Trafficking in Persons Report

Trafficking in Persons Report

Released by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

14, 2004

IV. Country Narratives: East Asia and Pacific


Singapore is a destination country for a limited number of girls and women trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation; while small, this number is likely more than 100 cases per year. Some of the women and girls from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) who travel to Singapore voluntarily for prostitution or non-sexual work are deceived or coerced into sexual servitude in Singapore. A small minority of foreign domestic workers face seriously abusive labor conditions; in a few such cases, these circumstances may amount to involuntary servitude.

Singapore was not in the 2003 Report but is included this year because of newly available information indicating it has a significant trafficking problem. The Government of Singapore does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government acknowledges the existence of the problem of trafficking in persons but does not consider trafficking for sexual exploitation to be a major problem in Singapore.However, the government over the last year identified cases of potential trafficking for sexual exploitation and has taken steps to improve its response to this form of trafficking. The government maintains effective border and immigration controls. Singapore has no national action plan to address trafficking. Prostitution is not illegal and procurement of sex from 16- and 17-year old prostitutes is not criminalized. Authorities generally tolerate prostitution, which largely involves foreign women, a few of whom are trafficked. The government should consider changing its law to enhance penalties against persons who facilitate prostitution by 16- and 17-year olds and enact and publicize laws against customers involved in commercial sex acts with prostitutes of these ages.

Singaporeans employ an estimated 140,000 foreign domestic workers. A small minority of these workers experience seriously abusive employment conditions; in rare cases, such conditions may amount to involuntary servitude, though documenting such cases is problematic. The Government of Singapore took several positive steps in the last year to address abuses of foreign domestic workers.

Singapore should consider adopting stronger anti-trafficking (for sexual exploitation) laws, and improved victim protection measures. It should also engage more with international and regional bodies involved in anti-trafficking activities. Singapore does not face the resource constraints of its neighbors and therefore has the capacity to increase funding for prevention and protection efforts.


There is no comprehensive law against trafficking in persons but Singapore’s criminal code criminalizes some forms of trafficking. Such acts are punishable under laws prohibiting the trafficking of women or girls into the country for purposes of prostitution, unlawful custody or control of children, wrongful confinement, and trafficking of illegal immigrants. Laws against forced or coerced prostitution mostly carry maximum sentences of five years. Procurement of commercial sex from a prostitute16 years or older is not a crime. The government tracks the number of trafficking-related prosecutions, repatriations of foreign women and girls who are suspected sex workers, and complaints from foreign domestics. Authorities reported seven alleged coerced prostitution cases in 2003, resulting in two convictions and sentences of up to 18 months imprisonment. Singaporean police also reported the detection and detention of 21 minors under the age of 18 involved in prostitution during the last year. There is no information on the number of arrests made of violators of national prostitution laws (violations concerning children and other exploitation). The government investigates cases involving allegations of abuse of foreign domestic workers and in 1998 raised the mandatory sentences for employers convicted of physically abusing foreign domestic workers to 1 ½ times the sentences given to persons convicted of the same abuses against Singaporeans. There is no evidence that government officials are complicit in trafficking.


No NGOs in Singapore focus exclusively on trafficking although several assist foreign workers and seek the enactment of enhanced labor protections. The government does not provide assistance to NGOs, except limited assistance to shelters. Trafficking victims are generally referred to shelters that offer counseling while abused foreign domestics are referred to such shelters or to shelters run by their embassies. Singapore in 2003 created an office in the Ministry of Manpower to promote the welfare of foreign domestic workers and to educate employees and employers on acceptable employment practices.


There is no specific anti-trafficking campaign directed at the use of fraud or coercion to recruit foreign women as prostitutes. The government does not take measures to reduce the demand for sex tourism junkets organized in Singapore to foreign destinations, nor to publicize the problem of sex trafficking in these destinations. The government maintains effective border and immigration controls. Singapore has no national action plan to address trafficking.


