Outrage of Modesty

Section 354 of the Singapore Penal Code

S 354 criminalizes the assault or use of criminal force to any person, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage the modesty of that person.The punishment for s 354 is up to 2 years imprisonment, or with fine, or with caning, or with any combination of such punishments (s 354(1)).

Aggravating Factors

If one is found guilty of an act that falls under the ambit of s 354 and his or her victim is under 14 years of age, his imprisonment will extend to up to 5 years, or with fine, or with caning, or with any combination of such punishments (s 354(2)).

Additionally, if in order to commit or facilitate the commission of s 354, one voluntarily causes or attempts to cause his or her victim death, hurt, wrongful restraint or fear of instant death, instant hurt or instant wrongful restraint, he or she will be charged under s 354A. This warrants an even more severe punishment of imprisonment up to 10 years with a minimum of 2 years and with mandatory caning (s 354A(1)).

If one is found guilty of an act that falls under the ambit of s 354A and his or her victim is under 14 years of ageor he has committed s354A in a lift in any building, his imprisonment will be up to 10 years with a minimum extended to 3 years and with mandatory caning (s 354A(2)).

Outrage of Modesty to Domestic Maids

Pursuant to s 73(c), enhanced penalties, one and a half times the normal maximum, apply to outrage of modesty offences committed against domestic maids.

Outrage of Modesty aggravated by Racial or Religious Reasons

Pursuant to s 74(2)(a) read with s 74(4), enhanced penalties, one and a half times the normal maximum, apply to outrage of modesty offences committed out ofracial or religious hostility.

Elements of the Charge

The charge is a gender-neutral one. The prosecution is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had the requisite Mens Rea and Actus Reus of s 354:

Mens Rea of s 354 will be satisfied where the accused had intention to outrage the modesty of the victim or where the accused knew it to be likely that he or she will thereby outrage the modesty of that person.

Actus Reus of s 354 will be satisfied where the accused assaulted or used criminal force against his or her victim to outrage his or her modesty.

Assault would be found where the accused (1) madea gesture or preparation (not mere words although words can give meaning to gesture and preparations), (2) intending or knowing that it is likely that such gesture or preparation will cause any person present or the victim to apprehend that the accused is about to use criminal force on that person (s 351).

Criminal force would be found where the accused (1) intentionally (2) uses force to the victim, (3) without the victim’s consent, to cause an outrage of modestyor(1) knows it to be likely that (2) his use of force, (3) without the victim’s consent, will cause an outrage of modesty (s 350).

Prevention against Intentional False Accusations

Intentional false accusations that a person has committed a outrage of modesty may render the complainant liable to criminal defamation under s 499 of the Penal Code.

Victim’s Delay in Reporting Outrage of Modesty

“There is no general rule which requires victims of sexual abuse, or those cognizant with the same matters to report them immediately, more so to the police” (DT v PP). This is because understandably, there is natural reluctance of victims to make a police report immediately, stemming from a variety of reasons such as trauma and fear of stigmatizationor threat of perpetrator’s retaliation. (Tan Pin Seng v PP).

Examples of Outrage of Modesty

There is no list of what behaviors would constitute an outrage of modesty. What constitutes an outrage of modesty may vary over time and social context as well as the race or religion of the victim. Courts may consider relevant factors such as the nature of contact, the relationship between accused and the victim and so on.

These are some examples where courts have held to constitute an outrage of modesty.

  1. Tutor touching breast and thigh of student and kissing student (Teo Keng Pong)
  2. Hugging a woman (Heng Swee Weng)
  3. Touching secretary on the back and slapping her lightly on the buttocks (Soh Yang Tick)
  4. Acupuncturist kissing and nibbling victim’s toes, massaging victim’s private parts (Zeng Guoyuan)
  5. Touching of private part (DT v PP)
  6. Squeezing the inner upper thigh of a woman (Sim Yong Seng)
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