Rape Laws in Singapore and How Offenders Can Be Punished

Last updated on March 6, 2024

man arrested, in handcuffs

What is Rape?

Rape is when a man uses his penis to penetrate the vagina, anus or mouth of a person without the person’s consent. If the victim was below 14 years of age when the incident occurred, penile penetration will still be considered as rape even with or without the victim’s consent to the act.

Before the new laws in the Criminal Law Reform Act (CLRA) 2019 came into force on 1 January 2020, men could not be victims of rape. Now, both men and women can be considered victims of rape in Singapore.

However, since rape is classified as using one’s penis to penetrate another person, only men can be charged with rape. If the sexual assault had been committed by a female perpetrator, she may be charged with sexual assault involving penetration under section 376 of the Penal Code instead, which carries the exact same maximum penalties as rape.

This article will discuss:

How is Rape Different From Underage Sex?

Rape is different from underage sex as they are classified as different offences in the Penal Code, and carry different sentences.

For a person to be guilty of engaging in underage sex, the person whom they had had sex with has to be younger than 16 years old. It also does not matter whether that person had consented to penile penetration.

There are some situations that can fulfil the requirements for both the offences of rape and underage sex. One example is where the victim is 14 years old or older, but younger than 16 years old, and had not consented to penile penetration.

In such situations, the offence of underage sex would not apply and the perpetrator may be charged with rape instead.

What is consent?

Consent is when a person agrees to a sexual act in question voluntarily.

However, consent given voluntarily is not valid if the person was drunk or under the influence of drugs. This is because the person may not have understood the nature and consequence of the consent while being drunk or on drugs.

Also, a person’s consent is not valid if it was made because the perpetrator threatened their safety.

Read more about this in our other article on what legally constitutes consent.

Marital Rape: Can Men be Found Guilty of Raping Their Wives?

Yes, men can be found guilty of raping their wives in Singapore.

Before the new laws in the CLRA came into force on 1 January 2020, men were generally immune from marital rape. Now, men may be guilty of raping their wives if their wives did not consent to penile penetration.

Penalties for Rape

Offenders who are guilty of committing rape against a victim who is aged 14 years old or older will be jailed up to 20 years and will also be liable to fine or caning.

On the other hand, offenders who are guilty of committing aggravated rape will be jailed for at least 8 years and up to 20 years, and caned of at least 12 times.

Aggravated rape is when an offender:

  • Voluntarily causes hurt to anyone or threatens to kill or hurt that person or any other person in order to commit the rape;
  • Rapes a person below 14 years of age without that person’s consent; or
  • Rapes a person below 14 years of age with whom the offender is in an exploitative relationship with the person (even if that person had consented to the act).

How Will Offenders be Sentenced For Rape?

Offenders who claim trial to rape cases will generally be sentenced under a sentencing matrix as set out in the 2017 case of Ng Kean Meng Terence v PP.

First, the court will identify which band the offence falls within by examining how the offence was committed and the harm caused to the victim. This will include offence-specific factors such as whether the offence was committed through an abuse of trust, or with violence.

Second, the court will consider the relevant aggravating and mitigating offender-specific factors to decide if the proposed sentences in the particular band should be adjusted upwards or downwards for each given offender. Offender-specific factors relate to the offender’s personal circumstances and will not be factors already considered in the first step.

*Take note that offence-specific factors make reference mainly to how the offence was committed and the harm caused – not factors specific to the offender’s circumstances himself. Such personal factors, such as whether the offender was remorseful, will be considered only as offender-specific factors.

The following sections will explain these in further detail.

Step 1: Identifying which band the offence falls within 

The 3 bands of punishment are:

  1. Band 1: 10–13 years’ imprisonment and at least 6 strokes of the cane
  2. Band 2: 13–17 years’ imprisonment and at least 12 strokes of the cane
  3. Band 3: 17–20 years’ imprisonment and at least 18 strokes of the cane

Which band an offender will come under will generally depend on the number of offence-specific aggravating factors relevant to the case.

