Sunday, February 27, 2005

Laws of our land: Part I

Being the kaypoh that I am, I got myself caught up in the furore that was unfolding on FF's last couple of posts, in which she described how outraged she was at a dinner companion's photographing her cleavage/bosom/chest/blouse. So, I looked up the Penal Code to see if, at law, what the dirty bastard did was a punishable offence, here in our country vaunted for our protective justice system. If you've been here long enough, you'd have heard the term 'outrage of modesty' being bandied about: How some women have their modesties outraged in the lift, on the bus, in the mrt and at the supermarket checkout queue. So, I thought maybe the first port of call might be Section 354 of the Penal Code. But as far as I see (pretty near), the law does not define how one's modesty is outraged, and if anyone knows where I can find the definition, set in stone, please leave a trail in the comments. Some other interesting things I found from our Penal Code today:
  1. If you (a male) entice a woman with the false belief that she is married to you in order to make her your flatmate or to have sex with her, you're a criminal: s493.
  2. If you entice a married woman away from her husband, you're also a criminal: s498
What gives? The women of our land are as thick as trees? Would a woman not know whether she's married to the guy she's about to give her body to (or sign a co-tenancy agreement with)? But honey, we're married. Come to bed leh! Is it? Since when we were married? Neh, last month, you were unconscious, but I took you to the ROM and made you sign everything by propping you up and holding the pen in your hand? Remember or not? But back to the issue at hand. The boy who used his phone cam to take pictures of FF's ample (she said it herself) cleavage, I think, could be guilty of an offence under Section 509. If not, she might wanna do something really nasty to him, but then she could as a result, find herself guilty under Section 508: Act caused by inducing a person to believe that he will be rendered an object of divine displeasure.
iTunes' party shuffle is playing a copy of: Force Of Nature - John Mayall - Archives To Eighties, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn't steal music.


Blogger lun said...

although i study military law primarily as a MP, criminal law is recommended reading for us as well. i believe sect. 509 is the right section the guy could be charged under. he took a picture of a woman's chest, which is legally recognised as a woman's private regions, without her consent so therefore it can be construed as intrusion of the woman's privacy and he's deemed to have insulted the woman's modesty. and we can take a look at sect. 350 as well, which deals with the definition of "criminal force". by taking a picture, (gesture or action, i.e force) without FF's consent, in order to commit an offence (sect.509, outrage of modesty as said above), he has used criminal force towards FF.

2/27/2005 09:00:00 PM  
Anonymous E said...

Maybe you wanna try common law for the outrage of modesty bit? =)

2/27/2005 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger FF said...

Sect. 509, Sect. 509, Sect. 509. I must memorise this.

2/27/2005 09:09:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Miyagi said...


Yeah, anyone got links for a Digest? I'm not trying hard enough to look for it. Then again, I shouldn't be.


a) So the rest of our body is not private by definition?

b) dangerously broad definition of 'criminal force'.

I am enjoying reading our laws nonetheless. Why didn't I do this earlier?

2/27/2005 09:14:00 PM  
Blogger lun said...

alternatively, he may be charged under sect 13B of the Misc. Offences Act Chap. 184, which is defined as this,
"Any person who in a public place or in a private place —

(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour; or

(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

within the hearing or sight of any person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress" or sect.13A under the same Act which is basically the same offence, but the action was with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

2/27/2005 09:15:00 PM  
Blogger lun said...

Mr Miyagi: (a) well private in a legal sense, if u get what i mean.
(b) and yes, criminal force is very broadly defined under criminal law. try asking any lawyer friends if u have any.

2/27/2005 09:21:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Miyagi said...


Cool beans, thanks. Misc. Offences c184 (the Everitt Road clause) is more appropriate in this instance I think. But non-indictable, so FF's friend might get off with just a fine. I'd have rotanned the bugger!

2/27/2005 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger lun said...

haha yeah. that's how i feel too. but since FF says the matter's resolved i guess the guy will get away with it. he should be taught a lesson really, to prevent him from doing it again.

2/27/2005 09:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm i may have just little knowledge of the PC/law, but you DO have to prove consent was not given right? ie not guilty unless proven.

Anyway, he can't possibly have asked " can i take your tities?"

Even despite the fact that the law ALREADY favour the fair sex, I dun think anyone can threaten to take action, or else men will forever live under the mercy of women.

the law is just a convenient security blanket for the ignorants to run to.

2/27/2005 10:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And to add, while it's easy to cite the law, do you really think its that easy to nab the bugger? (who can always turn back and sue for slander, ie putting him in an unfavourable light even before passing judgement.)

2/27/2005 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger Tym said...

I'm no lawyer, so I can't weigh in on the legal nitty-gritty, but I just wanted to say:

Mr Miyagi, you use "cool beans" too! :)

2/27/2005 10:43:00 PM  
Blogger Killjoy said...

Poor chap... All against him.

2/27/2005 11:38:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Miyagi said...


no lah, not against him, just that his actions, as described by FF, were repugnant.


Cool bananas too. No need to be a lawyer. I ain't one either, despite legal training. Let's use our common sense to dissect the law. It is ours to own.


Yes. No. No. And no.

2/28/2005 12:03:00 AM  
Blogger Cowboy Caleb said...

some religions are not clear on how you can be married.

There have been many cases where women have been fooled into marriage ceremonies only to be told later that it wasnt legal.

