The Annis Abdullah case galvanised a movement to repeal Singapore's original Section 377 of the Penal Code.
In November 2003, then 27 year-old Police Coast Guard sergeant Annis Abdullah went out on a date with a 16 year-old girl whom he got to know through an Internet chat room in March 2002. On Tuesday, 23 April 2002, she met him at the Jurong Entertainment Centre and he drove her to Chinese Garden Road where they engaged in heavy petting in the car. When he asked if she wanted to have sexual intercourse, she declined but agreed to give him a blowjob. This left him satisfied.
A week later, she reported to the police that she had performed fellatio on him. Although it was consensual, he was charged under the former Section 377 which criminalised "carnal intercourse against the order of nature", taken to mean oral and anal sex. In November 2003, Annis was found guilty and sentenced to 2 years' jail.
In response to the public outcry, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that it would be reviewing this aspect of the law. In January 2004, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Ho Peng Kee reiterated in Parliament that the decriminalisation of oral sex was under review, but only for heterosexuals.
- 1 Newspaper reports
- 1.1 Straits Times, 7 November 2003
- 1.2 Straits Times, 8 November 2003
- 1.3 Letter to Straits Times, 8 November 2003
- 1.4 Letter to Straits Times, 8 November 2003
- 1.5 Straits Times, 10 November 2003
- 1.6 Letter to TODAY newspaper, 11 November 2003
- 1.7 Letter to TODAY newspaper, 12 November 2003
- 1.8 Letter to Straits Times, 13 November 2003
- 1.9 Letter to the Straits Times, 13 November 2003
- 1.10 Letter to the Straits Times, 13 November 2003
- 1.11 Straits Times, 15 November 2003
- 1.12 Letter to Straits Times, 15 November 2003
- 2 See also
- 3 References
Straits Times, 7 November 2003
Cop jailed, career over because of oral sex
A police sergeant has been jailed for two years and faces the sack after he was found guilty of having oral sex with a 16-year-old.
She was above the age of consent and agreed to perform the act, but Annis Abdullah, 27, of the Police Coast Guard, landed in court because oral sex is against the law.
The girl made a police report after the incident.
The court heard that they got to know each other through an Internet chatroom in March last year, met and kept in touch. On April 23 last year, she met him at the Jurong Entertainment Centre and he drove her to Chinese Garden Road where they engaged in heavy petting in the car. When he asked if she wanted to have sex, she said no. She agreed to perform oral sex on him, but a week later she made a police report.
Lawyer Ismail Hamid pleaded for leniency, saying Annis did not force the teenager to perform oral sex. He was a first-time offender, the sole breadwinner for his family and engaged to be married.
But Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Wee Soon told the court earlier that as a law enforcer, Annis should have known better than to 'engage in carnal intercourse against the order of nature' with the girl.
District judge Wong Keen Onn agreed, and jailed him for two years yesterday.
He told Annis that as a serving police officer, he should have known what was right and wrong and his behaviour ought to have been exemplary.
A police spokesman said last night: 'We have no place for ill- disciplined officers. We are taking disciplinary action with the view to terminating the services of the errant officer.'
Lawyers contacted yesterday said it was not common for cases of consensual oral sex to land up in court. But veteran criminal lawyer Subhas Anandan explained: 'The act by itself is an offence. It is not a question of consent or no consent. Even between consenting people, it is an offence.'
Technically, he said, a woman who performs the act can also be charged with helping to commit a crime, but he was not aware of any such case.
Criminal lawyer Sarbrinder Singh said: 'Cases of oral sex being brought to court are not common, simply because the nature of the act is such that it is almost always consensual.'
The maximum punishment for the offence is life imprisonment.
Straits Times, 8 November 2003
Oral sex ruling vexes many
Law unrealistic, say some. It's part of intimacy, notes expert. Case for changing law, say lawyers
By Tanya Fong And Glenys Sim
The issue of whether oral sex should still be a crime has not been this hotly debated in public since 1997. That case concerned a 47-year-old man whose 19-year-old colleague performed oral sex on him in a hotel in Geylang in 1996. He was acquitted, but the case went back to court when the prosecution appealed. Finally, in 1997, he was acquitted by then Judicial Commissioner Amarjeet Singh.
