Chief Justice Halves Oral Sex Offender’s Jail Term
February 18, 2004
By Raymond Andrew
A FORMER policeman, convicted for
having oral sex with a 16-year-old girl, had his sentence halved by Chief
Justice Yong Pung How yesterday.
But Annis bin Abdullah, who pleaded guilty and was
convicted on Nov 6 last year, was still ticked off by CJ Yong, despite having
his two-year jail sentence reduced to 12 months.
The decision, however, could also have an impact on three
similar cases at the Subordinate Courts, which have been postponed pending
CJ Yong also said that the ongoing public debate over
whether to abolish Section 377 of the Penal Code was an issue to be discussed
in Parliament and had no bearing on proceedings.
Annis’ conviction started a public debate on whether
the law against oral sex, which is punishable by a life sentence, is still
appropriate. The Government is considering decriminalising consensual oral sex
Defence counsel Mr SS Dhillon, who described the previous
sentence as “manifestly excessive”, hailed CJ Yong’s decision as a
“landmark” decision because the law on consensual oral sex was not clear
and because Section 377 carries a wide range of sentences.
The prosecution, represented by Senior State Counsel Khoo
Oon Soo, conceded the sentence was “unprecedented”.
Mr Dhillon argued that the offence had not been
“aggravating” in nature: The teenager had consented to the act, Annis had
not coerced or forced the girl and Annis had met the victim once, on the day
of the offence—April 23, 2002.
Mr Dhillon also argued that Annis was a first offender,
had admitted his guilt and had cooperated with the authorities.
CJ Yong said that consent in this case was not
straightforward. “Consent by adults is one thing, consent by a child of 16
is another thing,” he said. He added that all the facts had to be taken into
account when determining consent. “You drive her out into the ulu-ulu
(remote areas). You ask for sex, she gracefully declines and then you ask for
fellatio. She’s not going to decline,” he said.
In what could be read as a defence of Section 377, CJ
Yong said: “This is Asia you know … There are certain countries where
certain offences cause real offence …”
An Unpublished Letter in Response to the Article Above
I refer to the article, “CJ halves oral-sex sentence”
in the ST, 18th Feb.
In it, the Chief Justice is reported to have said, in
condemnation of oral sex, that ‘there are certain offences against Asian
I feel this statement embodies one of the main arguments
against oral sex, or in fact against anything our society is supposed to be
opposed to—that it’s against our Asian heritage. Over the years, the cry
of “but this is Asia!” has been used in Singapore and elsewhere in Asia to
justify all sorts of existing social inequities and problems.
That is a patently untenable argument. If we were to
follow everything our ‘Asian heritage’ (which I will regard as being
ancient Chinese cultural mores) appears to ask us to, then perhaps we should
reinstate female foot binding? Shouldn’t we demolish our red-light
districts? Unless those correspond to the brothels in Chinese history and
literature. And I certainly would not like to see our fair and clean
government compared to the unwieldy, corrupt bureacracies that existed through
much of China’s history. While I see the merits of and try to to be guided
by many Asian philosophies like Confucianism etc, I believe that Asian
heritage is neither as homogeneous nor as “pure” as many would like to
Moreover, much of what we regard as our heritage right
now, has actually been shaped by non-Asian forces over the years. With
specific regards to oral sex, the proscription against the act is ironically
not even Asian at all. It is British, and another archaic legacy left by our
former colonizers. To whit, only those countries formerly under the British
flag, such as Singapore and Malaysia, bear these laws. Indonesia, Thailand,
Cambodia, Vietnam and even China do not have these. These are certainly Asian
countries, and perhaps even conservative ones by our standards. Of course I do
not advocate the wanton adoption of any moral standard based on what’s
popular at the moment. I only think what we perceive as our Asian heritage and
what it actually is, can be two very different things. With this arbitrariness
as to what constitutes being Asian, compassion and common sense should
dominate when judging social questions for oneself.
For the many who often use the “Asian defense” to cut
down any kind of uncomfortable change, I’d like to add that our traditions
are a link for us to our past, to be celebrated as evidence of our will to
thrive and our unity. They should not be used to shield us from the realities
of the changing world and/or a substitute for reason. After all, one of the
greatest Asian values is the courage to adapt.
[Home] [World] [Singapore]