A recently announced series of dialogues between the public and private sectors on women’s issues, which will culminate in a White Paper next year, comes at an appropriate time. According to the United Nations Development Programme, women have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic – from experiencing poorer health and education, to being burdened with more unpaid care work and family violence. This latest effort in Singapore also comes on the heels of a spate of voyeurism cases at local universities, as well as public debate over a student who was given a community-based sentence – which would allow him to have no criminal record – after being found guilty of choking his ex-girlfriend.
There should certainly be more discussion on whether stiffer penalties are needed for such offences. It would be a continuation of a journey that started in 1961 with the passing of the landmark Women’s Charter, which provided for monogamy and the rights and duties of married people; followed by amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code and Evidence Act in 2018 to reduce trauma inflicted on victims during the criminal justice process. Changes to the Penal Code last year repealed marital immunity for rape, among other things. This year, changes to the Protection from Harassment (Amendment) Act made it possible fhttps://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/st-editorial/deeper-shifts-needed-on-gender-equality-0or victims to obtain protection orders against harassment, stalking and online bullying.
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