Yesterday's report about a policeman jailed for having oral sex with a willing teenager prompted many Straits Times readers to respond that the law was too unrealistic, and the punishment it prescribed too severe. Several of the 20 readers who e-mailed this newspaper said they were shocked that oral sex was still an offence under the Penal Code.
They were reacting to news that police sergeant Annis Abdullah, 27, was jailed on Thursday for two years for having oral sex with the 16-year-old girl and that he will probably lose his job as well. They had been acquainted for about a year, the court was told.
Section 377 states that 'whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animals' can be fined and jailed up to 10 years, or even for life.
Yesterday, the four sexual health experts that The Straits Times consulted said that oral sex was commonplace and should be decriminalised. At least 60 per cent of married couples engage in it, one estimated.
'Oral sex is part and parcel of intimacy and sex,' said Professor Li Man Kay, a urologist and sex therapist at Gleneagles Hospital.
Clinical psychologist Yam Keng Mun, executive director of the Centre for Effective Living, said: 'A lot of people see oral sex as a good substitute for intercourse. They perceive it as pretty safe, specially since the risk of pregnancy is avoided.'
The 11 lawyers The Straits Times spoke to said that the case for changing the law was stronger than ever before.
In England, where oral sex was once also outlawed, the law has been changed. Mr G.S. Dhillon, a solicitor who has been practising there for five years, said that as long as the female performing the oral sex is above 13, she is deemed to be able to give consent. So what Annis Abdullah did in Singapore would not be a crime in England.
In Singapore, oral sex is an offence whether there is consent or not. Mr Sarbrinder Singh, an experienced criminal lawyer, thinks the law should make a distinction, 'for example, when it is forced, as opposed to when it is consensual'.
Lawyer Gloria James, who has been in practice for seven years, said this 'archaic law' can pose legal problems. 'It can be used as a powerful psychological and legal weapon against a man, even when it's consensual,' she added.
What happened to Annis Abdullah is exactly what some of her male clients fear if their partners decide to punish them, she said.
That, said Mr Singh, was what happened to one of his clients. The man's wife performed oral sex on him and then reported him to the police, he said. 'She had used the law against her husband, because she wanted to get back at him for having an affair with another woman.'
When told that he could end up in jail, the man settled the matter by apologising to his wife and ending his womanising.
Lawyers said that Section 377 has become a catch-all provision to prosecute cases that do not qualify as rape, but are too grave to be prosecuted as an outrage of modesty. It also opens up other questions: When a man performs oral sex on a woman, is it the man or the woman who commits the offence?
Neither the Home Affairs Ministry nor the Law Society were able to respond by press time.
A former judge said: 'The law should be clearly expressed, and ambiguity like this should be obliterated. Logically, if it was consensual, it should not be an offence, unless the party who commits the act is underaged, or mentally impaired.’
Letter to Straits Times, 8 November 2003
I read with amusement and incredulity that oral sex is an offence that carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment As only murder and drug trafficking carry a higher penalty, oral sex must be a very serious offence indeed.
I suspect oral sex is quite rampant in Singapore, probably eclipsing the annual number of murder and drug-trafficking cases combined, so why is there no public-awareness campaign informing people about the 'dangers'?
In passing sentence, the judge noted that, as a police officer, the offender should know right from wrong. While all Singaporeans know that murder and drug trafficking are illegal and morally wrong, can we be sure that they are aware of the very serious penalties for those caught engaging in oral sex?
I suggest the authorities and Singaporeans ponder the following points:
If oral sex is unlawful even if it is consensual, why is it always the man who is penalised and not the woman? What is the justification for such a discrepancy?
If oral sex is such a serious offence, judging from the penalty, then this law should be more widely publicised and enforced. Closed-circuit TVs are installed in shops to prevent thefts; similarly, the police might consider increasing patrols in parks to catch offenders.
If the law is an archaic one, a legacy from the British Victorian era, and has no role in modern Singapore, should it not be repealed, just like any other law that has outlasted its social purpose?
The legal status of oral sex should be debated, especially in the context of the much-vaunted recent 'liberalisation' of Singapore's cultural scene.
If bar-top dancing, previously thought to be detrimental to public order, has been legalised, should not an ancient law proscribing an intimate act between two consenting adults, conducted in privacy, also be subject to review?
Both Singaporeans and foreigners often joke about Singapore being a 'fine' city, and its ban on chewing gum. Is the law against oral sex going to be the next butt of jokes?