Singapore’s moment

Singapore’s moment

NYT Saturday, August 28, 2004

Singapore is rich, but seldom envied. Outsiders have long viewed the

gleaming city-state that attained its independence in 1965 as a tidy

but soulless place, the nanny state that banned chewing gum. The good

news is that new prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, the son of longtime

ruler Lee Kuan Yew, seems to realize that Singapore needs to loosen

up. At his swearing-in ceremony earlier this month, he said what not

long ago would have sounded like heresy in a nation where the bottom

line is the bottom line: “Prosperity is not our only goal, nor is

economic growth an end in itself.”

Lee followed up his inaugural address with a more detailed speech

last Sunday in which he announced a long-overdue relaxation of some

restrictions on freedoms of speech and assembly. No longer will all

indoor political speeches and rallies require a police-

issued “entertainment license.” That’s a start, but younger

Singaporeans, who have no memories of the colonial period and only

vague recollections of the cold war, will expect Lee to be far more

aggressive in liberalizing the city-state’s political culture. It

isn’t clear that he can deliver. Earlier this year, Lee told an

audience at the city’s Harvard Club that “not all policies are

amenable to public consultation,” and went on to include foreign

policy and taxes as examples of things best discussed in private.

Equally troubling, Lee’s authoritarian father still lurks in the

background, with the title of “minister mentor.”

As for chewing gum, it is now available in Singapore, but only in

pharmacies, and only if it’s sugarless and “therapeutic.” That’s the

kind of surreal in-between state of affairs that typifies the

nation’s reluctance or inability to surge ahead and become a more

self-confident, tolerant and democratic society.

If Lee fails to forge this transition in short order, or insists on

only taking half-steps, Singapore’s vaunted prosperity will probably

suffer. For decades, a business-friendly but politically

authoritarian Singapore thrived in comparison with its regional

competitors. Corruption sank the Philippines, Hong Kong suffered from

its uncertain status, and Singapore’s immediate neighbors were even

more authoritarian backwaters. But now, with China opening itself to

the outside world and countries like Malaysia and Thailand prospering

and stealing manufacturing jobs from Singapore, the island city-state

needs to foster a free-wheeling society if it wants to remain the

region’s primary economic hub in an age when the free flow of ideas

and knowledge is as important to the bottom line as the free flow of


Let the hundred flowers bloom

What follows is an extract from the recent National Day Rally Speech in which Lee Junior actually refers to a policy introduced by Chairman Mao, which eventually led to a crackdown on political dissenters in China.

“The second thing we are going to do is to open up the Speakers’Corner where you can go and make any speech you like and we are going to say, ‘Well, if you want to go there and have an exhibition, go ahead.’

Once in a while, Think Centre says they want to go to the Speakers’ Corner and they want to plant 100 flowers there,let the hundred flowers bloom.

Well, I think go ahead. They want to water the flowers, go ahead.

They want to turn the flowers down, go ahead.I mean, free expression as long as you don’t get into race and religion and don’t start a riot.

It’s a signal that speak, speak your voice, be heard, take responsibility for your views and opinions. ”

Of all the quotations in the “Little Red Book”, by Chairman Mao, none is more inspiring or chilling than this. It comes from a brief period of reform in the fifties known as the “Hundred Flowers Campaign” during which Mao encouraged complete freedom of thought, including criticism of the Party. The result was much more vigorous debate than Mao had expected and the period ended with an abrupt crackdown against those who had raised their voices in opposition. It could stand as a critique of the failures of the Cultural Revolution itself, which tried to settle ideological questions by force under the guise of debate.

You have been warned.

Kimina Lyall has also picked up on the similarity…

Mao echo in Lee’s free speech pledge

By Kimina Lyall, Southeast Asia correspondent


NEW Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has vowed to “let the hundred flowers bloom” in Singapore, using his first major policy speech to announce relaxations on the Government’s tight controls on free speech.

In an eerie reference to former Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s campaign to open up a forum for his critics, Mr Lee said many of his Government’s critics “want to plant 100 flowers” at the country’s only public forum for free speech, Speaker’s Corner.

