Sexual assault in the news, and a six-figure Facebook link
Happy Easter weekend! This is the first We, The Citizens weekly wrap since moving to Ghost (🙌🏼 🙌🏼 🙌🏼) so I've included some items from the weeks we were off. I'm also over at Travelfish with a longform piece about why it's important people, including tourists, are more aware of Singapore's less shiny side. On that note, I hope you found the civil and political rights primer I sent out earlier this week useful!
As of 29 March, 375,605 people have been fully vaccinated, while 943,307 have got their first dose. Right now, Singaporeans and PRs who are 45 years old and above can register for vaccination, so please do if you can!
Given how much movement there is between Singapore and Malaysia during "normal times", it's no surprise that both governments are keen on making sure that both our Covid-19 vaccine certificate systems will be interoperable.
As of next week, more employees currently working from home will be allowed back into the office. There's also a lot of experimenting with tech to figure out how to track people attending large conferences and other big events, especially with the World Economic Forum coming up in August. Once again, privacy and accountability seem to have been left by the wayside; it's like we've learnt nothing from the TraceTogether saga. The government has also set up onboarding centres to process migrant workers coming into the country.
tw: mentions/descriptions of sexual assault and harassment.
Assault, harrassment, power and consent
For those who pay attention, there's long been no shortage of reports about sexual assault and harassment (mostly of women) in the news, but it feels like there's been a lot recently. Here are some links I've found just from scrolling around social media and Today's website:
- 22 March: A 33-year-old man given six weeks' in prison for assaulting his wife.
- 22 March: A 52-year-old man jailed for two years and eight months for molesting all three of his young stepdaughters.
- 23 March: A 27-year-old man pleaded guilty to theft, criminal trespass and sending insulting communication intending to cause alarm after he snuck into a university residence hall and stole a vibrator belonging to a woman he was following on Instagram.
- 23 March: A 39-year-old man was fined for repeatedly touching, without consent, a female valet who was driving him home after a night out.
- 23 March: A 30-year-old man was given a 56-week sentence for abusing and assault his mother, including hitting her around her vagina multiple times with a metal padlock.
- 24 March: A 21-year-old man accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl was caught while trying to escape to Malaysia by boat.
- 25 March: A 58-year-old taxi driver was convicted of molesting a Secondary 1 schoolboy.
- 25 March: A 28-year-old man sent to prison for molesting his sister-in-law while she was asleep.
- 26 March: A man pleaded guilty for sexually assaulting his young daughter for over a period of seven-and-a-half years. He also assaulted his daughter's friend.
- 29 March: A man sentenced to 12 years in prison for raping a woman who was drunk and unconscious. According to the article, his friend also sexually assaulted her, while a third friend filmed them. They (and one more friend) had also molested her while on the way to the chalet they were staying at.
- 30 March: A 68-year-old manager fined for sending pornographic videos to his female subordinate.
- 1 April: A 60-year-old man was jailed for molesting a 12-year-old boy in a stairwell.
- 1 April: A 47-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of involvement in stealing women's underwear.
- 1 April: A 48-year-old man fined and jailed for four weeks for harassing and molesting his female colleague.
We're talking about a two-week period here: this is a lot of cases to be hearing about. Granted, they didn't all happen at the same time; some cases have taken longer to go to court than others, etc. But if we consider that the number of reported cases that make it to court tend to only be the tip of the iceberg of all the cases of gender-based violence, sexual assault and harassment that occur, this is truly frightening.
Obviously we need to do something, or improve on our approaches to this problem... and I don't mean imposing harsher penalties. No matter how harsh the penalties are, they're only coming after the fact, and while it might satisfy some retributive need, these punishments aren't addressing the root causes. They also aren't centred around the voices and needs of survivors of such abuse, violence, and harassment.
Also, while some of the victim/survivors were young boys, the perpetrators here are all men. I know this year is Singapore's "year of celebrating women", but instead of heralding successes and petting ourselves on the back we also need to talk about the patriarchy, toxic masculinity, sexism, misogyny and rape culture.
Got some more...
The Singapore government has published its National Report for our upcoming Universal Periodic Review. The UPR is when Singapore's human rights record gets reviewed by the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Civil society organisations have filed shadow reports, but what's new this week is the Singapore government's National Report. Friends and I are going through the report and annotating it with comments, so watch this space!
Leong Sze Hian has been ordered to pay S$133,000 in damages to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after the court found that Leong had defamed Lee by sharing a link on Facebook to a story that falsely claimed the PM had become a target of 1MDB investigations. Leong is now crowdfunding, and has already passed the S$110,000 mark. (I have more thoughts about this but am working on a separate piece so will save it for that!)
Muslim nurses who want to might soon be allowed to wear the tudung. This development came from law and home affairs minister K Shanmugam, who claimed that he'd already spoken to religious leaders about this last year. Then why were the minister-in-charge of Muslim affairs' comments in Parliament last month so rubbish?
Singapore's Burmese community are finding ways to support Myanmar's Civil Disobedience Movement, despite restrictions on protests here.
The Progress Singapore Party has elected six new members to their central executive committee. Eleven former CEC members stepped down during this reshuffle. NCMP Leong Mun Wai dismissed rumours of splits and conflict within the party, but Kala Manickam told TODAY that the party had terminated her membership at the end of last year after she publicly confronted fellow PSP member Brad Bowyer on Facebook for questioning mask-wearing during the pandemic. Tan Cheng Bock is no longer the secretary-general of the party; instead, the 81-year-old is grooming 71-year-old Francis Yuen to be his successor.
Livestream launch of After the Inquiry!
Later today, from 4:30pm–5:30pm, Ethos Books will be launching Jolene Tan's new novel, After the Inquiry on Facebook Live. Jolene is one of my Favourite People (a position she held even before she put me in the dedication of this novel) and I'm reading this book right now. It's really good, and you should be getting yourself a copy right here (or from bookstores!)
And that's us for the week! I'm going to leave you with this BBC segment rounding up key events in Myanmar since the February 1 coup, and the world's reaction to it. If you've not been keeping close tabs, this will get you up to speed, but, be warned, it's incredibly infuriating.
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