FRANCIS LIM KHEK GEE
London, United Kingdom
Letter to Straits Times, 8 November 2003
Does anyone not realise how archaic the law against oral sex is? There is no reason why the law should interfere in anyone's sex life. By the teenager's own admission, the act was consensual.
Section 377 of the Penal Code originated from the Indian Penal Code during the administration of the British Colony of India in 1860. Those days are consigned to history. Britain itself repealed this Victorian law in 1967.
By definition, oral sex is sex and is thus natural. By enforcing the Act, the state has made criminals of the majority of adults with a sex life.
Furthermore, the punishment is not commensurate with the crime; how is life imprisonment or a jail term of up to 10 years fair for an act that has no real victim?
Crimes such as culpable homicide not amounting to murder, attempted murder and infanticide carry a similar penalty. Voluntarily causing grievous hurt carries a far lesser penalty.
I urge MPs to debate this in Parliament and repeal Section 377 of the Penal Code.
CHRISTOPHER LOW KIN SIONG
Straits Times, 10 November 2003
Oral sex law demeans the individual
Commentary by PAUL TAN BENG HWEE
THE successful prosecution of Annis Abdullah on Nov 6 should give us pause for worry as an indictment of what our criminal justice system is, and what our society has become.
If the girl in question was older, or was in fact Annis' wife, this case of oral sex would almost certainly not have seen the light of day.
What happened was a totally consensual act. The girl in question was clearly capable of saying no. The fact that the prosecution did not charge Annis with rape or molest is proof that there was no element of foul play.
One might also ask why the girl herself was not prosecuted, since she committed the act voluntarily.
By all accounts, Section 377 seems to have been invoked entirely because it was felt that a 27 year-old policeman 'should know better'.
No doubt the prosecution was within the technical bounds of the law. What is questionable is whether this law should remain on our statute books.
This law has its roots in medieval conceptions of morality, which hold that unnatural acts are non-procreational, and therefore immoral.
But this is a rationale that has been explicitly repudiated by our courts: The legalisation of both contraception and abortion is a clear sign that procreational sex is not a legitimate state interest - at least not to the extent of prohibiting non-procreational sex.
One might argue that Section 377 covers more than just fellatio; that it is necessary to protect against bestiality and anal intercourse. Assuming (but not conceding) that these are legitimate state interests, the law could be redrafted to specify what acts are 'against the order of nature'.
The best argument, though, for why the state should not interfere rests on a proper understanding of what liberty entails in a democratic and pluralistic society.
In the United States, the Supreme Court recently held that 'liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes certain intimate conduct'.
The question here is not whether fellatio is a right, as much as whether the privacy of intimate relationships should be subject to third-party interference as long as the relationship remains consensual.
To say that an individual may not choose how to express himself sexually within a relationship is to demean the inherent value of the individual.
As long as the state can regulate how individuals may go about their intimate lives in relation to one another, it remains paternalistic and censorial, and does not properly give credit to the individual to know what is best for himself.
Walk into any bookstore today and you will find shelves of self-help books on improving one's sexual performance. Many will deal with sexual positions and activities that may surprise even the most liberal and well-read.
Sex is expressive conduct. If one chooses to express affection for someone else in a particular way, away from the public eye, and in a relationship that harms no one, then that ought to be a fundamental and absolute right.
Yes, there may be sections of society that believe that non-procreational sex is offensive.
The question is, should criminal law be the right place for the state to impose one particular conception of morality?
A society that claims to be pluralistic has to recognise the reasonable expectations and rights of all.
Take abortion, for example. Whether or not foetal rights exist, or whether they are the mother's to trump, we leave these decisions to the individual, because no one else can make these decisions for her. It's not even a question of 'should'.
I am especially suspicious of arguments that resort to 'nature'; these have had an appalling history in justifying racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia, leading to the murder and torture of millions of people.
What is natural?
You might say that transplanting A's kidneys into B's body is unnatural. The fact that an act is or isn't natural is not a good reason to make it a criminal offence.
If this comment sounds vehement, it is meant to be.
It should outrage us, as Singaporeans, that something like this could happen in a self-proclaimed open, welcoming, cosmopolitan society that is on the path towards greater liberalisation.
(The writer is at the New York University School of Law on an exchange programme)
Letter to TODAY newspaper, 11 November 2003
I am amazed at the implications of Section 377 of the Penal Code on certain sexual behaviours.
