Where Prostitution is Legal in Singapore?
The Singaporean government defines prostitution as sexual services provided in exchange for payment by a man and a woman.
As of 2024, Singapore is one of 21 nations that have legalized prostitution, allowing prostitutes to charge for their services.
On the other hand, prostitution is subject to a number of laws in the nation. Although many of the activities or services associated with prostitution are deemed illegal in Singapore, prostitution itself is legal there.
In Singapore, government-run brothels offer sex services to both local and foreign women. Prostitutes are required by law to carry their health cards at all times and undergo routine physicals.
In contrast, sections 376A and 376B declare that having sex with a girl younger than 16—with or without her consent—is illegal. Additionally, it is forbidden in Singapore to pay a girl under the age of 18 for sexual services.
While prostitution is permitted in Singapore, there are still a number of sexual activities that are not, and these are listed below:
→ According to Miscellaneous Offences Act Article 19, it is forbidden to ask for sex in any public place, including streets.
→ Article 148 of the Women’s Charter states that operating a brothel in Singapore is prohibited and subject to penalties.
→ Article 8(e) of the Immigration Act classifies migrant sex workers as “prohibited migrants”.
Singapore’s legislation only allows for prostitution between a man and a woman. Until recently, activities between two or more men or transgender men were considered criminal under Section 377A of the Penal Code. However, in 2022, the law was repealed.
The Penal Code was created to regulate men’s relationships. It was passed by the British in Singapore in 1938. More recently declassified documents indicate that the investigation of female prostitution at the time also shed light on male prostitution in Singapore. It was also a period when homosexuality began to emerge from the shadows.
These services are not limited to the brothels that are subject to government regulation. Some common places where one might be offered sexual services for a fee are massage parlors and karaoke lounges. However, prospective clients should exercise caution as these are probably unlawful businesses.
Living off a prostitute’s earnings, operating an unlicensed brothel, and public solicitation are other prostitution-related offenses that are prohibited in Singapore. Singapore’s laws pertaining to prostitution are intended to keep the industry safe from juveniles and to discourage criminal activity.
New methods of providing illicit prostitution are always emerging, despite stringent laws and licensing requirements. Lawmakers added Section 146A to the Women’s Charter to outlaw the practice of illegal prostitution, including through the use of internet websites, in response to the growing use of social media and the internet as a means of providing illegal prostitution.
Sex workers and their accomplices, unfazed, try to get around these new laws by using websites hosted outside of Singapore.
In Singapore, there are licensed and regulated brothels. It is required that the women who work there have health cards and go through routine medical examinations. While many massage parlors and karaoke lounges in Singapore provide sexual services, these are illegal operations.
A woman must be from one of five countries and legally recognized as a woman in order to be granted a license for prostitution. These are China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, or Vietnam.
A yellow card is issued to sex workers, limiting their employment to only sex work and requiring them to undergo routine medical exams. Employees who test positive for HIV or other sexually transmitted infections run the risk of deportation. The same holds true for unplanned pregnancies.
A sex worker who has a yellow card is prohibited from returning to Singapore and is deported after it expires. The yellow card is not widely recognized by the Singaporean government, making it difficult to find out details about it, including its validity period and potential for renewal. Marriage between sex workers and Singaporean citizens is prohibited.
Strict rules govern brothels; for example, prostitutes are not allowed to leave the establishment for any reason. Because they believe the yellow card system has too many restrictions, some sex workers opt to operate outside of government-regulated brothels under the unlicensed illegal route.
It is against the law in Singapore to have sex with a girl who is younger than sixteen, as stated in Sections 376A and 376B of the Penal Code. Additionally, even if a girl is willing, it is illegal to enter into a business agreement with her if she is younger than eighteen.
A scandal involving approximately fifty men facing charges of illicit prostitution with minors surfaced in 2012. These men were well-known businessmen, prominent members of society, senior police officers, and civil servants.
Being ignorant of one’s age is not a defense under Singaporean law. According to Section 377D of the Penal Code, if the prostitute with whom they have entered into a commercial arrangement is underage, the offender, if 21 years of age or older, cannot claim that it was an error. There is one exception to the rule that this offense carries a prison sentence.
Underage offenders may claim ignorance or mistaken belief as a defense, but only if the offender has no prior criminal convictions for sexual offenses and the prostitute is the other sex.
A pimp by the name of Tang Boon Thiew hired about 20 escorts, one of whom was 17 years old, in the 2012 internet vice scandal. In an attempt to defend himself, Thiew claimed he was unaware of her age and had mistakenly listed her online as 18 because she had provided identification. Actually, it was the identity card of her elder sister. Thiew was fined S$90,000 in addition to serving a 58-month prison sentence.
The strategy used by the Singaporean government is practical. In order to safeguard sex workers, their clients, and other vulnerable groups like minors, it formally acknowledges the existence of the sex industry and attempts to regulate it as much as is practical.
Even though government brothels have been legalized, it is still unlawful in Singapore to maintain an unlicensed brothel, engage in public solicitation, or live off of immoral proceeds from prostitution. Section XI of the Women’s Charter enumerates these crimes.
Pimping is the practice of subsisting off of another person’s proceeds from prostitution. In Singapore, this is not permitted.
A pimp who depends entirely or partially on the proceeds of prostitution may be subject to a fine of up to S$10,000 and a five-year jail sentence.
If pimps use minors as a means of selling sexual services, they can face legal action under Section 372 of the Penal Code. Those under the age of 21 are considered minors for the purposes of this section.
According to Section 19 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, soliciting by prostitutes is illegal. The maximum fine for a first offense is S$1,000; for repeat offenders, the maximum fine is S$2,000, and jail time of up to six months is possible.
Further offenses include conducting business in public, which even in a red-light district is illegal under Section 294(a) of the Penal Code and carries a maximum sentence of three months in jail as well as a fine.