“I think, ‘go ahead’,” Mr Lee said as part of a three-hour National Day Rally speech on Sunday night. “They want to water the flowers, go ahead. They want to turn the flowers down, go ahead.

“Free expression, as long as you don’t get into race and religion, and don’t start a riot. It’s a signal that speak, speak your voice, be heard, take responsibility for your views and opinions.”

Mr Lee, who also announced other major policy shifts including a five-day week for civil servants, equal access for women to medical benefits and the possibility of the country opening a casino, is hoping to mark himself as a leader of Singapore’s new generation.

The announcement that Singaporeans could hold public indoor talks without a licence may one day be seen as the nation’s true starting point in its transition from economic powerhouse to liberal democracy.

Long-time political opponent JB Jeyaretnam said yesterday that he was not ready to “shout for joy” about the new provisions, because he wanted to see how they were implemented.

Speaker’s Corner, established by Mr Lee’s predecessor, Goh Chok Tong, was once heralded as a similar turning point. There was an initial opening flourish but it is now little used, largely because microphones are banned and names and addresses of speakers must first be given to local police, who record the event.

Senior members of Mr Lee’s authoritarian People’s Action Party, established by his father, Lee Kuan Yew, have used the country’s defamation laws to sue and bankrupt political opponents, helping the party keep a tight grip on parliament.

But such tools of repression are mild, compared with those used in the wake of the world’s first Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom campaign.

A year after coining the infamous phrase in 1956, Mao, surprised by the outpouring of criticism against his policies, began to round up his detractors and send them to labour camps for “thought reform”.

Ordinary Singaporeans may need a few more signals from their leader before they begin to break their political silence.

SDP threatened with legal action

The following refers to an article that this site published, as of today I have received no word via ‘blogspot’ of impending legal action.

SDP threatened with legal action

17 August 2004

The Singapore Democrats recently received a letter from a law firm, Bindman and Partners, to its webhosts threatening legal action if an article originally published in the Financial Times was not removed from the SDP website. We reproduce it below. Readers can draw their own conclusions after reading it.

It is of interest whether the Financial Times and other websites that posted the piece were similarly threatened.

11 August 2004


75 Science Park Drive

02-06/08 Cintech II

Singapore Science Park I

Singapore 118255

And by fax on 0065 6773 9389

Dear Sirs

We act for the Medical Protection Society. We understand that you are the Internet Service Provider for the site named above. This site contains an archived Financial Times article which is attached to as a link to the accompanying e-mail and in hard copy to this letter.

The article states that the MPS suggests that foreign doctors should not work in Singapore and claims that this “recommendation” could set back Singapore’s efforts to attract medical researchers and become a leading biomedical centre.

The plain meaning of the words complained of and highlighted in the attachment is that MPS adopts the views of the doctors quoted and recommends that doctors should avoid Singapore. There is a suggestion of racist motivation or, at the very least, ill conceived and improper advice likely to cause serious damage to legitimate and worthwhile aims in Singapore.

The allegations are accessible in this jurisdiction and the laws of England and Wales therefore apply to the publication in this jurisdiction.

ISP’s are generally entitled to rely on the statutory defence provided in s.1 of the Defamation Act 1996 which applies to those who are only involved “ as operators of or provider of access to a communication system by means of which the statement is transmitted, or made available, by a person over whom he has no effective control”. However, Godfrey v Demon Internet established that ISP’s may not rely on that defence and will be liable for damage caused by defamatory material appearing on any site access to which is provided by the ISP if access to the defamatory material is not prevented immediately after the ISP has been made aware of its existence.

The purpose of this letter is to give you notice that you are storing and/or disseminating defamatory material published on the site above and to require you to remove the material, or to prevent access to the material in this jurisdiction, at once. Following receipt of this letter, you will no longer be entitled to rely upon the defence at section 1(3)(e) of the Defamation Act. There is no other defence available to you. If you continue to store and/or disseminate the material following receipt of this letter, our client will look to you for damages as the publisher of the material. Damages are likely to be substantial.

