Ask anyone about whether prostitution in Singapore is illegal or not and the standard response will normally be to the effect of – Prostitution in Singapore is not illegal but various prostitution-related activities are such as public solicitation, living on the earnings of a prostitute and maintaining a brothel.
A Google search for Prostitution in Singapore yields Wikipedia as the top search result. With little information of benefit and a ramble on nothing short of vague, for someone who requires solid information, it leaves many questions unanswered.
In this article, I address the legalities of prostitution in Singapore, how it applies to escorts and what they mean to the lay person.
Misconception #1 – Prostitution is legal so we can do anything we want right?
Wrong. Singapore’s prostitution laws falls under the Part XI, Chapter 353 of the Women’s Charter. This Act was passed to provide for offences against women and girls. The essence of Part XI is to legislate against brothel-keeping, trafficking, certain prostitution-related activities, sex with minors and pimping.
I explain in a little more detail. (*Definitions for words in italics are available at the end of this article.)
Clause 140 – Offences related to Prostitution
This clause sets the law for anyone who procures, harbours, sells or lets for hire, detains or traffics a woman or girl in or into Singapore without her permission, against her will for the purposes of prostitution or being employed to prostitute – ie. pimping.
With the intent to aid such a purpose – so even if you are not the person employing (or pimping) her – you can be punished. This applies to anyone who does so within or without Singapore, meaning you can be punished even if the female is removed from Singapore.
This is also the clause that states that having sex with a girl is illegal.
Misconception #2 – Oooh!!! So that means only pimping and having sex with a minor is illegal!
That is incorrect. There are also laws (Clauses 141 and 142) against the trafficking or importation of women and girls. This could be whether they are being brought into or taken out of Singapore, whether for prostitution or otherwise.
Clause 141 – Traffic in women and girls, and
Clause 142 – Importation of woman or girl by false pretences
“Buying, selling, procuring, trafficking in, or bringing into or taking out of Singapore for the purpose of such traffic, under false pretence, false representation or fraudulent or deceitful means, and whether or not for the purpose of present or subsequent prostitution, any woman or girl, shall be guilty of an offence.”
Misconception #3: So if I don’t do anything stupid then I can see a prostitute in a brothel right?
Yes, you technically could. Although I would reconsider it because Clause 148 states that brothels are illegal. While the patron or client is not the person charged for this offence, personally, I would not want to be caught in a raid while in the midst of a rendezvous.
Clause 148 – Suppression of brothels
“Any person who keeps, manages, lets or assists in the management of a brothel shall be guilty of an offence under this section. A person could be a tenant, lessee, occupier or person in charge.”
Misconception #4: Ok so no brothels. I will go through an escort agency then!
Yes, you technically could as Clauses 146 and 147 make it an offence only for the person who lives on and trades in prostitution or who keeps, manages or assists in the management of a place of assignation guilty of an offence. Such a place could be an office, a home office or any other place where the management of prostitution-related activities takes place.
Escort agencies have found a loophole in the system. They get away with this by calling the service they provide an “introduction service” and charging an “introduction fee” for this service. Many also have a caveat that states that whatever happens after the introduction is between two consenting adults.
Clause 146 – Persons living on or trading in prostitution, etc.
“Any person who knowingly:
– solicits, receives or agrees to receive any gratification as an inducement or reward for providing any service, and who by providing that service does or will aid the prostitution of another person (being a woman or girl), and
– lives wholly or in part on the earnings of the prostitution of another person (being a woman or girl), shall be guilty of an offence.”
Clause 147 – Suppression of places of assignation
“Any person who keeps, manages or assists in the management of a place of assignation or a club or a place of public resort which is used as a place of assignation shall be guilty of an offence.” (*The definitions for the italicised words are available at the end of this article.)
Misconception #5 – Wah! The government make it so hard! Then I have to take to the streets and bars or nightclubs and find an escort that way!
