Frequently Asked Questions on Pornography
Pornography is often defined as images or videos that contain explicit depictions of sexual activities for the purposes of sexual arousal. However, it bears noting that the law in Singapore governs all obscene material. This means that explicit content that is not meant to sexually excite a person may also fall under these regulations, as long as the content is capable of depraving or corrupting its viewers.
Currently, mere access to pornography is not prohibited – which means that it is not illegal to stream or watch pornography online. However, it bears noting that this does not apply to child pornography and voyeuristic content (such as upskirt photos or videos). With effect from 1 January 2020, the newly legislated Sections 377BD and 377BK of the Penal Code have made it illegal to gain access to voyeuristic content and child pornography. Any person convicted under these provisions shall be liable to a maximum imprisonment of 2 years (voyeuristic content) and 5 years (child pornography) respectively, or with fine, or with caning. Related Article: New Sexual Offences To Be Introduced
It is illegal to possess or keep pornography, regardless of the type of content. Section 30(1) of the Films Act states that anyone caught with obscene material in his or her possession shall be liable to a maximum fine of S$20,000 or to a maximum imprisonment of 6 months or to both. The usual punishment for possession of obscene material for personal viewing is a fine. In the case of Public Prosecutor v Chandran s/o Natesan  SGDC 33, the accused was found in possession of 291 obscene films and was given a fine of S$500 per film (capped at the maximum of S$20,000). Similarly, in the case of Public Prosecutor v Chan Chun Hong  SGDC 125, the court ordered a fine of $500 per film. This usual sentencing framework may be departed from if the person is found with a very large number of obscene films. In the case of Public Prosecutor v Chong Hou En  3 SLR 222, the accused was found in possession of 10,574 obscene films and sentenced to four weeks imprisonment accordingly.
Under Section 29 of the Films Act, it is also an offence to produce, import, distribute or exhibit obscene material. Under Sections 292 and 293 of the Penal Code, it is an offence to transmit obscene material electronically. Therefore, one should be cautious of sending or posting explicit photos or videos through social media or instant messaging platforms (such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp).
Revenge pornography, or revenge porn, is the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing humiliation, alarm or distress. Sometimes, this is accompanied by the victim’s personal particulars so as to further humiliate the victim. Perpetrators generally commit such acts in their attempt to, as the name suggests, exact revenge on their past lovers for ending the relationship. Other reasons may include to blackmail the victim into performing sexual acts (colloquially known as “sextortion”), to coerce them into prolonging the relationship, and to humiliate the victim for their infidelity. In this digital epoch, revenge porn has increasingly grown to be the instrument of choice for people in their pursuit of vengeance. It is not hard to imagine why victims of revenge porn suffer psychological trauma as a consequence. Section 377BE of the Penal Code is tailored to protect the rights of the vulnerable by imposing punitive measures on potential offenders – who may be liable to imprisonment of up to five years, or with fine, or with caning.