Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do

Last updated on July 6, 2020

man sexually harassing woman

The Penal Code in Singapore covers sexual offences such as rape, sexual penetration without consent, and more. These offences usually involve a victim’s lack of consent towards the sexual act done to them. But what does consent mean?

What is Consent in Sexual Offences?

When it comes to sexual offences, the court believes that consent is an agreement to the sexual conduct in question, and that is given voluntarily. While the Penal Code does not provide a definition for consent, it describes situations which do not amount to consent:

  • Consent given under fear of injury or restraint. For example, if someone gave consent because the perpetrator threatened their or a loved one’s safety, such consent is not valid.
  • Consent given under a misconception of fact. This means that the consent was given due to a misunderstanding of what was happening. For sexual offences, the misconception must relate to one of the following:
    • The nature of the act. An example of this is someone who was deceived into sexual intercourse under the misconception that it was to exorcise an evil spirit. Because the consent was given for the exorcism and not the sexual intercourse, this would be a misconception of the nature of the act;
    • The purpose of the act. For example, someone who was under the impression that sexual intercourse can cure a certain disease and therefore provided consent. Such consent is not valid because it was given towards a health purpose, and not a sexual one; or
    • Identity of the person doing the act. An example of this is someone who provided consent under the misconception that the person who initiated sexual intercourse was her husband, when the person was actually an imposter.
  • Consent given by a person unable to understand the nature and consequence of the consent. For example, if the person was drunk, not of sound mind, does not have the mental capacity to consent, or was under the influence of drugs.
  • Consent given by someone younger than 12. For the offences of rape and sexual assault involving penetration however, consent given by someone younger than 14 will not be considered valid.

Does Consent Need to be Proven for an Offence to Have Been Committed?

There are some sexual offences where proving a lack of consent is a requirement for there to be an offence. For example, the offence of rape or sexual assault involving penetration requires proof of a lack of consent where the victim is 14 years old or older.

Usually, the court will look at all the evidence as a whole in coming to its decision on whether the victim had provided valid consent. For instance, it will look at any available forensic evidence, testimonies of any witnesses, and how the accused and the victim behaved before and after the alleged offence.

On the other hand, sexual offences that do not require consent to be proven include:

  • Sexual intercourse with someone under 16 years old
  • Sexual penetration of someone between 16 and 18 years old who is in an exploitative relationship
  • Incest, namely sexual penetration of a close family relative, such as a grandchild, child, sibling, half-sibling, parent or grandparent.

For these offences, the perpetrator can be penalised regardless of whether it can be proved that the victim had consented to the acts.

What are the Penalties for Sexual Offences?

Sexual Offence Punishment
Rape and sexual assault involving penetration Jail term of up 20 years, and fine/caning.
Causing fear or hurt to facilitate the offence of rape or sexual assault Jail term of between 8 to 20 years and caning of at least  12 strokes.
Sexual penetration of a minor below 16 years old If the victim is between 14 and 16 years old and is in a sexually exploitative relationship, jail term of up to 20 years and fine/caning.

In any other situation, jail term of up to 10 years and/or a fine.

Exploitative sexual penetration of a minor between 16 and 18 years old Jail term of up to 15 years, and fine/ caning.
Incest Jail term of up to 5 years.

What happens if either party furnishes false information to the authorities?

An accused or an alleged victim may be tempted to provide false information to the authorities. For instance, an accused may lie in his statement that the victim had provided consent, or an alleged victim may lie that they had not consented to the sexual act.

Regardless, providing false information to the authorities is an offence. The punishment for such an offence can be a fine up to $5,000, or jail up to 6 months, or both.

What Can Victims of Sexual Offences Do?

Immediate steps

If you or anyone you know is a victim of a sexual offence, the first 3 days after the offence took place are crucial. This is because any DNA evidence that has been produced can remain on your body for up to 72 hours. Within this period:

