Pornography

What is Porn ?

Pornography is any obscene material such as videos, pictures, and magazines that hold sexually explicit or obscene images which are meant to arouse or sexually excite a person.

A. Is Streaming or Watching Porn Online Legal in Singapore?

It is not illegal to stream and watch pornographic content online in Singapore.

The Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA), however, has banned approximately 100 porn websites as a symbolic gesture that Singaporean values do not condone the viewing of pornographic content.

The main purpose of the ban was to prevent young children and the youth from accidentally (or even purposefully) accessing these websites. Nevertheless, the IMDA does not monitor or restrict one’s access to online content, beyond these websites.

B. Is Broadcasting Porn Online Legal in Singapore ?

As per IMDA’s Internet Code of Practice, Internet Service Providers and Internet Content Providers licensed under the Broadcasting Act are required to use best efforts to ensure that prohibited material, such as pornographic material, is not broadcast to the public in Singapore.

The IMDA is empowered to impose fines on licensees found to have not done so.

C. Is Downloading or Possessing Porn Legal in Singapore ?

In Singapore, it is illegal to keep, possess or download porn under the Undesirable Publications Act and the Films Act. This is regardless of whether the porn is in physical or digital form, and even if the porn was for personal use.

If you are found to be possessing pornographic films, you can be fined up to $20,000 and/or jailed for up to 6 months under section 30(1) of the Films Act. The penalties are higher if you are found to have known, or to have had reasonable cause to believe, that the film in your possession was obscene.

First-time offenders can be fined up to a maximum of $40,000 and/or jail for up to 12 months, while subsequent offenders can be fined up to $80,000 and/or jail for up to 2 years.

Generally, in Singapore, if you are found in possession of obscene films for your own personal use rather than for public distribution, the courts may choose to only impose a fine on you rather than a jail term.

This practice is best seen in the case of PP v Chandran s/o Natesan, where the court imposed a fine of $20,000 instead of a jail term on the defendant for possessing 291 obscene films for his own personal use as this was not a “serious offence.”

In the case of PP v Ng Hock Seong however, the court chose to jail the offender even though the pornographic videos in his possession were for personal use. Therefore, to be safe, it is recommended that you do not download or keep any form of pornographic material.

Possession of voyeuristic content

Under section 377BD of the Penal Code, the possession of, or gaining access to, voyeuristic or intimate images or recordings of another person, is an offence.

Intimate images refer to images of someone’s private areas (breasts/genitals etc) whether bare or clothed, or images of someone performing a private act.

You are deemed to have possession of these images or recordings if you control access to their electronic versions, such as by viewing them online or sending them to yourself. It does not matter that you do not having physical possession of the electronic image or recording.

You can be found guilty of this offence if you know that the intimate images or recordings are obtained by illegally filming someone, such as an up-skirt video of a person.

You can also be found guilty if you have reason to believe that the intimate images or recordings are in your possession without the consent of the person in the image or recordings, and such possession would cause distress, alarm or humiliation to them.

This offence also includes images or recordings that you gained access to as a result of “revenge porn” (explained further below).

If you possess such voyeuristic or intimate images or recordings, you can be jailed for a term of up to 2 years and/or fined. If the person in the recordings or images is under the age of 14, you will be jailed for up to a term of 2 years, and either fined or caned.

D. Is Filming or Making Porn Legal in Singapore ?

It is illegal under the Films Act to make or reproduce obscene films, even if these are not for distribution or exhibition to the public.

If you do so, you can be fined up to $40,000 and/or jailed for up to 2 years. If you are a repeat offender, the maximum fine is increased to $100,000.

As for the taking of obscene photos, you can be fined up to $2,000 and/or jailed up to 2 years under the Undesirable Publications Act if the photos were taken in order to supply or distribute them to others.

Voyeurism

Under section 377BB of the Penal Code, it will also be an offence to make voyeuristic content of someone.

Making voyeuristic content of someone includes recording someone partaking in a private act, or recording images of their private areas (such as up-skirt videos), without their consent.

