Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences

Last updated on November 5, 2020

Couple hugging and about to kiss

The legal age to have sex in Singapore is 16 years old. This means that it is a punishable offence to have sex (whether vaginal, oral or anal) with persons below 16 years old, as stated in section 376A of the Singapore Penal Code.

The genders of the parties does not matter. It also does not matter whether the minor had consented to having sex.

The penalties for a person found guilty of having underage sex depends on the age of the minor:

  • If the minor was between 14 years old and 16 years old, the offender can be jailed up to 20 years, and either fined or caned, if the offender was in an exploitative relationship with the minor. (See below for what it means to be in an exploitative relationship.) If the parties were not in such a relationship, the offender can be fined and/or jailed up to 10 years.
  • If the minor was under 14 years old, the offender can be jailed up to 20 years, and either fined or caned. If the parties were of the opposite sex and the girl was under 14, the man can be convicted of rape instead (see below).

If the minor was between 16 and 18 years old, the offender could also be charged if the parties were in an exploitative relationship (more information below).

What If You Didn’t Know Your Partner was a Minor?

Section 377D of the Penal Code states that being mistaken about your partner’s age is not a valid defence for any sexual offence charges.

This is unless you have been charged with a sexual offence which requires the minor to be between 16 and 18 years old (such as having sex in exploitative relationships, as explained below), and:

  • You had a reasonable mistaken belief that your partner was 18 years old or older;
  • You have not been charged with similar sexual offences before; and
  • You took all reasonable steps to confirm that your partner was 18 years old or older.

Rape

Under section 375 of the Penal Code, a man will be guilty of rape if he has vaginal, oral or anal sex with:

  • Any woman without her consent; or
  • A girl under 14 years old, regardless of whether she had given her consent.

If the girl was between 14 and 16 years old, the man (regardless of age) can be found guilty of rape only if he had sex with her without her consent. If the sex was consensual, then the man can only be found guilty of having sex with a minor between 14 years old and 16 years old (as discussed above).

As of 1 January 2020, the rape offence also covers male victims. A man can also be found guilty of rape if he has oral or anal sex with:

  • Another person (whether male or female) without their consent;
  • Another person (whether male or female) under 14 years old, regardless of whether they had given their consent.

Marital rape

As of 1 January 2020, men can also be found guilty of rape against their wives if their wives had not consented to having sex.

Sexual Assault Involving Penetration

Women cannot technically commit “rape” as the rape provision (i.e. section 375 of the Penal Code) applies only to male offenders. However, they can be convicted of sexual assault involving penetration under section 376 of the Penal Code if they:

  • Use a part of their body (or an object) to penetrate another person’s vagina or anus without that person’s consent; or
  • Causes a man to penetrate their vagina, anus or mouth without that man’s consent.

Men can also be convicted of sexual assault involving penetration if they use any part of their body (which is not their penis), or an object, to penetrate another person’s vagina or anus without that person’s consent.

If the person who had been penetrated is under 14 years old, the offender can still be convicted of sexual assault involving penetration even if the other person had consented to the penetration.

Having Sex in Exploitative Relationships

Under the Penal Code, an accused person’s relationship with a minor under 18 years old may be considered exploitative depending on factors such as:

  • The age of the minor
  • The age gap between the parties
  • The nature of the parties’ relationship
  • The extent of control or influence that the accused exercised over the minor

If the accused holds certain positions of authority over the minor, the parties’ relationship will also be presumed to be exploitative unless the accused can prove otherwise. Such positions of authority include the accused being the minor’s:

  • Parent or step-parent
  • Teacher (while the minor is still a student)
  • Religious, musical or sporting instructor
  • Doctor
  • Lawyer

If a person in an exploitative relationship with a minor between 16 and 18 years old has sex (whether vaginal, oral or anal) with the minor, that person can be jailed up to 15 years, and either fined or caned. This is even if the minor had consented to having sex.

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Molest (Outrage of Modesty)

Molest is prosecuted as the offence of outrage of modesty in Singapore when it involves criminal force, pursuant to section 354 of the Penal Code.

We have another article with more information on the offence of outrage of modesty in Singapore.

Sexual Grooming

Sexual grooming occurs when an offender on or above 18 years old meets another person under 16 years old with the intention of having sex, where the offender had previously met or communicated with him/her at least 1 time.

Commercial Sex with Minors

Commercial sex (i.e. paying for sex) with persons under 18 years old is a punishable offence under section 376B of the Penal Code.

Under section 376C of the Penal Code, Singapore citizens or Permanent Residents who engage in commercial sex with persons under 18 outside of Singapore can still be liable for an offence.

Sexting

Sending sexually suggestive messages to a person under 16 years old may result in a prosecution under section 7 of the Children and Young Persons Act or section 376E of the Penal Code.

Read our other article for more information on the laws on sexting in Singapore.

Other Sexual Offences

The following are also punishable offences in Singapore:

  • Intercourse between men
  • Incest, i.e. sex with family members
  • Necrophilia, i.e. sex with corpses
  • Bestiality, i.e. sex with animals
  • Child prostitution
  • Child pornography
  • Sexual harassment

Punishment

The quantum of punishment for each respective sexual offence, such as the length of imprisonment or sum of fine, can be found in the Penal Code under the relevant sections for each offence.

However, the exact punishment that will be handed down by the judge will depend on the nature of the offence committed. We have more information on the sentencing framework for sexual offences in Singapore in another article.

If you have been charged with a sexual offence and are looking for a lawyer to represent you, feel free to get in touch with one of our trusted criminal defence lawyers.

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