  • Safety comes first. This involves distancing yourself from the alleged perpetrator of the offence, avoiding places where they might be, and avoiding all forms of contact (including through calls, messages or social media). You can also call the police if you are in danger.
  • Get medical help if you have suffered serious physical injury. Even if you are not suffering from serious physical injury, you may want to consider getting yourself tested for any sexually transmitted infections. It would also be a good idea to consider emergency contraception if you are worried about an unwanted pregnancy.
  • Collect evidence. Sexual assault is a traumatic experience and it is understandable if you do not wish to relive it through a police report. Regardless, it’s a good idea to collect any evidence you can. This would allow you to make a stronger case if you make a police report later. Do note there is some urgency because certain evidence, like DNA, can only remain on your body for 72 hours. Collecting evidence can involve:
    • Taking photos of any physical injuries.
    • Noting the address of where the sexual assault happened and taking any photos of the crime scene, if possible.
    • Calling someone you trust to inform them of what happened. They can act as both your emotional support and witness, if you decide to pursue the matter.
    • You may also want to follow up with a detailed written description of the incident. Over time or because of the traumatic experience, you may forget certain important details. It will be useful to have the details recorded somewhere if you wish to make a police report later.
    • Placing clothing worn or sheets used at the time of the sexual assault in a sealed plastic bag.
    • If you decide to make a police report right away, it is important to preserve any evidence that may be on your body or at the scene. You are advised to avoid:
      • Bathing or showering.
      • Using the restroom.
      • Combing your hair.
      • Cleaning up the area.

Calling the police

Once you’ve called the police, they may require you to come down to the police station personally for an interview. Your statement will usually be recorded at this point. The police will take the utmost care in protecting your privacy, such as conducting the interviews in private rooms.

The police may then require you to do a rape-kit examination. This will help preserve any evidence on your body but it is only useful when there has been penetration of any form. The examination will involve completing your full medical history, a physical examination, and samples of semen and hair will be collected for DNA testing.

Unfortunately, a rape-kit examination is not something you can independently request for. You must first make a police report. A police officer will escort you to the OneSafe Centre in the Police Cantonment Complex to have the examination performed. You will need to bring your parents along if you are younger than 21 years old as their signature would be required.

The police will then investigate the matter. If there is sufficient evidence, the offender will be charged. Do also note that most sexual offences under the Penal Code are arrestable offences. This means that the police have the authority to arrest the offender without first getting an arrest warrant from the court.

The case may then proceed to a trial if the charges are contested. During the trial, the court can continue to protect your identity by issuing a gag order. If so, no one will be allowed to disclose your identity and the hearing can be conducted behind closed doors.

If you do not feel comfortable facing the offender again, the court will allow you to testify from behind a physical screen in the courtroom, or through a video link from a safe space outside the courtroom.

Further, questions regarding your sexual history not related to the accused will not be asked unless the judge allows them.

Can a Victim of Sexual Offence Seek Compensation?

If you are a victim of a sexual offence, you can seek compensation by suing the perpetrator. However, this is not always practical since lawsuits often cost a lot of money.

Alternatively, the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) provides the court with some leeway in ordering the offender to compensate you. In considering whether to make a compensation order, the court will consider your financial resources to sue for compensation, and the offender’s ability to pay it within a reasonable time.

If the court does grant a compensation order in your favour, you can still seek further compensation through a lawsuit. However, the amount that you are claiming for in the lawsuit must exclude the amount that you have received from the compensation order.

Should a Victim of Sexual Offence Engage a Lawyer?

As a victim of a sexual offence, you may still need legal advice. A lawyer can help in several ways:

  • Provide you with general guidance on your case.
  • Advise you on your legal rights based on your circumstances.
  • Filing a lawsuit if you are seeking compensation.

If you require legal advice, do not hesitate to contact one of our criminal lawyers.