Offence-specific aggravating factors

Aggravating factors that the court will consider while determining which band the offence falls within include:

  • Group rape
  • Abuse of position and breach of trust
  • Premeditation
  • Violence
  • Rape of a vulnerable victim (a victim may be considered vulnerable because of his or her age, physical frailty, mental impairment, or learning disability)
  • Forcible rape of a victim below 14
  • Hate crime
  • Serious physical or mental effects on the victim, e.g. the victim becomes pregnant, was transmitted a serious disease or develops a psychiatric illness
  • Deliberate infliction of special trauma
    • The difference between this and the previous factor is that this factor focuses on the intention of the offender to cause serious harm to the victim, whether or not the victim actually suffered the serious harm from the assault

Factors that are generally irrelevant include:

  • Forgiveness by victim
  • Consent by a victim under 14

As mentioned above, the court will look at the number of offence-specific aggravating factors present in the case to determine which band of punishment the offence falls within.

Band 1: 10–13 years’ imprisonment and at least 6 strokes of the cane

Band 1 will apply where there is at most one aggravating factor, and this factor was present only to a very limited extent.

Cases where the victim consented but was under 14 years of age would fall within the upper end of this band.

An example of a case which would fall under this band is the case of Haliffie bin Mamat (CA), where a man raped a tipsy woman after offering her a lift in his car. This is because the only aggravating factor present in that case was that he had taken advantage of the fact that the victim was drunk (but not unconscious) during the assault.

Band 2: 13–17 years’ imprisonment and at least 12 strokes of the cane

Band 2 will apply where there are 2 or more aggravating factors.

This band includes cases where a victim was particularly vulnerable and where there was an abuse of position by the offender. Most cases of aggravated rape (see “Penalties for Rape” above) will also fall within this band.

Offences with serious violence and those that take place over an extended period of time, leaving the victims with serious and long-lasting injuries, would come under the middle and upper levels of this band.

An example of a case which would fall under the lower end of this band is the case of PP v Robiul Bhoreshuddin Mondal, where the offender had broken into a house at night and raped a domestic helper 4 times. During the rape, he threatened to kill her if she did not remain quiet.

On the other hand, an example of a case which would fall under the upper end of this band is the case of PP v AHB, where the offender was the victim’s biological father and had previously been convicted of outraging her modesty. After his release, he continued to outrage her modesty and raped her when she was 14.

The victim became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter whom she put up for adoption. After the victim told the offender of her pregnancy, he did not show concern and instead told her to lie about it before coercing her into fellating him. The victim suffered severe psychological harm from the abuse.

As can be seen, PP v AHB contained a number of offence-specific aggravating factors such as abuse of trust, vulnerability of the victim, the long period of time over which the offences were committed, the callous manner he committed the abuse, and the lasting effects of the offences on the victim as she became pregnant and delivered a child.

Band 3: 17–20 years’ imprisonment and at least 18 strokes of the cane

Band 3 will apply where there are many aggravating factors, or when the aggravating factors are most severe.

This band often features victims with particularly high degrees of vulnerability and/or offenders who have committed very violent or perverse rapes. Higher levels of this band would include cases where the offender has perverted or psychopathic tendencies, and is likely to remain a danger to women if allowed to remain at large.

An example of a case which would fall under this band is the case of PP v Bala Kuppusamy, where the offender had robbed, violently assaulted, and sexually violated 4 different women in 1.5 months. It was his third conviction for a serious sexual offence (he had previously been convicted twice of aggravated rape, reoffending shortly after release each time).

The offender was assessed to have a high risk of reoffending and was described as a “merciless, marauding monster” who posed a very grave danger to society. He was classified under band 3 because of the need to keep him away from society.

Step 2: Calibration of the sentence

As mentioned above, after deciding whether a case lies in band 1, 2, or 3, the court will then consider offender-specific factors relating to the offender personally to adjust the proposed sentences for each offender.

Some aggravating offender-specific factors include:

Some mitigating offender-specific factors include:

  • Display of evident remorse
  • Youth
  • Advanced age
  • Plea of guilt

A plea of guilt will be assessed in terms of whether it shows that the offender is remorseful, whether it saves judicial resources, and the extent to which it spared the victim the ordeal of testifying.

Is Rape an Arrestable Offence?

