Time to tame the beast

SINGAPORE - If you are a bully, a stalker or a harasser, watch out.

A new Protection from Harassment Bill will be introduced in Parliament on Monday to protect victims of harassment.

A spate of harassment and stalking cases prompted the Law Ministry to begin drafting the bill 12 months ago, said its permanent secretary, Dr Beh Swan Gin.

Here are some of the effects of the new bill* on harassment cases:

STALKING

WHAT'S NEW?

With the new bill, a range of stalker-like behaviour has been identified. One can be considered a stalker if such actions cause harassment, alarm or distress to the victim.

Victims may apply to the Court for Protection Orders, requiring the stalker to stop his or her actions.

The law also applies to cases where either the stalker or victim are overseas, but the other party is in Singapore.

If the harasser does not comply with the Protection Order, he or she may face a fine and/or a jail term.

WHAT WILL THE CHANGES MEAN?

Currently, only stalkers who "cross the line" by means of criminal force or intimidation, for example, can be punished by the law.

CYBER-BULLYING

WHAT'S NEW?

If a victim can prove that there are "false facts" alleged against him online, the court can direct the harasser or website owner to notify other readers (in the form of hyperlinks, for example) that those facts are false.

If the conduct is deemed to be harassment, the court can give a Protection Order requiring the harasser or website owner to remove the offending material (including websites hosted overseas).

If the harasser does not comply with the Protection Order, he or she is may face a fine and/or a jail term.

WHAT WILL THE CHANGES MEAN?

Foreign websites have to comply with the Protection Order and take down offending material if ordered to by the court.

People who re-post the offending material on other websites can also be ordered to take them down.

People who post under the guise of anonymity can still be identified by their user name, and will also have to comply with the Protection Order.

SCHOOL BULLYING

WHAT'S NEW?

Victims may apply to the court for Protection Orders requiring bullies to stop doing anything which may cause further harm.

If the bully does not comply with the Protection Order, a fine and/or a jail term may result.

WHAT WILL THE CHANGES MEAN?

An investigation can be carried out by the police into school bullying cases if a report has been made.

Not all school bullying cases will end up as a criminal case. There are several self-help and civil remedies that victims can employ to protect themselves.

A child under 16 can be charged with harassment at the Juvenile Court.

The court can impose community orders, such as community service orders and community work orders, on the bully, instead of a jail term.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE

WHAT'S NEW?

Victims may apply to the court for Protection Orders requiring harassers to stop doing anything which can be construed to be sexual harassment.

If the harasser does not comply with the Protection Order, he or she may face a fine and/or a jail term.

Companies are not legally bound to ensure that sexual harassment does not happen in the workplace, but they are expected to have a code of conduct for their employees.

WHAT WILL THE CHANGES MEAN?

Inappropriate work behaviour can be considered as harassment. For example, an office admirer who sends you flowers daily can be regarded as a harasser if he or she makes you feel uncomfortable.

A victim can potentially sue a co-worker for sexual harassment.

ngjunsen@sph.com.sg

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