Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?

Last updated on June 4, 2019

Back view of a man watching a white screen

What is Porn?

Pornography is any obscene material such as videos, pictures, and magazines that hold sexually explicit or obscene images which are meant to arouse or sexually excite a person.

Is Streaming or Watching Porn Online Legal?

It is not illegal to stream and watch pornographic content online in Singapore.

The Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA), however, has banned approximately 100 porn websites as a symbolic gesture that Singaporean values do not condone the viewing of pornographic content.

The main purpose of the ban was to prevent young children and the youth from accidentally (or even purposefully) accessing these websites. Nevertheless, the IMDA does not monitor or restrict one’s access to online content, beyond these websites.

Is Broadcasting Porn Online Legal?

As per IMDA’s Internet Code of Practice, Internet Service Providers and Internet Content Providers licensed under the Broadcasting Act are required to use best efforts to ensure that prohibited material, such as pornographic material, is not broadcast to the public in Singapore.

The IMDA is empowered to impose fines on licensees found to have not done so.

Is Downloading or Possessing Porn Legal?

 

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Contrary to what you may think, it’s actually not illegal to visit porn sites, or watch pornography, in Singapore! 🤪 Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) does have a “symbolic” ban on about 100 pornography sites, though, which makes those sites much harder to access. But as you might expect, people have found ways to sidestep these website bans. 👀 – While it’s not illegal to watch porn, it *is* illegal to possess pornographic materials of any kind! 😶 This includes buying DVDs, books or films with pornographic content, or downloading pornography off the internet. Those found to have obscene films in their possession risk a fine of up to $40,000, jail for up to 12 months, or both! 😤 In most cases, if the offender is found to have a small number of pornographic materials for personal use, a fine may be imposed instead of imprisonment.⠀ – Despite these measures, there are people who think that more should be done: on Tuesday, a The Straits Times published a letter from a writer calling for Singapore to completely ban access to all pornography sites, in light of the recent peeping tom incidents on university campuses. 😳 Do you think such a measure would be effective in addressing the problem? 🤔Leave a comment! #SingaporeLegalAdvice

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In Singapore, it is illegal to keep, possess or download porn under the Undesirable Publications Act and the Films Act. This is regardless of whether the porn is in physical or digital form, and even if the porn was for personal use.

If you are found to be possessing pornographic films, you can be fined up to $20,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 6 months under section 30(1) of the Films Act. The penalties are higher if you are found to have known, or to have had reasonable cause to believe, that the film in your possession was obscene.

First-time offenders can be fined up to a maximum of $40,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 12 months, while subsequent offenders can be fined up to $80,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 2 years.

Generally, in Singapore, if you are found in possession of obscene films for your own personal use rather than for public distribution, the courts may choose to only impose a fine on you rather than an imprisonment sentence.

This practice is best seen in the case of PP v Chandran s/o Natesan, where the court imposed a fine of $20,000 instead of an imprisonment sentence on the defendant for possessing 291 obscene films for his own personal use as this was not a “serious offence.”

In the case of PP v Ng Hock Seong however, the court chose to imprison the offender even though the pornographic videos in his possession were for personal use. Therefore to be safe, it is recommended that you do not download or keep any form of pornographic material.

Possession of voyeuristic content

There is an upcoming law in Singapore (currently termed as the Criminal Law Reform Act, taking effect early 2020) that will amend the Penal Code to criminalise the possession of, or gaining access to, voyeuristic or intimate images or recordings of another person.

Intimate images refer to images of someone’s private areas (breasts/genitals etc) whether bare or clothed, or images of someone performing a private act.

You are deemed to have possession of these images or recordings if you control access to their electronic versions, such as by viewing them online or sending them to yourself. It does not matter that you do not having physical possession of the electronic image or recording.

You can be found guilty of this offence if you know that the intimate images or recordings are obtained by illegally filming someone, such as an upskirt video of a person.

You can also be found guilty if you have reason to believe that the intimate images or recordings are in your possession without the consent of the person in the image or recordings, and such possession would cause distress, alarm or humiliation to them.

This offence also includes images or recordings that you gained access to as a result of “revenge porn” (explained further below).

If you possess such voyeuristic or intimate images or recordings, you can be imprisoned for a term of up to 2 years and/or fined. If the person in the recordings or images is under the age of 14, you will be jailed for up to a term of 2 years, and either fined or caned.

Is Filming Porn Legal?

It is illegal under the Films Act to make or reproduce obscene films, even if these are not for distribution or exhibition to the public.

If you do so, you can be fined for up to $40,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 2 years. If you are a repeat offender, the maximum fine is increased to $100,000.

Voyeurism

Under the Criminal Law Reform Act, it will also be an offence in the Penal Code to make voyeuristic content of someone.

Making voyeuristic content of someone includes recording someone partaking in a private act, or recording images of their private areas (such as upskirt videos), without their consent.

If convicted of this offence, you can be imprisoned for up to 2 years, fined or caned (or any combination of these). If the person is under the age of 14 years, imprisonment of up to 2 years is compulsory, and you will also be fined or caned.

Is Importing or Selling Porn Legal in Singapore?

It is illegal to import or sell any form of pornographic content (be it in physical copies or digital copies of films, pictures and magazines) in Singapore.

Import or sale of pornographic films

If you are a first-time offender caught in possession of pornographic films with an intention to distribute, or distributing such films, you can be fined up to $80,000 and/or jailed for up to 2 years under section 29(3) of the Films Act.

If you are a first-time offender caught importing such films, you can be fined up to $40,000 and/or jailed for up to 12 months.