Considering the severity of the penalties for crimes under Section 377, which include capital offences such as murder, it would seem logical that the framers of the Penal Code intended for an offender under that section, like a capital offender, to be hunted down and arrested.
After all, they deemed it necessary to impose lengthy incarcerations to protect other members of an "innocent" public.
But let's face reality. Statistics may not be available, but judging from the number of magazine articles and submissions from readers on the subject, a large number of people practice oral sex.
Sex manuals and other books that have been appearing on bookstore shelves recently have chapters covering it. If oral sex is illegal, I question why these magazines and books have not been banned and why the writers of articles on oral sex and the bookstore proprietors who sell sex manuals have not been jailed for aiding and abetting a crime.
Furthermore, I question why people who submit letters to publications confessing to having experienced oral sex or seeking advice on how to perform it are not arrested.
In supermarkets, I notice that strawberry-flavoured condoms have been selling and selling quite briskly. What is the purpose of such condoms if not to please the giver of oral sex? Should the sellers of strawberry-flavoured condoms be arrested for propagating an illegality?
Oral sex aside, I note that Section 377 would seem to apply to other acts which some might consider to be against "the order of nature". In the debut issue of the magazine Dare, there was an article about the growing popularity of anal sex in Singapore. According to the law, shouldn't the editor of the magazine or the author be subpoenaed to disclose the names of these practitioners so they can be arrested?
This country openly courts the region's gays for tourist purposes and openly recognises their existence when appointing them to Government positions.
I'm surprised the police haven't been deployed to arrest them. Clearly, many gays would be considered offenders under Section 377 of the Penal Code.
The authorities need to recognise how ridiculous it is not to modernise Section 377.
Boon Chin Aun
Letter to TODAY newspaper, 12 November 2003
I refer to the current debate over oral sex and some long-standing laws. The Straits Times article, "Oral sex ruling vexes many" (Nov 8), gives the impression that oral sex is an offence. This is misleading.
Section 377 of the Penal Code stipulates "Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animals, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to a fine.
"Explanation: Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary for the offence in this section".
The Court of Appeal had ruled in 1997 that "... when couples engaged in consensual sexual intercourse willingly indulged in fellatio and cunnilingus as a stimulant to their respective sexual urges, neither act could be considered to be against the order of nature and punishable under Section 377 of the Penal Code.
"In every other instance the act of fellatio between a man and a woman would be carnal intercourse against the order of nature and punishable under Section 377".
In other words, oral sex is not an offence if it forms part of foreplay leading to sexual intercourse. But oral sex on its own is an offence if it does not lead to sexual intercourse.
Interestingly enough, the Court of Appeal referred to a series of English and Indian cases dating back to 1817 in arriving at the decision that binds us all today. In those cases, the victims were young boys and a buffalo. The accused were charged and punished for putting their penises into the boys' mouths and the buffalo's nose.
If our courts have to deal with cases where young boys' mouths and buffaloes' noses are abused, I have little doubt that Section 377 will serve the authorities well.
But to use the same section on consenting heterosexual couples indulging in oral sex today? There have been numerous surveys suggesting that local women find Singapore men boring in bed. Perhaps local men are just law-abiding citizens.
The criminal justice system is obliged to uphold the law as it now stands in the form of Section 377.
But much has changed since 1817. If local magazines' survey results are an accurate indication of the modern Singaporean's lifestyle, every other person walking pass you maybe a criminal under Section 377.
Chia Boon Teck
Letter to Straits Times, 13 November 2003
I was shocked by the news of Annis Abdullah's conviction for having oral sex in private with a consenting adult. In my opinion, there is absolutely no basis for a law that makes oral sex illegal.
The existence of this absurd law cannot be justified. Firstly, there is the curious fact that oral sex is legal as long as there is vaginal penetration, but is illegal when performed by itself.
Is the law saying that while stealing drinks is illegal, we may steal them as long as we pay for the food? Crimes cannot be 'erased' by doing something legal afterwards.
The law against oral sex thus seems very strange. It does suggest that the only crucial difference between the two scenarios (oral sex with vaginal penetration, and without) is the possibility of conception.
On the basis of such a law, we must then conclude that any sexual act that does not lead to conception is considered illegal in the eyes of the law.
In that case, it could well be argued that masturbation is illegal, as are all methods of deriving sexual pleasure that would not culminate in the production of babies.