We should be grateful for your confirmation by return that the article complained of is no longer accessible from this jurisdiction. Checks on the site will be made regularly. We look forward to hearing from you as a matter of urgency.

Yours faithfully

Bindman & Partners

Get Adam Smith into the Lion City

By Alan Oxley Published 08/16/2004

Asians evidently like political dynasties. India, the Philippines, Indonesia and North Korea have had Leaders who were children of Leaders. Singapore has anointed a new Leader and joined the club. The line from the Lion City, Singapore’s self-adopted tag, is that this is a signal that stability will continue and there will be no dramatic shift in policies. But for Singapore’s own good, and for the rest of Asia, it is time there was a dramatic change. It is time Singapore released Adam Smith’s animal spirits.

On 12 August, Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister replaced Goh Chok Tong who lead Singapore for 12 years. He in turn replaced Lee Kwan Yew who ruled Singapore since independence from Britain in 1963. Lee Hsien Loong is Lee Kwan Yew’s son.

Singapore has been an unabashed economic success story. Britain gave the city state of 3 million independence in 1963 and, thereafter, it traded on its natural place as a commercial hub in one of the fastest growing regions of the world, and prospered mightily. For several years, its per capita GDP has ranked with OECD economies. It is also economically and politically closer to the US than any other country in Southeast Asia.

Lee Kwan Yew built modern Singapore with an interesting blend of Western economic models and Asian political absolutism. He set Singapore determinedly on a capitalist path, but under firm government direction. He created a “nanny state” European socialists could only dream of. But he based it on a very Chinese value (most people in Singapore are émigrés from China) – savings.

In Singapore’s development strategy, savings came first. A compulsory national savings scheme was introduced. Employers and workers paid for national welfare. Profit was second, but was important. Unprofitable state-owned businesses were shut down. The national union movement was integrated into the State system and given monopolies to run, such as supermarket chains and taxi companies, but only if they were profitable.

Singapore’s annual economic growth has consistently averaged seven percent over the last thirty years, one of the highest in the world. When it falls to five percent or below, the Government goes into panic mode. Singapore has been a leader in the “flying geese” economic formation which Japan so proudly touted as the Asian development model until it went into it its own prolonged economic slump in 1990. (In this formation, Japan’s booming economy leads the wing and Asia’s tiger economies follow, emulating Japan’s growth strategy.)

When the Asian currency crisis unveiled fundamental weaknesses in economic governance in Asia in 1997, it was Singapore which implored analysts not “to throw the baby out with the bath water”. The message was that Singapore had got the Asian economic model right.

But there are worrying features about Singapore’s economy. Sixty percent of productive activity is accounted for by businesses owned by the State and the public sector. Singapore Airlines, Chartered Semiconductor, SingTel, PSA Corp, Singapore Technologies , Changi Airport, DBS Bank, Keppel Corporation, Singapore Press Holdings, and Raffles Corporation, for example, are all state-owned and owned by either Temasek Holdings (owned by the Singapore Government) or by the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC).

These businesses displace private business. In Singapore, private and small and medium sized enterprises generate 20 percent of economic activity. In Taiwan and Hong Kong they generate 75 percent. Nevertheless, private business would claim to do well in Singapore. In times of recession, the Government invariably acts to reduce costs controlled by government to ensure profits remain buoyant.

The state-owned businesses in Singapore, while profitable, are generally not producing returns comparable to privately-owned businesses in other markets. And the value of their publicly-traded shares is marked down by the inevitable weighting markets attach for the risk inherent in government control of a company.

Singapore has problems. Unemployment is now around 5 percent. The “nanny state” is under challenge. People have been told the State will not now provide for them “from cradle to grave”. The change is on.

The Singapore Government has begun a steady process of selling shares in its companies on the open market and exposing these companies, like SingTel, the national telecommunications provider, to competition. In its recent Free Trade Agreement with the US, Singapore committed to create competition policy law which guaranteed state-owned companies could not secure privileged positions in the Singapore economy.

