In the battle against abuse and exploitation of the vulnerable sector of society, the government has come up with new laws that would offer protection and serve the best interest of people categorized under this ‘vulnerable’ sector, which include young children, domestic helpers, and the disabled, among others.
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For some time, people from Singapore’s vulnerable sector, most especially foreign domestic workers as backed by migrant labour and rights groups, have expressed concern over the country’s lack of legislation that would particularly deal with abuse and injustice against this population. However, things are looking to move along quite progressively starting this year…
Gov’t to Impose Stiffer Penalties for Crimes Against Vulnerable People
In line with this, the Parliament passed a new law that authorizes the police and relevant authorities to arrest people who commit any crimes against vulnerable people, such as young children, maids, the disabled, even without a warrant, as shared in a report by the Straits Times.
If found guilty, offenders can be given punishment at twice the maximum penalty, as compared to 1.5 times previously for some offences.
Under the old law, non-arrestable offences require the police to obtain an arrest warrant to detain a suspect. However, the amendment in the Penal Code now allows the police to “intervene quickly,” thus bypassing the provision for a warrant to arrest offenders, as explained by the Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam during the debate on the Criminal Law Reform Bill.
The new law addresses crimes committed against children below 14 years of age, those with mental or physical disabilities, as well as domestic workers.
According to Mr Shanmugam, a large part of the new legislation aims to give stronger protection to those who cannot protect themselves, citing the case of a severely abused woman named Cindy that played a part in his resolve to change the law.
Cindy, for almost every day in eight years, suffered sexual abuse from her live-in partner. This was even witnessed by the two young children she had cared for during those times.
When the police found Cindy in 2000, she was almost completely blind, with slash wounds and broken bones all over her body.
Under the new law, punishments will be harsher for specific offences against victims in intimate or close relationships with offenders, and even those who are not married, as in the case of Cindy.
Victims in intimate or close relationships with their abusers are two new groups that will be considered vulnerable victims and covered under the new law.