The government’s law enforcement efforts increased during the reporting period. The 2015 Prevention of Human Trafficking Act (PHTA) criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment and fines up to 100,000 Singapore dollars (SGD) ($74,350), which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping. In addition, Article 140 of the Women’s Charter criminalized “forced prostitution” involving detention or physical force and Article 141 criminalized the movement of women and girls for “trafficking” but did not define this term. Penalties prescribed for these offenses included a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 100,000 SGD ($74,350). The government investigated most suspected labor trafficking cases as labor law offenses under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA), or the Employment Act, which carried lower penalties than the anti-trafficking law.
In 2019, authorities investigated 51 trafficking cases, an increase compared with 16 in 2018. Of these, 30 were cases of suspected sex trafficking, compared with 10 cases in 2018. MOM investigated 21 suspected labor trafficking cases, an increase compared with six cases in 2018. MOM determined that none of the suspected labor trafficking cases in 2019 violated the PHTA and prosecuted the majority of these cases under the EFMA for failure to pay fixed monthly salaries, collection of kickbacks, and illegal employment. The government initiated prosecutions of two alleged sex traffickers under the PHTA in 2019, compared with three alleged sex traffickers prosecuted in 2018. The government reported two labor trafficking cases, initiated in an earlier reporting period, were ongoing.
The government convicted three traffickers under the PHTA in 2019, an increase compared with no traffickers convicted under the PHTA in 2018. In November 2019, the government reported its first labor trafficking conviction under the PHTA of two traffickers in one case originating from 2016. The traffickers brought three Bangladeshi victims to Singapore through legal immigration visas but exploited them as dancers in a nightclub. In February 2020, courts sentenced the perpetrators to five years and six months’ imprisonment each, a fine of 7,500 SGD ($5,580), and restitution to one of the three victims of 4,880 SGD ($3,630); the perpetrators appealed the conviction, which was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. In February 2019, an individual was convicted for sex trafficking his wife, in a case originating from 2018, and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, three strokes of the cane, and a fine of 6,000 SGD ($4,460). Additionally, courts convicted a trafficker under the penal code for a case from 2016 involving the promotion of commercial sexual exploitation of minors and sentenced him to imprisonment of five and a half years. The government had yet to prosecute or convict any cases of domestic servitude under the PHTA. The government convicted and imprisoned several employers of foreign domestic workers under non-trafficking laws for cases involving abuse, physical assault, and/or sexual assault. Some NGOs believed authorities set unreasonable standards for qualification as the crime of trafficking and lacked an understanding of trafficking indicators such as indebtedness, psychological coercion, and deception, which hampered PHTA enforcement.
The government reported police, immigration, and MOM officials were continuously trained on anti-trafficking measures; in 2019, more than 370 such officials received training on the identification of potential trafficking victims. In October 2019, MOM and SPF jointly created a trafficking workshop for law enforcement personnel; 14 officers from various agencies attended. The government continued to partner with and participate in international trainings with foreign governments and to work closely with international counterparts on several cross-border investigations. NGOs reported the occurrence of excessive force against individuals in commercial sex by police officials during raids of unlicensed brothels. In November 2019, a police official was convicted for sexually exploiting two foreign women; the women were in police custody for suspicion of providing commercial sex. The official was dismissed from the force, convicted under molestation charges and violating the Police Force Act, and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and one stroke of the cane. The government did not report any investigations of government officials complicit in trafficking.