Rape (including aggravated rape) is an arrestable offence. An arrestable offence is one where the police can arrest a suspect without a warrant.

For example, if the authorities reasonably suspect a man of committing rape, he can be arrested without a warrant.

Once the suspect has been arrested, it is up to the police or the court to decide whether to release him on bail.

Will People Convicted of Rape Have a Criminal Record?

Yes, if someone is convicted of rape, he will have a criminal record.

The offender is disqualified from having the opportunity to have his offence of rape be treated as spent. This means that the offender’s rape offence usually cannot be wiped clean. His rape offence will remain permanently on his record until he dies or becomes 100 years old.

Despite this, the offender can apply to the Commissioner of Police to have the record treated as spent. To determine whether to grant the application, the Commissioner of Police will consider:

  • The severity of the rape conviction;
  • The severity of the sentence imposed for the conviction; and
  • The applicant’s conduct subsequent to the conviction.

New Legislative Framework for Forensic Medical Examinations (FME)

On 5 February 2024, the Criminal Procedure (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2024 was passed, introducing key amendments including a new legislative framework for Forensic Medical Examinations (FME).

Under the new framework for FME, the police will be empowered to require persons accused of rape to undergo FME where it is relevant to the investigation of the rape offence that is reasonably suspected to have been committed. This is even if the accused person does not consent to it.

The FME comprise physical medical examinations, collection of body samples from any body part, and taking of photographs, casts and impressions of body parts, which may include intimate parts.

It will be an offence for an accused person to refuse to undergo FME without reasonable excuse. The punishment will be a jail term of up to 7 years, a fine, or both. The court may also draw a negative inference. Further, reasonably necessary force may be used for FME that does not involve intimate parts
or invasive procedures (e.g. buccal swabs, hair samples).

Next Steps For Victims of Rape

If you think you might have been raped, it is recommended that you first get away from your perpetrator and stop all forms of contact with him. If you are injured, go to the nearest doctor or hospital for medical attention. If you are concerned that you may be pregnant, you can consider emergency contraception.

Next, you should collect evidence such as:

  • Taking photos of any physical injury caused to you or of the crime scene
  • Calling someone you trust and telling them what happened
  • Writing down a detailed description of what happened.

You are also advised not to bathe, wash or change your clothes, brush your teeth or comb your hair for the purpose of collecting evidence via FME (see below). If you have already changed your clothes, you can put the unwashed clothes into a plastic bag as evidence and bring it to the police station.

If you decide to call the police, the police might bring you for FME (in this context, also known as a Rape Examination Kit) at the One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination (OneSAFE) Centre or a hospital to preserve DNA evidence. The FME will be conducted by medical professionals. They will look for and document injuries, and collect other evidence such as clothing, hair samples and swabs.

FME should be done within the first 72 hours of the assault for the same purpose of retaining DNA evidence. Hence, it is best that you contact the police as soon as possible. Adult rape victims whose cases are reported within 72 hours of the assault, and who do not require any other medical attention can go through the FME at the OneSAFE Centre, without needing to travel to the hospital.

Your informed consent will be required to undergo FME. However, under the new legislative framework (mentioned above), FME may still be carried out in exceptional cases where informed consent cannot be obtained within a reasonable time because of the victim’s physical or mental condition (e.g. if the victim is in a comatose state). The exception only applies if a delay in carrying out the FME may result in the loss, degradation or contamination of evidence that is relevant to the investigation. In practice, where the condition is temporary, police will still try, as far as possible, to wait for the victim to recover and seek their consent to undergo FME.

Please keep in mind that it is normal to feel shocked or confused after the assault, but as a victim of sexual assault, it is not your fault that it happened.

Please refer to the Sexual Assault Care Centre website by the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) for more information on what to do after a rape incident. The Care Centre serves all individuals regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, call the Samaritans of Singapore at 1800 221 4444 for emotional help 24/7.

If you require legal advice on your situation, such as if you have been accused of rape (falsely or otherwise), it is strongly recommended that you consult a criminal lawyer. This way, the lawyer can advise you on the next steps you should take.

Although you can represent yourself in court, rape cases may be quite complicated and a lawyer can tell you what the court process will be like, and what evidence to gather in support of your case.

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