This happens a lot in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

2/28/2005 12:25:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Miyagi said...

Ah, that means they've made those laws to protect us (or the women among us) from our ignorance of the law. Band-Aid solution, doncha think?

2/28/2005 02:02:00 AM  
Blogger Indian Stallion said...

Does 509 apply to men as well?

I was at this pub a couple of weeks ago and this guy acquaintance got a bit tipsy and started caressing my thigh. I felt embarassed and violated but I didn't know what to do so I just let him do it. Another friend was there as well but he didnt't help me, saying it wasn't any of his business.

Now I feel like I should do something.

2/28/2005 02:59:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Miyagi said...

No. s509 is quite gender specific.

s354 is more appropriate, but only relatively so.

s377A is also worth looking at.

2/28/2005 03:18:00 AM  
Blogger Indian Stallion said...

Thanks you are a livesaver, I am going to 377A his ass !!

You should be a lawyer leh. Or are you one already.

2/28/2005 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger k said...

Ratanlal and Dhilanraj's Digest on the Indian Penal Code will give you relevant case law on what consistutes insult of modestry.

As a point of interest, Peeping Toms are frequently arrested on s 509. The ingredients for intent are usually set out in these cases.

And of course, who can forget Eng Wah Woon.

2/28/2005 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Miyagi said...

Who is Eng Wah Woon?

2/28/2005 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Beach-yi said...

Eh abit crazy this episode, you get guys sprouting laws about section 5xx, why, wanna impress people ah.

If she/FF was so indigant then she would have threatend that bugger that she would go to the police there and then and not blog about it after the fact.

The males in Singapore really genna emasculated, not referring to that unfortunate episode but in general. The women's Charter really "balances" out the playing field eh.

2/28/2005 10:21:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Miyagi said...

Beach-yi, it's not about FF. She was just a good excuse to illustrate the laws of our land. And it's not meant to impress anyone, but rather impress upon everyone that we do not yet own our laws. It'd be great if you could elaborate on how Singaporean males are emasculated, and how the Women's Charter 'balances' out the playing field. Looking forward to your input.

3/01/2005 12:30:00 AM  
Blogger Killjoy said...

Its quite sad that we(human) have to resort to Laws and Charter to make sure we behave. I believe the more laws we have the more we try to bend it to the limit.

I don't know what emasculated means but it sure sound nasty(castration comes to mind.LOL) but lets say that the guy really accidently did it or in FF case maybe mis-understood her(u noe mix signals and all) moods, emotions, signals..blah blah... he will still be at the losing end.

When a women accuses a man of anything wrong(outrage of modesty ..etc..) chances are "they" will believe her.

3/01/2005 05:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my 2 cents worth.

I discussed this with my fellow law students and our conclusion is that it is unlikely that FF has a cause of action against the chap who took her picture.

In short, firstly the sections that have been mentioned contains a no. of elements which are not made out. It is not that easy to indict someone and every element in that section has to be satisfied. I'll just use s 13A as an e.g. lun has missed out the crucial element of intent. If you read s 13A carefully, s 13A reads as follows: "Any person who in a public place or in a private place, with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress to another person.... Intent i.e. mens rea is not easy to prove and basically I doubt that guy intended to cause harrassment, alarm or distress to FF when he snapped her picture. As for ss 350 & 509 of the Penal Code, if you study them carefully, it's doubtful they'll apply to the current fact situation but there's a lot of detailed analysis which I'll not go into here.

We looked at the issue of outrage of modesty and we felt that it's also unlikely that FF has her modesty outraged in the conventional sense of the word. The sections on outrage of modesty e.g. peeping toms taking a look at females in the toilet etc or pointing a video cam/camera up a female's skirt involves the filming of a woman's private regions (for lack of a better word). Contrast this to her clevage which she is in public view. There is no "private" element to say 'cos everyone can see her clevage.

As for snapping her picture, I believe there is no law against taking someone's picture. However if her picture were to be circulated around, it may be a diff story. However as it was an informal discussion without research, we didn't reach a conclusion whether her consent was needed for her picture to be published.

Our conclusion was that based on the facts, it's unlikely she could have done anything about it, including hauling him to the police station. Except maybe embaress him in public like yelling at him for taking her picture without her permission and demanding he erase it. Unforunately, this is only moral censure and even if he refuses to delete it, we doubt there is nothing she can do about it.

3/02/2005 12:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like to clarify my previous comment. I typed the comment without refering to FF's post directly, just based on what My Miyagi & the other commentators have wrote.

After reading her version of the story & taking a look at the Penal Code, she may have a cause of action under s 354 of the Penal Code on assault or use of criminal force to a person with intent to outrage modesty, read with s 350 on the definition of criminal force.

However, in order to suceed, there is still a need to prove intent or knowledge (based on the elements required in the statute), the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases, & whether there is sufficient evidence. So FF could have made a police report but as to whether the matter will go to court & succed, it's a different story.

3/02/2005 12:33:00 AM  
Blogger lun said...

anon: hmm i think u have to re-read my comment on s 13A and 13B. at the end of it i do believe i've noted that s13A requires the presence of "intent". in the case of s13B, it is defined as "likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress". if FF can prove that harassment, alarm and/or distress has been caused by his actions irregardless of whether there was "intent" involved, it is now up to the accused to prove his defence, in the avenues as stated in the section.

3/02/2005 10:16:00 PM  

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