Rape and Domestic Violence: The government enforced the law against rape, which provides for imprisonment of up to 20 years and the possibility of caning. By law only a man can commit rape. A man cannot legally be a victim of rape, but may be the victim of unlawful sexual penetration, which carries the same penalties as rape. Spousal rape is generally not a crime, but husbands who force their wives to have intercourse may be prosecuted for other offenses, such as assault. Spousal rape is a criminal offense when the couple is separated, subject to an interim divorce order that has not become final, or subject to a written separation agreement, as well as when a court has issued a protection order against the husband. Rape was not prevalent.
The law criminalizes domestic violence. Victims may obtain court orders restraining the respondent and barring the spouse or former spouse from the home until the court is satisfied that the spouse has ceased aggressive behavior. Several voluntary welfare organizations that assisted abused women called for measures to address under-reporting of gender-based violence, which they said was the result of social stigma and a lack of understanding among the population at large as well as among law enforcement officials. The press gave prominent coverage to several instances of abuse or violence against women
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Type I (as classified by the World Health Organization) female genital mutilation/cutting was practiced among a small portion of the Muslim population. There is no legislation banning the practice.
Sexual Harassment: The law prescribes mandatory caning and a minimum imprisonment of two years for conviction on any charge of “outraging modesty” that caused the victim to fear death or injury. According to police statistics, incidents of outrage of modesty increased by 20 percent to 1,168 cases from January to September, compared with 974 cases in the same period of 2016.
By law a person who uses threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behavior may incur a fine of up to S$5,000 ($3,700). The law criminalizes harassment and cites examples that include harassment both within and outside the workplace, cyberbullying, and bullying of children. It also provides a range of self-help measures, civil remedies, and enhanced criminal sanctions to protect against harassment. Additionally, it makes stalking an offense punishable with a fine of up to S$5,000 ($3,700), imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights as men, including civil liberties, employment, commercial activity, and education. Women were well represented in many professions (see section 7.d.).
No laws mandate nondiscrimination in hiring practice based on gender, prohibit employers from asking questions about a prospective employee’s family status during a job interview, provide for flexible or part-time work schedules for employees with minor children, or establish public provision of childcare.
Polygyny is permitted for Muslim men, but is limited and strictly regulated by the Syariah Court and the Registry of Muslim Marriages which oversees Muslim marriages and other family law matters. Polygynous marriages constituted 0.2 percent of Muslim marriages.
Both men and women have the right to initiate divorce proceedings.
Birth Registration: The law requires that all births be registered within 14 days. Citizenship derives from one’s parents.
Child Abuse: The Children and Young Persons Act criminalizes mistreatment of children, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. The government enforced the law and provided support services for child-abuse victims.
Early and Forced Marriage: The law characterizes unmarried persons under age 21 as minors and persons under 14 as children. Individuals under age 21 wishing to marry must obtain parental consent. In addition to obtaining parental consent, individuals under age 18 require a special license from the Ministry of Social and Family Development.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes human trafficking, including child sex trafficking, and authorities enforced the law. One child sex trafficking case was reported in the year.
The age of consent for noncommercial sex is 16 years. Sexual intercourse with a person under 16 is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine, or both, and if the victim is 14 or younger punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine or caning.
Authorities may detain (but generally do not prosecute) persons under age 18 whom they believe to be engaged in prostitution. They prosecute those who organize or profit from prostitution, bring women or girls to the country for prostitution, or coerce or deceive women or girls into prostitution. The law is ambiguous regarding employment of persons ages 16 to 18 in the production of pornography.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
There were between 800 and 1,000 members of the Jewish community. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The Ministry of Social and Family Development is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. There is no comprehensive legislation addressing equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in education or employment. In January the ministry began implementing a 2017-2021 policy plan for programs and services in the disability sector. The plan focuses on greater inclusiveness for persons with disabilities.
During the 2015 general elections, voters with visual disabilities could cast their vote independently with stencils, and electoral law allows voters who are unable to vote in the manner described by law to receive assistance from election officials to mark and cast their ballots.
The government maintained a comprehensive code on barrier-free accessibility, established standards for facilities for persons with physical disabilities in all new buildings, and mandated the progressive upgrading of older structures. SG Enable, established by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, provided job training and placement program for persons with disabilities.
The country provided a high level of educational support for children and minors with disabilities from preschool to university. Elementary and secondary levels both included mainstreaming programs and special education schools. All primary schools and the majority of secondary schools had specialist support for students with mild disabilities. Informal provisions permitted university matriculation for those with visual, hearing, or physical disabilities.
Ethnic Malays constituted approximately 13 percent of the population. The constitution acknowledges them as the indigenous persons of the country and charges the government to support and promote their political, educational, religious, economic, social, cultural, and language interests. Although the government took steps to encourage greater educational achievement among Malay students and upgrading of skills among Malay workers, ethnic Malays have not yet reached the educational or socioeconomic levels achieved by the ethnic Chinese majority, the ethnic Indian minority, or the Eurasian community. Malays remained underrepresented at senior corporate levels and, some asserted, in certain sectors of the government and the military. This reflected their historically lower educational and economic levels, but some argued it also was a result of employment discrimination.
The Presidential Council on Minority Rights examined all pending bills to ensure that they would not disadvantage any particular group. It also reported to the government on matters that affected any racial or religious community.
Government policy designed to facilitate interethnic harmony and prevent the formation of racial enclaves enforced ethnic ratios, applicable for all ethnic groups, to all forms of public housing.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Section 377a of the penal code criminalizes and punishes male-to-male sexual relations with prison sentences up to two years. The law does not criminalize female-to-female sexual relations. The authorities did not enforce the section during the year.
No laws explicitly provide for the protection of the LGBTI community from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Moreover, since single persons are prevented from purchasing government housing reserved for married couples until age 35, LGBTI persons, who are unable to wed, were more susceptible to these restrictions.
Recruitment procedures do not bar members of the LGBTI community from military service but classify LGBTI military personnel by sexual orientation and evaluate them on a scale of “effeminacy.” LGBTI citizens may become government workers but must declare their sexual orientation on job applications. Changing of gender on official documents is allowed only through sex reassignments. Media censorship perpetuated negative stereotypes of LGBTI individuals by restricting portrayals of LGBTI life. The IMDA censored films and television shows with LGBTI themes. According to the IMDA website, authorities allow the broadcast of LGBTI themes on television “as long as the presentation does not justify, promote, or glamorize such a lifestyle” (see section 2.a.).
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Some individuals with HIV/AIDS claimed that they were socially marginalized and faced employment discrimination if they revealed their HIV/AIDS status. The government discouraged discrimination, supported initiatives that countered misperceptions about HIV/AIDS, and publicly praised employers that welcomed workers with HIV/AIDS. HIV-positive foreigners are barred from obtaining work permits or immigrant visas.