Singapore's 'most prolific' upskirter jailed after filming hundreds of women

by Beh Lih Yi | @BehLihYi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 5 June 2020 09:57 GMT

A woman uses her phone on an observation deck as the skyline, shrouded by haze, is seen in Singapore September 13, 2019. REUTERS/Feline Lim

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The case comes as human rights groups warn digital sexual violence against women in tech-savvy Singapore has risen

By Beh Lih Yi

KUALA LUMPUR, June 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Singaporean man identified as the country's "most prolific" upskirter has been jailed after secretly filming hundreds of women, triggering calls for more action to promote gender equality in the low-crime nation.

The unnamed man, 35, was sentenced to two years and three months in prison after he pleaded guilty to taking nearly 1,400 illicit videos of women and children between 2003 and 2016 using his mobile phone, spy watches and spy pens.

The case comes as women's rights groups warned that digital sexual violence in tech-savvy Singapore, which has very low crime rates, has soared in recent years, with women disproportionately affected.

"He was remorseful for what he has done," his lawyer T.M. Sinnadurai told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone on Friday.

"He has taken the decision to serve his sentence," he said, adding that the man was not planning an appeal.

The man, who cannot legally be named to protect the identities of his victims, took upskirt photos of women on public transport, and secret videos in toilets, showers and changing rooms on more than 800 occasions.

He was eventually caught by a work colleague in 2016 after he tried to film her in a bathroom, leading to his arrest.

The man pleaded guilty and was sentenced on Thursday.

The prosecution called the case unprecedented and "by far the most prolific", broadcaster Channel News Asia reported.

From Britain to Germany and South Korea, there has been a flurry of cases in recent years involving the advancement and easy access to technology to sexually assault women.

These cases include illicit filming, distribution of nude photos and upskirting - the surreptitious filming or taking of photographs under girls' and women's clothes.

In Singapore, such cases nearly tripled between 2016 and 2018, according to a study published last year by Singapore's gender equality advocacy group AWARE.

"The figures in this case - the number of files the perpetrator amassed over 13 years - are shocking," said Shailey Hingorani, head of research and advocacy at AWARE.

She called for comprehensive sex education to raise awareness on gender equality.

"How many more women have to be hurt before we take concrete steps to teach men to have more empathy," she said.

Singapore last year passed new laws targeting online sexual abuse, including voyeurism, upskirting and unsolicited intimate images, or "cyber flashing" - with maximum jail sentences ranging from two to five years.

There were a few high-profile cases last year, including a university student who was filmed in the shower and several arrests made over the distribution of nude photos in an online chat group.

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(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Michael Taylor. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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