Arrest and Investigation
  1. Singapore’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction: What Does It Mean?
  2. Your Right to a Lawyer After Being Arrested in Singapore
  3. What to Do If Your Loved One is Under Police Investigation
  4. How to Write a Letter of Representation to AGC in Singapore
  5. What is Entrapment and is It Legal in Singapore?
  6. What Happens When You Voluntarily Surrender to the Police
  7. Juvenile Crime: What If Your Child is Arrested in Singapore?
  8. Seized Assets in Money Laundering Investigations: What Happens To Them?
  9. Tasers, Batons, Shields & Firearms: When Do the Police Use Them?
  10. Stopped by the Singapore Police For Spot Checks, Etc: What to Do
  11. What is the Appropriate Adult Scheme in Singapore?
  12. Police Investigation Process for Crimes in Singapore (4 Steps)
  13. Arrest Warrant Issued Against You in Singapore: What to Do
  14. Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
  15. Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
  16. What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
  17. Can the Public Make a Citizen's Arrest in Singapore?
  18. What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
  19. "Right to Remain Silent" to Singapore Police: Does It Exist?
  20. Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know
  21. Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
  22. Penalties for Lying to the Authorities in Singapore
  23. Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  24. Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
  25. Extradition: What If I Flee After Committing Crime in Singapore
  1. The Essential Guide to Bail and Personal Bonds in Singapore
  1. What is Private Prosecution?
  2. Magistrate’s Complaints, Private Summons and Private Prosecutions in Singapore
  3. Prosecutorial Discretion in Singapore
  4. Composition Offers and Fines for Criminal Offences in Singapore
  5. Plea Bargaining in Singapore: All You Need to Know
During Criminal Proceedings
  1. Making Objections at Trial in the Singapore Courts
  2. Legal Defences in Criminal Law: General Exceptions
  3. When is a Witness Testimony Unreliable in Singapore?
  4. Burden of Proof in Criminal and Civil Cases in Singapore
  5. Falsely Accused of a Crime in Singapore: Your Next Steps
  6. What is Acquittal & How Can One Be Acquitted in Singapore?
  7. Using the Defence of Diminished Responsibility in Singapore
  8. Death of a Party in a Legal Case in Singapore: What Happens?
  9. The "Unusually Convincing" Test in "He Said, She Said" Cases
  10. How to Adjourn or Postpone a Criminal Court Hearing
  11. TIC: Guide to Charges Taken Into Consideration in Singapore
  12. Can I Use the Defence of Intoxication in Singapore?
  13. When Can I Raise the Defence of Provocation in Singapore?
  14. Writing Character References For Court: What’s Their Purpose?
  15. Giving False vs. Wrong Evidence: What’s the Difference?
  16. Legal Defences in Criminal Law: Special Exceptions
  17. Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
  18. Claiming Trial as an Accused
  19. Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
  20. The Defence of Unsound Mind in Singapore: What is It?
  21. Gag Orders in Singapore: Whose Identity Can be Protected?
  22. Mitigation Plea: How to Plead for Leniency in Court in Singapore
After Criminal Proceedings
  1. Recidivism: What Happens If You Reoffend in Singapore?
  2. Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
  3. Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
  4. Guide to Filing a Criminal Revision in Singapore
  5. Presidential Clemency in Singapore
  6. Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
  7. Criminal Records in Singapore
  8. Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
  9. Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
Types of Sentences After Committing an Offence
  1. Fined for an Offence: What to Do If I Can't Afford to Pay Them?
  2. How Long Is Life Imprisonment in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  3. Corrective Training and Its Consequences in Singapore
  4. Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
  5. Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
  6. How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
  7. Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?
  8. Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
  9. Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
  10. 7 Detention Orders in Singapore: When Will They be Ordered?
  11. Day Reporting Order: Eligibility and Offender's Obligations
Being a Victim
  1. Ragging and Bullying: Their Penalties and What Victims Can Do
  2. Laws Protecting Informers/Whistleblowers in Singapore
  3. Counterfeit Medicine/Health Products: Redress for Victims in Singapore
  4. Breach of Protection Orders: What Can Victims Do?
  5. Using Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
  6. Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
Offences Against the Human Body
  1. Voluntarily Causing Hurt Penalties in Singapore (Non-Arrestable)
  2. Murder vs Culpable Homicide in Singapore (and Penalties)
  3. Is Suicide Illegal in Singapore? Will I Be Punished for Trying?
  4. Kidnapping Scam: Penalties & Responding to a ‘Kidnap Call/Text'
Sexual Offences
  1. Rape Laws in Singapore and How Offenders Can Be Punished
  2. Sexual Misconduct in Singapore: Offences and What Victims Can Do
  3. Falsely Accused of Rape in Singapore: What to Do