But it is legal to use a condom, with the sperm thrown into the garbage and all. So unless contraception is to be made illegal, it is untenable to outlaw oral sex on the basis that it cannot lead to conception.
Perhaps the law was wrong to hold that oral sex would be legal if performed along with vaginal penetration. If so, then the argument has to be along the lines of oral sex being 'unnatural'. But the judgment of what is unnatural hinges in large part on belief, and borders on superstition.
A rational system of law should rigorously deny this. Consider how the argument against oral sex would go. One would say something like, 'The penis was not meant to be put in the mouth'. If we accept this line of reasoning, I suppose heart transplants would be illegal too. Since when was my heart meant to be put in someone else's body? Claims of what is natural and what is unnatural cannot be more than ideology and propaganda.
One might charge that the legalisation of oral sex would somehow lower the morality of society. What is this really saying? For one thing, we know that sex is legal, and sex usually entails sexual pleasure and, if contraception is also legal, presumably the procuration of sexual pleasure as an end is not illegal.
So what is illegal must be the means of achieving sexual pleasure. But when oral sex involves two consenting adults, it is impossible to identify the deleterious effects of the method.
Objectively speaking, there is no necessity of pain brought upon any of the partners, unlike a situation where an adult consents to being beaten up by another. The fact that one uses one's mouth does not introduce any moral significance into the matter.
Far from safeguarding the collective good of society, this law makes no sense and, in fact, presents an exploitable loophole. If a woman were to initiate oral sex with the promise of eventual vaginal penetration, but does not follow through, her partner would then be guilty of a crime punishable by life imprisonment. For he was taken under false pretense, and achieving intercourse in such a situation would be tantamount to rape. This presents quite a quandary and blackmail is clearly possible.
This law should be removed. Of course, these considerations naturally lead us to consider issues of homosexuality and, for very similar reasons, I also believe that the law has no logical justification for making homosexual acts illegal.
DARREN TAN ZHIMING
Letter to the Straits Times, 13 November 2003
It is disturbing to learn that oral sex, even between consenting adults, is against the law. This was confirmed by veteran criminal lawyer Subhas Anandan, who was quoted in the report.
If consent has no role to play at all in making out the offence, this would mean that every time a husband received fellatio from his wife, an offence is committed, and both husband and wife are liable to receive a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
It is unclear what mischief this provision is seeking to address if both parties consented to the act. This is of concern as quite possibly the only reason a fair proportion of the Singapore population hasn't been charged with this offence is that the act goes unreported.
Also, on a preliminary reading of the statutory provision, it would appear that potentially all homosexual acts are against the law as they fall within 'carnal intercourse against the order of nature'.
To illustrate the all-encompassing - to perhaps the point of absurdity - nature of the offence, which has no provision for consent, this would mean that the Government is hiring and even placing individuals, especially homosexual males, in sensitive positions in the civil service who may well be law-breakers on a regular basis, solely as a result of their private, consensual sexual acts.
The form of sexual conduct between two consenting adults - and especially between a man and his wife - should be excluded from the law's reach.
Isn't it time such an archaic provision be taken off our statute books, or at least modified to address a specific public concern?
LINDA TAN MEI-LING (MS)
New South Wales.
Letter to the Straits Times, 13 November 2003
As someone who spent his formative years in Singapore, I know first hand how advanced and developed a society Singapore is, so I was astonished to read that there exists a law that criminalises the act of oral sex.
It is well known that Singapore's laws are extremely stringent and, to the Government's credit, are responsible for the Republic's low crime rate, but there is no place for such an archaic law in modern Singapore.
There is nothing wrong with oral sex per se; it is a very natural part of sex which many sex therapists all over the world will attest.
Banning oral sex is tantamount to banning the very act of sex itself. Criminal acts always involve at least a victim. Where then is the victim in this 'crime'?
Furthermore, nowhere in Section 377 of the Penal Code is it stated explicitly that oral sex is unnatural.
Justice is the quality of being fair and doing that which is in accordance with what's right. Sentencing only the male counterpart for an act that involves two consenting adults to up to 10 years' jail, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, for having oral sex is the height of unfairness and certainly not right! Rather than upholding justice, the law perpetuates injustice.
If the Straits Times online poll on this subject is any indication, the majority of Singaporeans are in agreement that this law needs to be relegated to a period of history.