Yes you could. However, you would have to make the first move in the hopes that you do not get slapped across the face for asking the wrong woman if she is an escort.
Part III of Chapter 184 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act is an act relating to offences against public order, nuisance and property. This act disallows escorts from touting in public places.
Clause 19 – Soliciting in public place
“Every person who in any public road or public place persistently loiters or solicits for the purpose of prostitution or for any other immoral purpose shall be guilty of an offence.”
Misconception #6: Wow. So leche (Singlish for troublesome). Nevermind! I can surf the internet to find escorts.
Private escorts have taken to the World Wide Web for advertising. Websites like Backpage, Craigslist and Locanto have become tremendously popular. Provided the escorts do not solicit for prostitution or other immoral purpose in Singapore, they are completely within their rights to advertise on these sites and keeping within the laws of prostitution in Singapore. This, however, does not prevent anyone from advertising prostitution related services.
Escorts of Singapore is the top escort directory in Singapore dedicated to independent escorts. We provide a safe and sophisticated avenue for the advertisement of social escort services, removing the need for escorts to walk the streets of Singapore.
What is more is that our escorts are all verified which gives our patrons something that Backpage, Craigslist and Locanto do not provide.
Recently, a new clause (146A) was introduced to the Women’s Charter. This clause legislates against the use of remote communication services for offering or facilitating the provision of sexual services.
Escorts of Singapore does not encourage the promotion of sexual, prostitution or immoral services on our site and we provide, where necessary, advice on the removal of certain content or wording from escort profiles.
We have great hope that the forces that be realise that websites such as Backpage, Locanto, Craigslist and EOS cannot be held responsible for the content of advertisements published by its users. Once again, the person responsible for this offence is not the end user or the escort but the owner of the remote communication service.
Clause 146(A) – Remote communication service operated or maintained for offering or facilitating provision of sexual services, etc.
“A person in Singapore who, in the course of business, operates or maintains in Singapore a remote communication service that offers or facilitates, or organises, manages or supervises the provision by a woman or girl to another person of sexual services in return for payment or reward, shall be guilty of an offence.”
Misconception #7: Ok set! So I use Escorts of Singapore and book as many escorts as I want!
Yes, while you could book and see as many escorts as you want, it is illegal for escorts to work with anyone else. A brothel by definition is any place that is used by 2 or more women. This includes private escort doubles, etc.
What does this all mean? I am confused!
1. Private escorts who own and run their own businesses are working within the laws of prostitution in Singapore.
2. While it is legal to provide sex as a service, escorts cannot advertise sexual services.
3. Escorts cannot solicit for the purposes of prostitution but a patron can ask for sexual services.
4. Private escorts can only work on their own and not with anyone else.
5. While websites can be an advertising medium for escorts, escorts cannot advertise their sexual or immoral services.
6. Pimping is illegal. There are no two questions about this.
7. It is legal to have sex with prostitutes and escorts provided they are not under the age of 18.
8. Having sex with anyone under the age of 16 is considered rape.
Other prostitution related laws in Singapore relevant to escorts
Part III Clause 24 – Improper management of house of public resort
“Any person who being the keeper of any house licensed under any written law as a public house or as a retail liquor shop or which is used as a place of public entertainment or public resort, and knowingly permits prostitutes or persons of notoriously bad character or drunken and disorderly persons to assemble or continue in or upon his premises shall be guilty of an offence.”
This law is applicable to escorts who provide incalls at hotels, which are considered a public place (see definition). While the escort is not the person responsible for this offence, it is a very good idea to keep it low-key and practice orderly conduct if using a hotel or similar premises for prostitution related activities. Hotel owners and staff have the right of removal should they ascertain that their premises are being used for sex work.
Part IV Clause 26 – Disorderly or indecent behaviour by prostitutes
“Every common prostitute wandering in any public road or place of public resort and behaving in a disorderly or indecent manner shall be deemed to be an idle and disorderly person and shall be guilty of an offence.”