But the approach to change is oxymoronic. The Singapore government wants to control the rate at which Adam Smith’s animal spirits are released. Its leaders know that growth and enterprise in free market economies comes from entrepreneurship. But they seem not to understand that animal spirits generate that, not special business schools or courses on how to be an entrepreneur which it has fruitlessly fostered over the years.

Singapore has a fabulously wealthy base, but too much of it is in the wrong hands – the Government. It is in danger of going the way of the leader of the flying geese unless it transfers a large slab of that wealth quickly to the private sector and sets the animal spirits to work.

Until Singapore takes that step, its prosperity today might be a plateau rather than a base from which to move to the higher level of quality necessary to prosper in the world economy. When Singapore takes that step, the economic model that emerges may well make it the leader of the flying geese.

Alan Oxley is host of the Asia Pacific page and Chairman of the Australian APEC Study Centre.

Copyright © 2004 Tech Central Station –

In Singapore Every Sperm Is Sacred

I have decided to contribute to the debate regarding the birth rate in Singapore. I suggest that the following song be sung every morning in schools and places of work throughout the land, replacing the national anthem. The government should also pass a bill that makes masterbation ilegal, ban the condom and start genetically cloning the entire Lee family for the sake of the nation. Although how you would police the first one is beyond me.

Every Sperm Is Sacred

Composers: David Howman & Andre Jacquemin

Authors: Michael Palin & Terry Jones

From the Movie ‘The Meaning of Life’


There are Jews in the world.

There are Buddhists.

There are Hindus and Mormons, and then

There are those that follow Mohammed, but

I’ve never been one of them.

I’m a Singaporean,

And have been since before I was born,

And the one thing they say about Singaporeans is:

They’ll take you as soon as you’re warm.

You don’t have to be a six-footer.

You don’t have to have a great brain.

You don’t have to have any clothes on. You’re

A Singaporean the moment Dad came,


Every sperm is sacred.

Every sperm is great.

If a sperm is wasted,

God gets quite irate.


Every sperm is sacred.

Every sperm is great.

If a sperm is wasted,

God gets quite irate.


Let the non-Singaporean spill theirs

On the dusty ground.

God shall make them pay for

Each sperm that can’t be found.


Every sperm is wanted.

Every sperm is good.

Every sperm is needed

In your neighbourhood.


Hindu, Taoist, Mormon,

Spill theirs just anywhere,

But God loves those who treat their

Semen with more care.


Every sperm is sacred.

Every sperm is great.


If a sperm is wasted,…


…God get quite irate.


Every sperm is sacred.


Every sperm is good.


Every sperm is needed…


…In your neighbourhood!


Every sperm is useful.

Every sperm is fine.


God needs everybody’s.




And mine!


And mine!


Let the Pagan spill theirs

O’er mountain, hill, and plain.


God shall strike them down for

Each sperm that’s spilt in vain.


Every sperm is sacred.

Every sperm is good.

Every sperm is needed

In your neighbourhood.

Every sperm is sacred.

Every sperm is great.

If a sperm is wasted,

God gets quite iraaaaaate!

The Battle of Sexuality in Singapore

The word on the street is that our recently enrolled eugenically engineered clone is going to turn its attention to the falling birth rate. And the usual approach to fixing this problem will be applied. No. 1 assume that it is the females job to look after children, so increase maternity leave, ommitting paternity leave. No.2 Throw some more money at the problem. This tactic of viewing child-rearing as the Sinagaporean females national service has not worked, even with the introduction of the Singapore Development Unit in 1984.

My argument is simple. If you remove the emotional connection and see it in instrumentalist terms. For a long long time the male has dominated life in Singapore, hell he can even go to Bintan to wife number 2, Gaylang if he feels like being unfaithful.

If a company had failed to be productive for the last 16 years and you owned that company what would you do to the employees. You could sack every employee or you could change the management. Put the female in charge, empower women.

There is a silent revolution going on in Singapore.