The law should be changed or, at the very least, re-evaluated to reflect what the people want as long as it does not violate the fundamental rules of ethics and morality agreed upon by the Singaporean people and the civilised world at large.
LIM SHANG PEI
Straits Times, 15 November 2003
POLICEMAN JAILED FOR ORAL SEX
Mistake in court: Girl was a minor
A teenager who had oral sex with a 27-year-old Police Coast Guard sergeant was actually a minor at the time of the offence, for which the man was convicted and jailed for two years.
Court documents had given her date of birth as April 16, 1986, and the date of the offence as April 23 last year. That meant she would have been a week past her 16th birthday - and no longer a minor - when she performed oral sex on Annis Abdullah at his request.
It was revealed yesterday that the prosecution got her age wrong.
'The statement of facts tendered to the court mistakenly stated that she was 16 years old when, in fact, she had just turned 15,' the Home Affairs and Law ministries said in a letter to The Straits Times yesterday.
It was signed jointly by Mrs Ong-Chew Peck Wan, director of Home Affairs' corporate communications division and Ms Sabitri Devi, assistant director for the Law Ministry's corporate communications, on behalf of their permanent secretaries.
Referring to the reports and letters in the media on whether there was a basis for prosecuting the policeman and whether oral sex should be a crime, they said:
'The police sergeant was prosecuted because he had oral sex with an underage girl. She had just turned 15 years of age at the time of the offence.
'The sergeant had trawled the Internet relay chatrooms to find the victim. Oral sex took place at their first outing together.
'As a police officer, the sergeant should have taken care of the girl. Instead, he took advantage of her.'
Lawyers approached for comment yesterday said that age was irrelevant in this case, since the man was prosecuted under Section 377 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.
Experienced criminal lawyer S.S. Dhillon said: 'It makes no difference at all in this case. The man only had oral sex with her, and there was no sexual intercourse. And her age does not matter, whether she is 11, 16, or 56.
'But if he had sex with her, and she was under 16, he would have been charged under the Women's Charter, for carnal connection, not rape. And that would have made a big difference in sentencing.'
The mistake would have been material in sentencing only where age of consent mattered, for instance under the Children and Young Persons Act, said lawyer Luke Lee.
The letter from the ministry officials stated that the law needs to be strict against people who take advantage of the mentally deficient, as well as against those in positions of trust and dominance who sexually abuse and exploit those in their care. They cited as an example, the relationship of tutors and pupils.
'Except for these types of cases and cases where oral sex is done in a public place, there has been no prosecution of adults who engaged in consensual oral sex in private for many years,' they said.
The letter concluded by saying that the law relating to oral sex was being reviewed as part of an ongoing review of the Penal Code, and said 'this review will be completed within the next few months'.
Analysis by Alex Au
This seemed to be terribly shoddy.
It is not clear at what point the mistake was made. Was the prosecution under the impression all along through an error in its own dates, that the girl was past 16, and acted on the basis that she was an adult? Or did the prosecution know she was under 16, but tabled erroneous documents, thereby misleading the court (and the press)?
The letter from the bureaucrats (see below) glosses over this, but I would think it very important.
If the prosecution knew she was under 16, why didn't they charge Annis Abdullah under the Children and Young Persons Act, which would have been the appropriate legislation as intended by Parliament?
Section 7 of this Act states:
Sexual exploitation of child or young person
7. Any person who, in public or private, commits or abets the commission of or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any person of any obscene or indecent act with any child or young person shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or to both and, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 4 years or to both
This is the scenario that springs to my mind: The prosecution felt that Parliament was stupid to prescribe such light punishment -- only $5,000 or 2 years' jail!. So they thought they would be smarter and use Section 377 of the Penal Code which allows up to life imprisonment. Yes, what better way to stamp out immorality and prove their machismo at the same time!
This shows up another mess in our legal system. There is far too much discretion for prosecutors. By tactically choosing what law to charge the person under (and due to vague language and archaic references, they have a vast array of choices) it is they who largely determine the sentence, not the judge.
Is this right? Is this how a legal system should operate?
If the prosecution didn't realise that their dates were wrong, and proceeded on the basis that she was an adult, should the case be considered flawed?
Supposing our provisions for sex with children were tougher than oral sex with adults, wouldn't such a mistake have meant that Annis Abdullah got off too lightly?
I'm not a lawyer and no doubt they will be able to explain better than I can how much the case may be considered miscarried.
