What You Need To Know About Revenge Porn In Singapore

And if it's illegal to send nudes.

Think of “revenge porn” and you’re likely to picture a jilted dude furiously uploading explicit pictures and videos of his ex. But not every perpetrator is a spurned lover—or a man, for that matter.

Last year, The Straits Times reported that a teen posted nude photos of his 17-year-old female cousin on Tumblr to get back at her for mocking him. And in 2016, the newspaper reported that a woman published nude photos of her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend because she was angry that he still had them on his laptop.

But why do these people resort to such measures, and why are the victims largely women? And more importantly, what can you do if it happens to you?

Laws in Singapore

While the distribution and possession of obscene images are illegal in Singapore, there are currently no laws tailored to address revenge porn. But this doesn’t mean there are no legal consequences for those who are guilty of it.

“Sharing nude pictures of an ex-partner specifically as a means of revenge involves an intention of revenge against the victim,” says Dilys H Chua, an associate at Chambers Law LLP. “This could translate to a charge of criminal intimidation in combination with a charge of the distribution of obscene images.”

“In contrast, sharing nude pictures of a porn star would probably involve a charge of the distribution of obscene images, as the intention and/or offence of criminal intimidation isn’t present,” adds Dilys. She stresses that it is the intention behind the distribution that affects how a perpetrator is charged.

But there might be specific laws tackling revenge porn soon. A committee set up to review the Penal Code has proposed that revenge porn be criminalised along with emerging crime trends like voyeurism and flashing, and their 500-page report was submitted to the government in August last year.

The shame game

As it turns out, revenge porn is usually used as a weapon of control.

“When perpetrators lose the ability to directly control their victims, they use revenge porn to try to control how others see them,” says Anisha Joseph, Head of the Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) at AWARE. She believes it mostly happens to women because of prevailing sexist beliefs.

“Many people still harbour the belief that women ‘owe’ men affection and sex, so women are publicly shamed when they fall short of these expectations,” she says. “It’s part of a larger toxic culture that exploits, harms and shames women’s bodies to have control over them.” It has also been used for blackmail when sexual advances are rejected.

“Revenge porn is about power and control, and a disregard of women’s consent,” adds Anisha.

To send or not to send?

You might think the best way to prevent yourself from being a victim of revenge porn is to avoid taking intimate pictures or videos of yourself altogether. But Anisha says there’s more to it.

“The responsibility of preventing revenge porn shouldn’t be placed on the victims. After all, technology is a big part of how we work, live, communicate and sustain relationships,” she says.

“We shouldn’t expect women to withdraw from technology or online activities to avoid sexual violence.”

“Instead, we need to work towards building healthier relationships, greater gender equality and an overall respect for an individual’s consent. The social and psychological harms of online violence and harassment, along with all forms of violence against women,
must also be taken seriously,” she adds.

At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with embracing your sexuality. But just know that once you press “send”, you don’t have complete control over who else might see your nudes.

So… is it illegal to send nudes?

Well, that depends on how many people you send it to. While the distribution of obscene images is against the law, lawyer Dilys H Chua says it isn’t illegal to send nudes to your partner.

“There’s no element of distribution if they are exchanged between two private parties. According to the Films Act, to ‘distribute’ means ‘to sell, hire out and supply’,” she explains.

In any case, remember that there’s always a chance that these nudes may be leaked—accidentally or otherwise.

A version of this article first appeared in the December/January 2019 print issue of CLEO magazine. 

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