31 Aug 2004

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.


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