But let's just ask ourselves, as rational human beings, what would be reasonable, natural justice given the facts as we know them?
It seems to me, even if she was 15, that she knew what she was doing -- she certainly knew how to give a blow job which tells you quite a bit about her degree of experience. The law shouldn't treat a fairly world-wise 15 year-old as someone as vulnerable as, say, a 7 year old. And so perhaps a fine for Annis Abdullah would probably have been about right.
Another point I feel uncomfortable about is where the prosecution and judge felt he deserved a stiff sentence because he was a police officer, and "should have known better.". I don't think that is right. There should be equality under the law. It is damaging to the system if we start getting emotional and rake in the relativities of expectations.
Letter to Straits Times, 15 November 2003
Statement Of Facts In Oral-Sex Case Got Age Wrong
'16-year-old' girl had just turned 15
In the past week, there have been various reports and letters in the media concerning the case of a police sergeant who was charged with and convicted of oral sex with a teenager and sentenced to two years' imprisonment.
The comments relate specifically to:
whether there was any basis for prosecuting the sergeant, resulting in him being sentenced to two years' imprisonment.
whether Section 377 of the Penal Code which criminalises oral sex between consenting adults and the penalties prescribed for the offence should be amended.
The sergeant was prosecuted because he had oral sex with an underage girl. She had just turned 15 at the time of the offence.
The sergeant had trawled Internet relay chatrooms to find the victim. Oral sex took place on their first outing. As a police officer, he should have taken care of the girl. Instead, he took advantage of her.
The Internet is an easy meeting place for the moral corruption of young persons. In the case of Tay Kim Kuan v PP (2001) 3 SLR 237, a case of sexual intercourse with an underage girl contacted by the appellant through the Internet, the Chief Justice said:
'While parents have the primary responsibility of educating and warning their children of the inherent dangers posed by the Internet, the law too has an accompanying duty to ensure that our children and young persons are allowed to exploit the wonders of modern technology with as little risk as possible to the safety and security of both their minds and bodies...
'The emboldening security that it provides to the unscrupulous who are allowed to hide their true identities and remain faceless while preying on the young, gullible and immature on the other, both led me to the conclusion that a deterrent sentence was warranted in the present case.'
The Straits Times ('Oral sex ruling vexes many'; Nov 8) reported that what the sergeant did in Singapore would not be a crime in England. This is not so.
The statement of facts tendered to the court mistakenly stated that she was 16 years old when, in fact, she had just turned 15. Given this fact, what the sergeant did would have amounted to the offence of indecent assault under Section 14 of the UK Sexual Offences Act 1956.
The maximum punishment for such an offence against a woman over the age of 13 but below the age of 16 is 10 years' imprisonment. In the case of Jacques Adragna (1994) 15 CrApp R (S) 693, the English Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal against a sentence totalling two years' imprisonment by the appellant who had engaged in various sexual acts - sexual intercourse, oral sex and touching breasts - with three willing girls aged 13 to 15.
The court stated that although no coercion was involved, the participation of the girls was the result of the corrupting influence of the appellant.
The law criminalising sexual acts by adults with children and young persons under the age of 16 is expressed in the legislative policy of the Children & Young Persons Act which seeks to protect the interests of such children and young persons.
Every responsible member of society accepts that children and young persons must be protected from their immaturity and vulnerability in their interactions with adults, in their social life.
Similarly, the law needs to be strict against persons who take advantage of the mentally deficient, and also against those in positions of trust and dominance who sexually abuse and exploit those who are in their care. Examples of such relationships would include that between tutors and pupils.
In this connection, except for these types of cases and cases where oral sex is carried out in a public place, there has been no prosecution of adults who engaged in consensual oral sex in private for many years.
The Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law are reviewing the law relating to oral sex as part of an ongoing review of the Penal Code. This review will be completed within the next few months.
ONG-CHEW PECK WAN (MRS)
Director, Corporate Communications Division
For Permanent Secretary (Home Affairs)
SABITRI DEVI (MS)
Finally, as one would have noticed from the bureaucrats' letter, the government had embarked on a review of oral sex.
Then on 7 January 2004, Ho Peng Kee, Minister of State for Law, updated Parliament on this matter. He said the government intended to decriminalise oral sex between males and females.
Thus, it may be the end of this article, but it's only the beginning of the saga.