Singapore Laws &
Law and Myth Disclaimer: This site is not
meant to be your legal advisor or cover all aspect of the law (This is free, I am not a lawyer, if I am, I would probably charged you for it and screw you while I am at it)
. I am only
highlighting those that will get you in deep trouble or have your life
forfeited and some myths.
You probably have heard that there are strict laws here. Your first
conversation with a Singaporean might as well be with a taxi driver. He
& many others too, will tell you not to do this and that to avoid
being fined/jailed/whipped. You are likely going to have an impression that Singaporeans
live an Orwellian society. Chances are these people are telling you for
your own good, just in case. They are most likely to have committed such
offenses (such as spit, speed, not flush the toilets and litter) himself on numerous
occasion and had never been caught. This is because locals do it everyday
when there are no police in sight. I am guilty of speeding, illegal
parking, jaywalking and littering on a few occasions. Oops, I am lying, I
& millions others jaywalk daily and at times even in Orchard Road and
have never been fined. Littering in Orchard Road is dumb though.
How is that possible? Don't we have strict laws? Yes we do. But the media has blown it out of proportions.
When new laws are introduced, the police fanatically enforced them over the initial few months to drive the message home. For example - When a new law requiring motorists to have baby seats for infants and young children was first introduced, the police are out in force fining people and these are reported constantly in newspapers, on the radio and TV. Foreign media quickly catch on and capitalised on it as a gimmicky piece of news to capture viewership.
What they didn't tell you is - After the initial blitz, if you get caught for minor offenses consider yourself lucky enough to win the 'legal lottery'. There may be sporadic blitzs every few years just to remind us that the law is still in placed. However, some laws are not enforced. For e.g. I have yet to hear about being fined for not flushing toilet. Of course, for more serious offences, they are enforced without fail.
Singapore's reputation for strict laws is well known but many of what you may have heard is unfounded or over hyped. It didn't help with the Michael Fay incident and Singapore had been a butt for numerous unfounded rumours about its strict laws. At the height of Michael Fay incident, I was asked if jaywalking will get one whipped, guys with long hair or tattoos being prosecuted at the airport (This 'hair' law had been abolished for 20 odd years and is still circling aroung as gospel truth).
Even now, a search on the internet and you will find travelogues quoting non existing punishments for small offenses. For e.g. a recent 2003 travelogue claims that smoking is not allow here. What a joke. Smoking is only not allowed in airconditioned buildings (except pubs),on public transport, an a few other establishments. You can smoke while walking down the road, al fresco cafe etc. 2005 online forum: chew gum and get lash - another urban legend.
I can retire if I get a dollar everytime someone post utter rubbish about non-existing laws in Singapore.
When you are told something often or have a deep impression about something, what you see often gets intepreted to reinforce the reality you have already 'known'. I have read enough expats blogs, replies on online forum to know some are uttering absolute rubbish simply because they lead a isolated expat life away from the locals. This is made worse with air-headed pinkerton-syndromed locals who loves hanging around them and agreeing blindly to what they say out of ignorance/stupidity or simply to fit in. In that sub-culture group, they reinforce their own reality on a daily basis.
If you are told some laws (even by a foreigner who have stayed here for a period of time), email me to clarify, you will find many of your fears unfounded.
Lastly, don't believe all the stupid laws listed on the Internet like this one or this one.
To clarify myself, I am not asking you to break the minor laws here
knowingly. It is stupid for a tourist to challenged the authorities to
catch you (just like the cretin who joke about him having a bomb at
airport security). You are here for a good time. A free tour to a local
police station is not what you will have in mind.
heavily censors the internet.
do to a certain extent e.g. playboy/penthouse online is inaccessible
but anyone can access the millions of hardcore porn sites and live
shows from Amsterdam, Japan, the US etc. Online forums that lambasted the government
are not censored.
Brother is watching you, Policemen/undercover are on the beat
everywhere, CCTV is everywhere.
than in the airport and some very touristy areas (armed soldiers and policemen deployed to patrol
after 911) You will rarely see policemen on patrol although there are plain clothes policeman around but not in numbers. Only on certain
big occasion do you see them in numbers for crowd control. CCTV are
usually deployed by private companies for security/safety purposes
such as in MRT (Subway) station, banks etc but are not looking at
public area. CCTV are however, deployed at 'trouble' spots such as in the red light district
are cameras (CCTV) in toilets to check if you flush. It is an offense not to flush the toilet.
||Yes, it is an offense not to flush the toilet. In fact, I have yet to hear about someone being fined for not flushing the toilet. Besides, most toilets have sensors that automatically flush it for you. But the CCTV is pure hogwash. There are no CCTV of any sort in the toilets.
are a tourist, you will not get the death penalty or punishment your
country deemed inappropriate. Your government, queen, king will
apply political pressure to help you off the gallows or lashing.
have been hung here before and Singapore is known for not heeding
such appeals. As long as you are using Singapore to traffic drugs,
you get the gallow. Is it fair? maybe not, these are just pawns in
the drugs trades. They are not getting the big fish. Bear in mind, Singapore police do not have jurisdiction overseas where drugs syndicate are unless they work as part of an international group such as the Interpol, on our ground we can only discourage traffickers from using Singapore as a transit point. Singapore don't
hang drugs users (although the legal definition of users and traffickers is thin. A user with exceeding a legally defined amount of drugs is deemed a trafficker). They are rehabilitated. The question to ask is
will your politicians bother to take things all the way to ensure
that a nobody gets off the rope? Is it worth the price to them? The
would put up a good PR show and even threaten embargoes but
underneath it all, will one nobody halt all relations?
In August 1994, Dutchman Johannes Van Damme became the first
Westerner to hang for drug offenses in Singapore, despite pleas for
clemency from the Dutch government and Holland's Queen Beatrix. Van
Damme was caught in 1991 at Singapore's Changi Airport with about
4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) of heroin in his suitcase.
March 2004, Nguyen Tuong Van, an Australian, was charged with
trafficking almost 400g of heroin. During his trial, the Singapore
court heard Nguyen told police he had agreed to smuggle the drugs
from Cambodia to Australia to pay off a massive debt owed by his
twin brother. Appeal Pending. I have no doubt the appeal will be
Update: Nov 05. All appeals were rejected. This issue was hotly discussed in Australian online forum. What was surprising was that most Australian were very mature about it. They disagree with captial punishment but understand that they should not enforced their own values onto another country. Many agreed that it was foolish to smuggle drugs into South East Asia knowing full well that the punishment is your life.
have to dress like a dork here, else you get arrested.
the article "Disneyland with a Death Sentence"
"There is less in the way of alternative, let alone
dissident style in Singapore than in any city I have ever visited. I
did once see two young Malayan men clad in basic, global, heavy
metal black - jeans and T-shirts and waist-length hair....causing me
to think its owner must have balls the size of durian fruit, or else
be flat-out suicidal, or possibly both" "I didn't see a
single "bad" girl in Singapore. And I missed her"
We don't have fashion police here. He sees what he wants to see
(Sometimes, once you form a certain perception of things, everything
you see is interpreted that way.) He didn't go to places where teens
dress alternatively (or have no fashion sense). I am sure even if
heavy metal style are in vogue it would be silly to go around very
hot Singapore in all black and leather jacket. I mean come on, such
dressing is not really popular among Asian around the world and
strict rules have nothing to do with it. However, Malays here still
dig Heavy Metal stars like KISS, AC/DC while the rest have move on
to Linkin Park. Kids emulate their idols' dressing. Loud Mambo tees
are common. Tees with a baby giving you the finger was once popular,
Girls in micro-minis, and netted tees that left nothing to the
imagination is not uncommon.
Gum is banned in Singapore
||Chewing gum is not ban. You can chew gum here. The sales of
chewing gum is. With the recent Free Trade Agreement with US, gum is
allowed to be sold here for health reason (e.g. nicotine gum)
While reading an online discussion in Nov 05, I come across an Australian who posted that getting caught chewing gum will get you whipped. What a load of bull. I wonder who is churning out these lies
|Oral Sex is illegal in Singapore
||Yes, Oral sex and other unnatural sex is
illegal. Oral sex must be followed by natural sexual intercourse to
be legal. This law is a sticky point because the government wants to
welcome gay talents into the civil service and the economy. No gay had been prosecuted under this law. No one is enforcing this. People who are prosecuted under this law are rapists and child molesters.
|Singapore is spotlessly clean, you cannot find a piece of litter anywhere
||If you truly believe that, I guess you aren't very smart to start with. With 4 million people living or working here, there is bound to be litter. Litter still exist in small quantity. If you go to a suburb or a hawker center, you can see more litter.
Singapore is relatively cleaner than many big city\ies. I find Sydney, Perth, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm just as clean but no one is talking about them as a clean city. The media is riding on the hype that we fine people to keep it clean. This is partially true. Singapore was initially inhabited by many uneducated blue collared workers that are not aware of being civic minded. How do you stop them from littering? Education will take a long time. In the meanwhile, you hurt them where it hurts, you fine them. This resulted in making people kick the dirty habit 'overnight'. After 4 decades of education, most of us knows it's uncivilised to do so without needing the law. Why is the law necessary then? Firstly, every country have uncouth people and the uncouth ones habitually litter here. Secondly, laws are to protect the majority from the small percentage of offenders.