Singapore is a destination country for women and girls trafficked for the purpose of labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Some women from India, Thailand, the Philippines, and the People’s Republic of China who travel to Singapore voluntarily for prostitution or work are subsequently deceived or coerced into sexual servitude. A significant number of foreign domestic workers in Singapore faces the unlawful confiscation of their travel documents, restrictions on their movement, confinement, and/or physical or sexual abuse. Some Singaporean men travel to countries in the region for child sex tourism. 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. In February, 2008 the government enacted amendments to the Penal Code that criminalize prostitution involving a minor under the age of 18, thereby ensuring that Singaporean law criminalizes all severe forms of trafficking in persons. The police adopted new training programs and procedures to familiarize officers with the new Penal Code offenses and to provide them with the skills to identify potential trafficking victims. Notably, the recent Penal Code amendments also extend extra-territorial jurisdiction over Singaporean citizens and permanent residents who sexually exploit children in other countries, and make organizing or promoting child sex tourism a criminal offense. At the same time, however, the government did not prosecute or convict any trafficking offenders during the reporting period, and did not take adequate measures to protect victims of trafficking, particularly foreign domestic workers subjected to forced labor conditions.
The Government of Singapore demonstrated some law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking in persons during the reporting year. Singapore expanded its anti-trafficking legal framework with the February 1, 2008 entry into force of the Penal Code (Amendment) Act of 2007 to criminalize all forms of trafficking, including the commercial sexual exploitation of sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds. Labor trafficking is prohibited through multiple sections of the Penal Code, the Employment Agency Rules, and the Employment of Foreign Workers Act. Penalties prescribed for sex trafficking, including imprisonment, fines, and caning, are sufficiently stringent, as are penalties prescribed for labor trafficking. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) received and investigated 28 reports of human trafficking during the reporting period; one case remains under investigation, while the others were closed due to lack of substantiating evidence. There were no reported criminal prosecutions or convictions for labor or sex trafficking offenses during the reporting period. In 2007 the authorities arrested 130 pimps and “vice abettors” (e.g., brothel operators). Fifteen pimps and thirty vice abettors were prosecuted; however, it is unclear how many, if any, of these cases involved trafficking. There were no reports of government officials’ complicity in trafficking crimes during the reporting period.
The government did not show appreciable progress in protecting trafficking victims, particularly foreign domestic workers subjected to forced labor conditions, over the reporting period. The government does not operate victim shelters, but instead referred potential victims of trafficking to NGO shelters or foreign embassies over the reporting period. In 2007, one NGO reported offering protection to over 900 foreign workers who ran away from their employers in Singapore after complaining of abusive conditions; the NGO estimates that as many as 70 percent of such workers has cited conditions that may potentially meet the definition of trafficking in persons. The Philippines Embassy separately reported receiving complaints from as many as 212 of its nationals that raise concerns about trafficking; however, only three of its nationals elected to file criminal complaints with Singaporean authorities. Law enforcement efforts aimed at curbing prostitution likely resulted in victims of sex trafficking being penalized for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. In 2007, the police arrested 5,402 foreign women for prostitution, who were generally incarcerated then deported. The number of trafficking victims among this group is unknown; however, government measures to proactively identify potential trafficking victims among this vulnerable population, if any, appear to have been limited during the majority of the reporting period. At least 60 of those reportedly arrested and deported without being formally identified and provided with appropriate protective services were minors. The government encourages identified victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders, and makes available to all foreign victims of crime temporary immigration relief that allows them to reside in Singapore pending conclusion of their criminal case. Singapore does not otherwise provide trafficking victims with a legal alternative to removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.
The Singaporean government demonstrated some increased efforts to prevent trafficking in persons during the year. The Government expanded its information campaign that aims to raise awareness among foreign workers of their rights and resources available, in an effort to prevent incidents of trafficking. It prints information on employees’ rights and police hotline numbers for domestics on prepaid phone cards. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has a bi-annual newsletter, published in multiple languages, that it mails directly to all 170,000 foreign domestic workers. All foreign domestic workers working in Singapore for the first time attend a compulsory course on domestic safety and their employment rights and responsibilities. The government undertook some administrative actions for violations of labor laws potentially related to trafficking, including employer fines and license suspensions for several employment agencies. In August 2007 one employer was sentenced to one year in jail for physically abusing her maid. The government did not undertake specific measures to reduce demand for commercial sex acts involving adults in the legalized commercial sex industry in Singapore. As noted above, however, the government took measures to curb participation by its nationals and others in child sex tourism by establishing extra-territorial jurisdiction over Singaporean citizens and permanent residents who sexually exploit children in other countries, and criminalizing organization or promotion of child sex tourism activities. Singapore has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.