Repeat offenders for either offence can be fined up to $100,000 and/or jailed for up to 2 years.

Import or sale of pornographic publications

If you are caught in possession of/importing pornographic publications (such as magazines, photos and pamphlets) for the purposes of selling or distributing, or you are caught selling or distributing such pornographic publications, you can be fined for up to $10,000 and/or jailed for up to 2 years under section 11 of the Undesirable Publications Act.

Under section 292 of the Penal Code, you can also be fined and/or jailed for up to 3 months for selling, distributing, importing, exhibiting, or advertising obscene publications.

If such sale, distribution or exhibition is made to a person under 21 years old, you are liable to be jailed for up to 1 year and/or fined.

Is Sharing Porn for Non-Commercial Purposes Legal in Singapore?

Cyber-flashing

The Criminal Law Reform Act will further criminalise the sharing of pornographic images of his or another person’s genitals to someone, for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification or causing humiliation, distress or alarm to the recipient, without their consent. This is also known as “cyber-flashing.”

If you were to share such pornographic images without the recipient’s consent, you can be imprisoned for a term of up to 1 year and/or fined. If the image had been sent to someone under the age of 14, jail of up to 2 years is compulsory, and you will also be fined or caned.

Distributing of voyeuristic content

The Criminal Law Reform Act will also criminalise the distribution of voyeuristic content.

If you are caught distributing such voyeuristic content without the subject’s consent, you can be jailed for up to 5 years, fined or caned (or any combination of these).

If the voyeuristic content is of a person under the age of 14 years, jail for up to 5 years is compulsory, and you will also be fined or caned.

Revenge porn

Revenge porn is where a person distributes intimate images or recordings of someone they were once in a relationship with, with the knowledge that their ex does not consent to the distribution. More often than not, this is done to humiliate or intimidate their ex as an act of revenge.

Persons who commit revenge porn knowing that this will likely cause humiliation, distress or alarm to the subject of the images or recordings can be jailed for up to 5 years, fined or caned (or any combination of these).

If the content is of a person under the age of 14 years, jail for up to 5 years is compulsory, and you will also be fined or caned.

In summary, it is not illegal to view or stream pornographic content in Singapore. However, it is illegal to make, distribute, import, sell, advertise and even possess and download any form of pornographic content.

The following table is a summary of the various offences and corresponding punishments for making, possessing, distributing, exhibiting and selling pornographic content in Singapore:

Streaming Porn
No criminal sanctions
Downloading or Possessing Porn
Section 30(1) of Films Act Possessing obscene films, either in physical or digital form Fine of up to $20,000, and/or imprisonment of up to 6 months
Section 30(2) of Films Act Possessing obscene films knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the films are obscene First Time Offenders: Fine of up to $40,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months

Subsequent Offences: Fine of up to $80,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 2 years

Possession of voyeuristic content

Section 377BD Penal Code (wef 2020)

Possessing voyeuristic content with knowledge/reason to believe that such content was distributed or obtained without the subject’s consent Imprisonment for up to 2 years and/or a fine

If subject is below 14 years: Compulsory imprisonment for up to 2 years, and liable for fine or caning

Importing/Selling Pornographic Films
Section 29(2) of Films Act Importing obscene films knowing or having reasonable cause to know that the films are obscene First Time Offenders: Fine of up to $40,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 2 years

Subsequent Offences: Fine of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 2 years

Section 29(3) of Films Act Possessing with the purpose to distribute or distributing obscene films knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the films are obscene First Time Offenders: Fine of up to $80,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 2 years

Subsequent Offences: Fine of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 2 years

Filming Porn
Section 29(1) of Films Act Making or reproducing obscene films knowing or with reasonable cause to know that it is obscene First time offenders: fine of up to $40,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 2 years

Subsequent offences: Fine of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 2 years

Voyeurism

Section 377BB of Penal Code

(wef 2020)

Recording someone partaking in a private act/or

Recording someone’s private parts without their consent

Imprisonment of up to 2 years, a fine, caning or any combination of these

If subject is under the age of 14 years: Compulsory imprisonment of up to 2 years, and liable for fine or caning

Importing/Selling Pornographic publications
Section 11 of Undesirable Publications Act Possessing obscene publications for the purpose of selling or distributing the publications

Distributing/Exhibiting/Selling/Importing such obscene publications

Making or reproducing obscene publications for the purposes of sale or distribution

Fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 2 years
Sections 292 and 293 of Penal Code Distributing/Exhibiting/Selling/Importing/Advertising such obscene publications Imprisonment for a term up to 3 months, and/or a fine

If the sale etc. is to a person under the age of 21 years: Imprisonment for up to 1 year and/or a fine.

Sharing Porn for Non-Commercial Purposes
Cyber-flashing

Section 377BF of Penal Code

(wef 2020)

Sharing pornographic images of one’s own or a third-party’s genitals to someone, without their consent, for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification Imprisonment for up to 1 year and/or a fine

If subject is below 14 years: Compulsory imprisonment for up to 2 years, and liable for fine or caning

Distribution of voyeuristic content

Section 377BC of Penal Code

(wef 2020)

Distributing voyeuristic content or an intimate image or recording of someone without their consent Imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine, caning or any combination of these

If subject is under the age of 14 years: Compulsory imprisonment of up to 5 years, and liable for fine or caning

Revenge porn

Section 377BE of Penal Code

(wef 2020)

Distributing or threatening to distribute an intimate image or recording of someone without their consent Imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine, caning or any combination of these

If subject is under the age of 14 years: Compulsory imprisonment of up to 5 years, and liable for fine or caning

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