  4. Incest and Family Sexual Abuse: Penalties and Victim Protection
  5. How are Sexual Offenders with Special Needs Penalised?
  6. Cybersexual Crimes in Singapore and Their Penalties
  7. The Offence of Attempted Rape in Singapore: Law & Penalties
  8. Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
  9. Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
  10. Accused of Molest: Outrage of Modesty in Singapore
  11. What Can Victims of Sexual Harassment in Singapore Do?
  12. What is the Law on Sexting in Singapore?
  13. Revenge Porn: What If Your Nudes are Leaked in Singapore?
  14. Crime of Voyeurism in Singapore (Penalties and Defences)
  15. Date Rape: What to Do If Your Drink Has Been Unlawfully Spiked?
  16. STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
Vice-Related Offences
  1. Alcohol Breathalyser Test in Singapore: Can You Refuse it?
  2. Are Sex Toys and Sex Dolls Legal in Singapore?
  3. Singapore's Legal Smoking Age & Common Smoking Offences
  4. Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
  5. Legal Drinking Age and Drinking-Related Laws in Singapore
  6. Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
  7. Child Pornography in Singapore: Offences and Penalties
  8. Laws on Procuring Sex Workers & Sexual Services in Singapore
  9. Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
  10. Gambling Legally (at Home, in Public or Online) in Singapore
  11. The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
Property Offences
  1. What is a Protected Area and Place in Singapore?
  2. Penalties For Buying Stolen Goods in Singapore
  3. Penalties for Committing Theft in Singapore
  4. Committing Robbery in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
  5. Penalties for Dishonest Misappropriation of Property in Singapore
  6. Vandalism Laws: Penalties for Damaging Property in Singapore
  7. Criminal Trespass in Singapore: What Happens If You’re Caught?
  8. Penalties for Littering Offences in Singapore
  1. What is a POFMA Correction Direction and How to Appeal
  2. Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
  3. Penalties for Impersonating Someone and Victim Redress
  4. Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
  5. Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
White-Collar Crimes
  1. Tax Evasion in Singapore: Penalties and Examples
  2. Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in Singapore: What is It?
  3. All You Need to Know About Corruption in Singapore
  4. A Guide to Singapore’s Anti-Money Laundering Laws
  5. 5 Things You Need to Know about Insider Trading
  6. Dishonest Assistance and Knowing Receipt: The Case of David Rasif
Road Offences
  1. Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
  2. DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
  3. What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
  4. Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
  5. Penalties for Dangerous Driving for Singapore Drivers
  6. Fatal Traffic Accidents: Are Drivers Always Punished?
  7. Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
  8. Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
Animal-Related Offences
  1. Taxidermy of Animals in Singapore: Is It Legal?
  2. Legal and Illegal Pets in Singapore (HDB/Private Property)
  3. Is It Illegal to Feed Stray Animals in Singapore?
  4. Animal Abuse in Singapore: Offences, Penalties & How to Report Abuse
Offences Relating to Public Peace and Good Order
  1. Radicalisation and Terror Attack-Related Penalties in Singapore
  2. Causing a Public Nuisance in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
  3. Causing Public Alarm in Singapore: Examples & Penalties
  4. Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore
  5. Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
  6. Racial Enmity: Sections 298 and 298A Penal Code Explained
  7. Religious Cults in Singapore: Are they Illegal? Penalties & More
  8. Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
Gang and Riot-related Offences
  1. Penalties for Unlawful Assembly and Rioting in Singapore
  2. Is Joining a Gang Illegal in Singapore?: Being Recruited and Penalties
  3. Organised Crimes: Penalties/Orders Syndicates Face in Singapore
Marriage-Related Offences
  1. Bigamy: Is It Legal to Marry a Married Person in Singapore?
  2. Marriage Offences in Singapore Involving Minors, Same-Sex, Etc.
  3. What are Sham Marriages and Are They Illegal in Singapore?
Certificate of Clearance
  1. How Do You Apply for a Certificate of Clearance in Singapore?
Other Criminal Offences
  1. Penalties for Abetting Minors or Committing Crimes Against Them
  2. Misusing the Singapore Flag and Other National Symbols
  3. What are the Penalties for Committing Forgery in Singapore?
  4. Arson and Fire-Related Offences and Their Penalties in Singapore
  5. Offences Against the Dead and What Family Members Can Do
  6. Laws on Prohibited, Replica and Self-Defence Weapons
  7. Laws to Tackle High-Rise Littering in Singapore
  8. Penalties for Attempting to Commit a Crime in Singapore
  9. Penalties for Assaulting a Person in Singapore
  10. Is Dining & Dashing Illegal in Singapore?
  11. Expats Charged With Offences in Singapore: What to Expect
  12. What are the Penalties for Hiring Phantom Workers in Singapore?
  13. What Are Ponzi Schemes? Are They Illegal in Singapore?
  14. Modification of Cars, Motorcycles, Etc: Is It Legal in Singapore?
  15. Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
  16. Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore