Outrage of Modesty

  • Criminal Law
Outrage of Modesty

A formal term that defines an act of molestation is the “outrage of modesty.” Incidents of molestation aren’t rare, unfortunately, as the outrage of modesty can happen anywhere and anytime.

In Singapore, such crimes have been on the rise. These incidents often occur in the public transport system and nightlife hotspots.

According to Crime Statistics for January to June 2018 by the Singapore Police Force (SPF), there was a 37% increase in the number of outrage of modesty cases at public entertainment nightspots compared to the year 2017. Cases occurring on public transport increased to 43.8 % — see the full SPF release here.

Several outrage of modesty cases have happened in Singapore, including some of these reported cases:

  • A man was jailed for a week for molesting a sleeping woman on the MRT train. He touched her thigh while he was sitting next to her.
  • A man was fined $4,000 for molesting a 34-year-old woman after he dropped off his family for lunch.
  • A pastor was jailed for eight weeks because he crept up on women and took upskirt videos.
  • A man was jailed for three weeks for molesting a part-time tutor on a bus. The man rubbed his thigh against the 23-year-old’s several times.
  • A man was jailed for ten months for molesting a domestic maid and expectant mother. These separate incidents occurred in the lift within an hour’s time.
  • A repeat sex offender was stiffer sentenced with preventive detention for ten years with three strokes of the cane because he was trespassing into women’s toilets to molest his victims.
  • A 60-year old man was jailed for 18 months after he first molested a six-year-old boy at a fast-food restaurant, and then touched the buttocks of a 60-year-old woman on a bus less than 15 minutes later.
  • An employer’s husband was jailed for 14 months and two weeks for molesting a domestic helper and exposing himself to the victim twice.

The definition of “outrage of modesty”

Section 354 of the Penal Code defines “outrage of modesty” as the assault or use of criminal force to a person to outrage modesty.

Under this provision, it is essential that there was use of criminal force to find a person guilty of this crime. A person staring at someone inappropriately, for instance, will not be found guilty of outrage of modesty.

However, no provision in the Penal Code explicitly defines the term “modesty.” The reason for this may be due to differing opinions, and the fact that the definition of outrage of modesty itself can change from time to time. Also, factors such as the victim’s race and/or religion may play a part on a case-to-case basis.

There is robust evidence that in most cases, men are the offenders of such a crime. Of course, both men and women may be found guilty of committing outrage of modesty.

Upskirt photographs

The act of taking upskirt photographs is considered to be invasive, and falls under outrage of modesty in Singapore law. Although it can be committed without the use of criminal force or without involved assault, it is deemed to be an incident of molestation.

Section 509 of the Penal Code implies that any words or gestures intended to insult the modesty of women may also be considered as an outrage of modesty.

Consent, intent, and knowledge

There is no outrage of modesty if consent is provided. For example, no outrage of modesty exists in intimate physical acts between a couple, or when a doctor examines a patient while following proper medical procedures.

If the perpetrator has the intent or knowledge that his or her acts are likely to be considered as outrage of modesty, he or she will be found guilty.

Enhanced penalties in special cases

The Penal Code imposes more rigid penalties to convicts in certain scenarios:

  • Section 73: Outrage of modesty offences against domestic maids;
  • Section 354(2): Outrage of modesty assaults involving victims below 14 years old;
  • Section 354A: Outrage of modesty offences committed in lifts, physical threats, voluntarily causing hurt, wrongful restraint, and death.

Mere attempts / Failed attempts

Mere, or even failed attempts to outrage a woman’s modesty, are still considered as an outrage of modesty under section 511 of the Penal Code. If you are charged with committing outrage of modesty, hire an experienced lawyer to represent you as soon as possible.