This makes it legal to “walk the streets of Singapore” provided the escort does not solicit for prostitution and behaves appropriately.
Part IV Clause 27(A) – Appearing nude in public or private place
“Any person who appears nude in a public place or in a private place and is exposed to public view, shall be guilty of an offence.”
This would be relevant to escort photography.
The Singapore government has been pragmatic about regulating prostitution in Singapore. It seems that most of the existing legislation has been structured to allow for prostitution in Singapore without causing a nuisance to the public and without completely driving it underground. However, some of these laws have created conditions to the contrary. Former Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng famously said in Parliament in 1999 that “criminalising prostitution in Singapore will only drive such activities underground, resulting in crime syndicates taking control over such activities”.
While the world works towards decriminalising sex work, Singapore seems to be stuck in a paradigm of the concealment of prostitution in an attempt to maintain a virtuous, wholesome image.
Despite attempts to centralise and manage a select number of brothels that are subject to strict controls, there still exists the trend of illegal brothels.
The question of the criminality of certain prostitution related activities in Singapore was raised in a 2013 issue of the Law Gazette, the official publication of the Law Society of Singapore. In this article, amendments in the way of full criminalisation or full regulation were proposed. However, I believe their proposals were not well thought through and flawed. Refer to this article (What Do Sex Workers Want?) on the effects decriminalisation, regulation and criminalisation have seen in other countries.
To deal effectively with sex workers and prostitution in Singapore, the Singapore government has to take a fresh look at its laws and make a stance on the eradication of underground, criminal activities fuelled by these regulations.
My proposal is the full decriminalisation of prostitution in Singapore.
DISCLAIMER: The above is only a guideline concerning sex law in Singapore and shall not be construed as legal advice. Escorts of Singapore, its business partners, employees, and/or their agents make no warranty, expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy and completeness of the definitions and aforesaid interpretations of the law. In no event shall we be liable for any incidental/consequential damages to any persons, organisations, or entities deciding to engage in commercial sexual activities by utilising the aforementioned guidelines. Before any natural persons, organisations, or legal entities decide to engage in any commercial sexual activities in Singapore or any other jurisdictions, professional legal advice must be sought.
Definitions – Breaking it Down into Human
(copied from Chapter 353 of the Women’s Charter)
“brothel” – any place occupied or used by any 2 or more women or girls whether at the same time or at different times for the purpose of prostitution
“girl” – a female under the age of 16
“in or near any public road” – all places in the public road, and all places within 9 metres of it not being effectually separated from and hidden from the road by a wall or otherwise
“public place” – any place or premises to which at the material time the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission
“nude” – a person who is clad in such a manner as to offend against public decency or order
“place” – any building, house, office, flat, room or cubicle or any part thereof, and any open or enclosed space and includes a ship, boat or any vessel, whether afloat or not, and any vehicle
“place of assignation” – any place where communication is established with any woman or girl, either directly or through an intermediary, for any immoral purpose
“place of public resort” means any place to which the public for the time being has access
“procure” (from Black’s Law Dictionary) – to initiate a proceeding to cause a thing to be done; to instigate; to contrive, bring about, effect, or cause.
“prostitution” – the act of a female offering her body (vagina, anus or mouth) for sexual penetration for hire, whether in money or in kind
“public road” – every road, street, passage, footway or square over which the public has a right of way
“remote communication service” – any website, web service or Internet application; any service using voice telephony; any service using a messaging system; or any other kind of electronic or other technology for facilitating communication.
“sexual penetration” – the penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth of a woman or girl by a man’s penis, or the sexual penetration of the vagina or anus of a woman or girl by a part of another person’s body (other than the penis) or by anything else
“solicit” (from Black’s Law Dictionary) – to seek or to plead, to entreat and ask, to lure or tempt a person
All information contained herein was accurate on the date of publishing – 23 October, 2017.
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