If convicted of this offence, you can be jailed for up to 2 years, fined or caned (or any combination of these). If the person is under the age of 14 years, jail of up to 2 years is compulsory, and you will also be fined or caned.

E. Is Importing or Selling Porn Legal in Singapore ?

It is illegal to import or sell any form of pornographic content (be it in physical copies or digital copies of films, pictures and magazines) in Singapore.

Import or sale of pornographic films

If you are a first-time offender caught in possession of pornographic films with an intention to distribute, or distributing such films, you can be fined up to $80,000 and/or jailed for up to 2 years under section 29(3) of the Films Act.

If you are a first-time offender caught importing such films, you can be fined up to $40,000 and/or jailed for up to 12 months.

Repeat offenders for either offence can be fined up to $100,000 and/or jailed for up to 2 years.

Import or sale of pornographic publications

If you are caught in possession of/importing pornographic publications (such as magazines, photos and pamphlets) for the purposes of selling or distributing, or you are caught selling or distributing such pornographic publications, you can be fined for up to $10,000 and/or jailed for up to 2 years under section
of the Undesirable Publications Act.

Under section 292 of the Penal Code, you can also be fined and/or jailed for up to 3 months for selling, distributing, importing, exhibiting, or advertising obscene publications.

If such sale, distribution or exhibition is made to a person under 21 years old, you are liable to be jailed for up to 1 year and/or fined.

F. Is Sharing Porn for Non-Commercial Purposes Legal in Singapore?

Posting nudes online

Under section 292 of the Penal Code, it is an offence to transmit obscene objects electronically, e.g. by posting a person’s nude photos or videos online. The maximum punishment is a fine or up to 3 months’ jail, or both.

If the subject of the nude photo or video reasonably appears or can be implied to be below 16 years old, the maximum punishment is a fine or up to 2 years’ jail, or both.

Cyber-flashing

Section 377BF of the Penal Code criminalises the sharing of pornographic images of his or another person’s genitals to someone, for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification or causing humiliation, distress or alarm to the recipient, without the recipient’s consent. This is also known as “cyber-flashing.”

If you were to share such pornographic images without the recipient’s consent, you can be jail for a term of up to 1 year and/or fined. If the image had been sent to someone under the age of 14, jail for up to 2 years is compulsory, and you will also be fined or caned.

Distributing of voyeuristic content

Section 377BC of the Penal Code criminalises the distribution of voyeuristic content.

If you are caught distributing such voyeuristic content without the subject’s consent, you can be jailed for up to 5 years, fined or caned (or any combination of these).

If the voyeuristic content is of a person under the age of 14 years, jail for up to 5 years is compulsory, and you will also be fined or caned.

Showing porn to minors

It is an offence under section 376ED of the Penal Code to show sexual images, including pornographic content, to a minor below 16 years old for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification or causing the minor humiliation, alarm or distress.

If convicted of this offence, you can jailed for up to 1 year and/or fined. If the victim is below 14 and you did not have reason to believe that they are 14 years old or older, you can be jailed up to 3 years and/or fined.

Revenge porn

Revenge porn is where a person distributes intimate images or recordings of someone they were once in a relationship with, with the knowledge that their ex does not consent to the distribution. More often than not, this is done to humiliate or intimidate their ex as an act of revenge.

Persons who commit revenge porn under section 377BE of the Penal Code, knowing that this will likely cause humiliation, distress or alarm to the subject of the images or recordings, can be jailed for up to 5 years, fined or caned (or any combination of these).

If the content is of a person under the age of 14 years, jail for up to 5 years is compulsory, and you will also be fined or caned.

In summary, it is not illegal to view or stream pornographic content in Singapore. However, it is illegal to make, distribute, import, sell, advertise and even possess and download any form of pornographic content

Disclaimer: Kindly note that the opinion rendered above only serves as a general advise and the circumstances for each case differs. Should you require any further advice or clarification on the above, please do not hesitate to contact any of our legal experts by booking an appointment through ask@arlc.com.sg or contact us at +65 6240 6901.
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