In this article, our team of criminal lawyers answer some of the burning and uncomfortable questions that are too risqué for Google and could save you a stint in the slammer.
What is the legal age of consent in Singapore?
In Singapore, the legal age to have sex is 16 years old. It is a punishable offence to have any kind of sexual relations (e.g. vaginal sex, oral sex, anal sex) with any person who is below the age of 16. This is governed by section 376A of the Penal Code (Cap 224).
It is an offence regardless of the gender of the minor, and regardless whether the perpetrator is a minor as well. Although when both parties are minors, the discretion falls on the prosecution on whether or not to charge the parties in court.
Related Article: FAQs on Sexual Offence – Relating to Sex with a Minor
What if there is no sex involved and I am merely chatting with this person (minor) online?
There is generally no problem with talking to a minor online unless it crosses the line of being sexually explicit, or it turns into ‘sexting’, grooming, or asking for sexual favours.
So where is the line drawn?
Sexual grooming can also have its roots in online interaction and communications. It is deliberate and exploitative in nature and the perpetrator builds a relationship of trust and emotional connection with the minor so as to manipulate and abuse them. They can even be groomed to enter into a relationship with this adult, and in serious cases, to lure minors into various illicit businesses including trafficking and prostitution.
A new provision under section 376E of the Penal Code (Cap 224) governs sexual grooming. It happens when a perpetrator who is 18 years or older meets another person who is under 16 years old with the intention to have sex or for the purposes of any sexual gratification, where they have previously communicated twice or more.
Under section 376EA of the Penal Code (Cap 224), the above offence of sexual grooming applies to any person who is above 16 years old but under 18 years old, and if the two parties are under an exploitative relationship.
Sexual communication with minor below 16 years of age
Under the new section 376EB of the Penal Code (Cap 224), it is an offence for a person of or above 18 years old, to communicate sexually with any person below the age of 16 with the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification or causing the other person humiliation, alarm or distress.
You may be jailed for up to 2 years or fined or both. It is irrelevant whether or not the minor responded in a cordial manner or consented to the communication.
Transmission of obscene materials
Under Section 292 of the Penal Code (Cap 224), it is an offence to send obscene materials through electronic means, for example, nude photos. You may be jailed up to 3 months or fined or both.
Sexual exploitation of child or young person
Under section 7 of the Children and Young Persons Act (Cap 38), it is an offence to do anything to compel or attempt to compel a minor into doing anything sexual. If you are guilty of such an offence, you may be fined up to S$10,000 or imprisoned up to 5 years, or both.
What if this person has told me that he or she is 18 years old? There is no way I can know for sure, since we met online.
The mistake of age is not a valid defence for any sexual offence charges, as per section 377D of the Penal Code (Cap 224).
An exception is if a) the fact that a minor is of or above the age of 16 years but below 18 years is a physical element of the offence, b) you have not been similarly charged previously, and c) you took all reasonable steps to confirm your partner was 18 years or older.
What if I think I am in trouble?
If you find yourself in this kind of situation, firstly, we urge you to discontinue it immediately. Next, gather all the correspondence that you have with the minor and consult a lawyer immediately. Our experienced criminal defence lawyers at Gloria James-Civetta & Co can assist in both pre-court and court stages.
Even if you have the slightest suspicion that you may run afoul of the law, contact us immediately so we can start preparing for your case/defence ahead of any other authorities.