By Gloria James-Civetta

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Molest

3 min read
Molestation / Outrage of Modesty

If you fear your conduct may have resulted in a ‘molest’, there are a few things to take note. The acts stereotypically reported in the news and by laypeople as ‘molest’ are, in fact, a category of crimes that include outrage of modesty and assault – and these may be approached uniquely in the context of a female victim.

S. 354 of the Penal Code governs the crime of “assault or use of criminal force to any person, intending to outrage modesty”.

The actual act of ‘outraging one’s modesty’, however, is not defined by statute and may thus be arguable on a case-by-case basis. Reported cases within the news place an emphasis on male offenders, and women or children victims – so the colloquial definition of ‘outrage’ has been narrowed to one perpetrated by men against women. Left to a case-by-case basis, and to personal bias, this may affect the outcome in court.

Another definition of ‘outraging one’s modesty’ may be “sexual touching”, the equivalent to molest in English law. This, historically, has a very low threshold within case law – for example, the case of R V George held that a defendant who touched a woman’s shoe was sexually touching her, due to his foot fetish. As such, one must be aware that an ‘outrage of modesty’ may depend on something as simple as whether one receives sexual gratification from committing the ‘outrage’

Read more: Insulting a Woman’s Modesty

Dishonor

Another area with a weak definition is S. 355, the crime of causing ‘dishonor’ through “assault or use of criminal force, intending thereby to dishonour that person”. The definition of ‘dishonour’ appears to be unclear, and may depend on the victim and what they consider honorable.

Use of Force

S. 350 prohibits a person to cause, change, or stop the motion of someone else’s body, “without that person’s consent, in order to cause injury, fear or annoyance to the person to whom the force is used”.

Like honour-based charges, how criminal the use of force is may change depending on the situation. The Penal Code gives a female-specific example:
“A intentionally pulls up a woman’s veil. Here A intentionally uses force to her; and if he does so without her consent, intending or knowing it to be likely that he may thereby injure, frighten or annoy her, he has used criminal force to her.”

Thus, acts that may injure, frighten or annoy a woman may not, traditionally, have a similar impact on a man. That must be taken into account.

Assault

Finally, the crime of assault under S. 351 “any gesture or any preparation, intending or knowing it to be likely that such gesture or preparation will cause any person present to think that he is about to use criminal force to that person”.
Similar to the above, a gesture from a physically stronger individual is more likely to cause the victim to anticipate an attack – a situation seen more commonly in women victims.
Awareness of the common ways in which one can be charged with ‘molest’ is the best way to help yourself in such a situation. And it is highly recommended that you seek greater clarification, by getting legal advice and representation from a Singapore Criminal lawyer well versed in criminal disputes and litigation.

Read more: Criminal Force & Assault, Intimidation

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