Read a previously published article… from the last time this same old problem arose and they threw the same tired solution at it…

The Battle of Sexuality in Singapore

Recent debates in the national media and newspapers are attempting to defend male domination in Singapore, (patriarchalism). Whether it is a debate focusing on the birth-rate, homosexuality, (gay and lesbian) or oral sex legislation I feel that the following section from a well known and highly regarded sociologist seems to place Singapore’s ‘problems’ in a wider global issue. The statistics referred to in the article are American, but finding statistics on this area in Singapore is not possible. However, survey conducted by Durex concluded that Singaporeans have the least sex in the world. I wonder if that survey questioned the frequency of other sexual activity. How would Singaporeans have been ranked if the “perverse” pleasures had been assessed?

In the TODAY newspaper there is a letter from someone condemning ‘oral sex’. Here is my rebuttal. What follows are not my own words but those of Manuel Castells.

“[C]onsumerist sexuality” appears to be on the rise, although the indications here are rather direct. Laumann et al. analyze their sample in terms of sexual normative orientations following the classic distinction between sexuality (procreational), relational (companionship), and recreational (orientated towards sexual enjoyment). They also isolate a “libertarian-recreational” type that seems closer to the images of pop-sexual liberation or, in Giddens terms, “plastic sexuality.” When analysing their sample by major regions in America, they found that 25.5 percent of their sample in New England, and 22,2 percent in the Pacific region, could be included under such a “libertarian-recreational” category: this is about one-quarter of the population in some of the most culturally trend-setting areas of America.

A meaningful indicator of increasing sexual autonomy, as a pleasure-orientated activity, is the practice of oral sex which, I remind you is catalogued as sodomy, and explicitly prohibited by law in 24 American states, albeit under conditions of doubtful enforcement. Laumann et al., (1994) commenting on these findings, assert that:

The overall trend reveals what we might call a rapid change in sexual techniques if not a revolution. The difference in lifetime experience of oral sex between respondents born between 1933 and 1942 and those born after 1943 is dramatic. The proportion of men experiencing oral sex in their lifetime increases from 62 percent of those born between 1933-37 to 90 percent of those born between 1948-52. The timing of sexual techniques appears to have been responsive to cultural changes in the late 1950s, changes that peaked in the mid to late 1960s, when they approached saturation level of the population. The lower rates among the youngest groups in our survey are not evidence of decline in oral sex; these groups simply have not yet engaged in sexual relationships in which oral sex has become likely if not normative. [Laumann et al., (1994)]

Incidentally, between 75 and 80 percent of women in the latest cohort also experienced oral sex, and in the younger groups their occurrence is higher than for men. Laumann et al. Also report widespread incidence of auto-eroticism (associated with high levels of partnered sexual activity), and of masturbation, hardly a novel technique, but that seems to involve two-thirds of men, and over 40 percent of women.

Thus, if instead of reading sexual behaviour under the norm of heterosexual, repetitive partnership, we take a more “perverse” approach to it, the data reveals a different story, a story of consumerism, experimentation, and eroticism in the process of deserting conjugal bedrooms, and still searching for the new modes of expression, while watching out for AIDS. Since these new patterns of behaviour are more visible among younger groups, and in trend-setting cities, I feel safe to predict that, if, when, and where the AIDS epidemic comes under control, there will be one, two, three many Sodoms, emerging from fantasies freed by the crisis of patriarchialism, and excited by the culture of narcissism. Under such conditions, as Giddens proposes, sexuality becomes the property of the individual.(Giddens, 1992) Where Foucault saw the extension of apparatuses of power into sexuality constructed/construed subject, Giddens sees, and I concur, the fight between power and identity in the battleground of the body.

Click here to learn more.

Castells, M., (2004), The Power of Identity, Second Edition.

Singapore is a patriarchal society in the midst of a quiet revolution, led primarily by females and declining marriage rates and birth rates are the front line. The old male guard will not even admit that there is a battle between the sexes centering on female ownership of their own bodies but also sexuality in general.