Running an unlicensed brothel carries a maximum fine of S$10,000 and up to five years in prison.
New avenues for engaging in illicit prostitution have become more accessible and easier thanks to the internet. In an attempt to rein this in, the government amended the Women’s Charter in 2016.
According to Section 146A, it is illegal to run or maintain a website or other remote communication service that offers or facilitates a woman or girl providing sexual services for pay or reward, or that plans or oversees the provision of such services.
However, there are always workarounds for new laws, like hosting a website outside of Singapore.
But a more recent subsection to Section 146 states that it is “a crime” for anyone to knowingly solicit, accept, or agree to accept gratification as an inducement or reward for performing any service, and to do so in a way that aids in the prostitution of another individual (a woman or girl).
With this new, broad catch-all addition to the law, the Singaporean government is determined to remain ahead of the sophisticated disguise the internet offers prostitution.
Being ignorant won’t be an excuse. According to Penal Code Section 377D, offenders older than 21 are not permitted to use the defense of mistakenly believing the victim was not underage. 52-year-old Lim Yew Hock was given a nine-week prison sentence in 2015 for using a juvenile prostitute’s sexual services while believing she was 19 years old.
An exception does exist. In order to defend themselves, offenders under 21 years old may assert that they thought the victim was not underage. This is only applicable, though, if the victim is the other sex and the offender has never committed a similar sexual offense before. This emphasizes how important it is to understand Singapore’s strict enforcement of its prostitution laws as well as the legal age for prostitution there.
While Singapore may have a certain level of tolerance towards prostitution, it is important to familiarize oneself with the regulations in order to avoid legal complications and ensure a smooth experience with your chosen companion.
When visiting any of Singapore’s red light districts, it is important to remember the following:
• Sex with minors, or people under the age of 18, is illegal. Anyone who engages in such activities will face appropriate punishment, including 10 to 20 years in prison or a fine.
• Ignorance will not be an acceptable defense against having sex with a minor, so double-check the age of the prostitute you’re hiring.
• Pimping or living off the earnings of a prostitute is illegal in Garden City.
• Public sex solicitation is illegal in Singapore.
• Using drugs or sex boosters is illegal.
• Extra hours will always be charged appropriately.
• There aren’t many Singaporean sex workers in the red light districts. Most prostitutes come from China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
• In Singapore, only licensed brothels and their customers are truly protected by the law. Those who are not part of it continue to live in a gray area.
Geylang is Singapore’s only red light district that is permitted. Nonetheless, there are a few well-liked entertainment areas, such as Desker and Roswell Road, Petain Road, Brix Bar, and Orchard Towers.
These places provide stimulating massages and tasty cocktail drinks in addition to adult entertainment. To get a sense of what to expect in Singapore’s red light district, look at the table below:
Street prostitutes and rows after rows of brothels
What to Expect
• Clean establishments
• Aquarium style selection of sex workers
• Good food around the area
• Reasonable price
• Brothels are segregated based on nationality
• Workers from different races
Ladyboys, sexy massage, bar girls, street prostitutes
What to Expect
• Music bars
• Same sex prostitution
• Expensive service and drinks
• Lively and bustling crowd
Bar girls, freelance prostitutes, and high profile escorts
What to Expect
• World-class bar setups
• Expensive service and drinks
Shoebox-style apartments, cheaper services, easy lays with no pressure to pay for service from pimps
What to Expect
• Cheapest district for sexual entertainment
• Sexy massage services
• Personal experience with the workers
• Older prostitutes
Transgender prostitutes, ladyboys, sexy massage
What to Expect
• Same sex prostitution
• Limited hotel options
What Is truly legal In Singapore’s prostitution trade then?
Currently, the only people covered by the law are sex workers who work in authorized brothels and their patrons. Any other kind of prostitution in Singapore is most likely prohibited, could be the target of raids, and could result in criminal charges for those who engage in it.
You shouldn’t miss visiting Singapore’s red light district if that’s your thing. You can find top-notch entertainment provided by experienced prostitutes here.
We advise staying near the lawful establishments if you are new to the red light district unless you want to jeopardize your freedom for a brief adventure.
Singapore’s red light district is regarded as completely safe to visit. Nine police stations encircle the area, which is frequently patrolled.
You’ll only notice illegal sex enhancers being sold outside of brothels, which is troublesome.
Districts like Geylang are rarely the scene of fights, although Singaporeans view them as seedy areas. Most people in the crowd are pleasant, especially the prostitutes who have a lively demeanor.
The only fights that occur in Geylang are those caused by excessive alcohol consumption. The district is as quiet as it gets except from that.
Because Geylang is frequently inspected by government representatives, it is also renowned for having tidy and well-maintained businesses.
Additionally, the employees must undergo health examinations and show a card attesting to their lack of sexually transmitted infections.
It is recommended that everyone who comes to the district to take advantage of the services wear protective clothing during sexual activity. You can also ask the sex worker for their health card to protect your health.
Depending on where and who you approach, sex workers can charge anywhere from $30 to $500. Young, exceptionally attractive prostitutes typically demand a higher fee.
Petain, Desker, and Roswell Road have the lowest prices, while Brix Bar has the highest.
Singapore, known for its conservative nature, is paradoxically home to a licensed and legal sex trade. The government has adopted the perspective that regulation is preferable to criminalization, as the latter would push the trade into clandestine channels.
The purpose of licensing is to prevent the most severe abuses perpetrated by gangs, criminal engagement, the exploitation of underage individuals, and public health issues. Nevertheless, the government engages in a perpetual pursuit of regulating the sex trade.
The prostitution landscape in Singapore is intricate, and lawyers often play a crucial role in distinguishing between criminal and non-criminal activities.
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