Situation in Singapore
Prostitution per se is NOT illegal in Singapore.
In February 2009, ex Senior Minister of State Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee said that,
As members are aware, prostitution is not an offence in Singapore. We recognize that it is not possible to eradicate it and forcing it underground will lead to the greater likelihood of involvement by triads and organized crime, the trafficking of women, and public health risks.
However, prostitution-related activities are criminalised. This includes:
- Soliciting in a public place for the purpose of prostitution (Misc Offences Act, Art.19)
- Pimping or living on the earnings of a prostitute (Women’s Charter, Art.146)
- Owning a brothel (Women’s Charter, Art.148)
- Migrant Sex Workers or “prohibited immigrants” (Immigration Act, Art.8(3)(e)(f))
- Public obscenity (Penal Code, Section 294)
- Gross indecency or homosexual sex (Penal Code, Section 377A)
In practice, police unofficially tolerates and monitors a limited number of brothels (special licenses are issued by the Anti-Vice Police). Sex workers in such establishments are required to undergo monthly health checks and are given a yellow card (the “license”). The State does not publicly acknowledge this, however, through our investigative work, we managed to uncover some of the criteria for application for the yellow card:
- You have to be between 21 to 35 years of age
- You cannot be Malay or Muslim
- You cannot be Male on your identification card (this includes pre-operative transgender persons)
- Members of the public–especially young boys and girls often come in packs in order to verbally assault and humiliate sex workers.
- Cases of outrage of modesty have been documented–where random strangers molest sex workers and then run away.
- Rape and robbery cases have also been documented
- Many customers often request for unsafe sex, some even resorting to violence to ensure that. In an instance, they may initially agree to condom use, but during the service, they will hold down a sex worker and remove the condom.
- Customers do not respect the boundaries of sex workers as well as the terms agreed upon. This leads to sexual assault and rape.
- Customers have also been recorded to hurl vulgarities and insults at sex workers.
It’s almost like when the police step into a red light district, they acquire an added sense of power, and they behave in ways that they would never behave when faced with a non-sex worker. – Illegal sex worker
- Police officers often check the bags of sex workers, and use the possession of condoms against them. This may simply be a threat or intimidation, or they may even charge a sex worker because of condom possession.
- Police officers have been known to destroy condoms and lubricants found in sex workers’ possession.
- They may pretend to be customers in order to apprehend sex workers in a practice known as entrapment.
- They resort to violence on occasion–it is well known in Geylang that police officers love to pull sex workers’ hair.