| Law on sex with minors overseas may be in the works
The Government has sent out the strongest signal yet that it may pass a law enabling it
to prosecute Singaporeans who have sex with minors overseas.
Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan said
yesterday: 'We are signalling that this is behaviour which is intolerable, which is
incompatible with being a Singaporean both locally as well as overseas. We are stepping
up ways and means to identify and ultimately to prosecute and stop such behaviour.'
The law could have a big impact on the sex tourism industry on Batam, where
prostitutes as young as 14 service a largely Singaporean clientele. In May this year, the
Home Affairs Ministry said it will decide by the end of the year if such a law should be
Dr Balakrishnan was speaking to the media on the sidelines of the International Society
for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Asian Regional Conference, where close to
460 delegates from 38 countries met to discuss child protection issues.
During his opening speech, he said that Asean nations have recently reviewed their
positions on tourism to make children's interests a top priority. And the only effective
way to stop kids from being exploited is not only to enforce strict domestic laws but also
to collaborate with other countries to deal with the problem.
For a start, the 10 Asean countries are working on a Traveller's Code to promote
responsible tourism, including putting a stop to the trafficking and exploitation of
children. A check with the Asean Secretariat showed that all 10 countries will have a
common campaign message, likely to be in the form of posters and stickers.
The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports said last month that it is
committed to taking part in the regional campaign.
Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Kishore Mahbubani urged countries to
get their economic and political systems right if they are serious about improving
In his keynote speech, he recounted a cautionary tale about a non-government
organisation that succeeded in shutting down a Bangladeshi factory using child labour.
When they returned the next year, some of the children had become prostitutes.
'Unless you find a realistic long-term solution to things like child labour, efforts to help
them may become worse for them. That's why I believe economic development is the
critical answer to improving children's welfare,' he said.