
So I can only imagine how upset the young bikini-clad girls must have felt when they found themselves the centre of attention of a group of trigger-happy men.
Some netizens wondered if the girls would have reacted differently if it was a different group of men.
It does not matter who they are or where they are from.
The bigger picture is where one's voyeurism could lead to, especially in an age where uploading content online is just a few easy clicks away.
One of the girls' mother said she was shocked and called it a "harassment".
You cannot fault her reaction, given the proliferation of social media in our lives.
We have seen websites and forum threads filled with voyeuristic photos of schoolgirls ranging from casual ones of them sitting at bus stops, to upskirt ones.
The New Paper reported one such website in October 2012.
As if that is not disturbing enough, these photos are accompanied by netizens' often lewd comments.
Some argue that women should dress appropriately to avoid being caught in such a situation.
Others blame the lack of privacy laws in Singapore, which allows one to get away with photographing people without their consent in public places.
This is in contrast to countries like France, where one could be taken to court for doing the same.
Yes, women can do their part by wearing less provocative clothes.
But that alone will never be a good enough reason to justify snapping pictures of them, and, worse, circulating them on the Internet.
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