Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, and also known in the region as Singapura, is an island country in Southeast Asia, located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It has a very diverse population of more than five million, comprising Chinese (74%), Malays (13%), Indians (9%), and minorities of Eurasians (people of mixed heritage), other Asians, and non-Asians. The nation's official languages are English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil.
Singapore became part of the British Empire in the early 19th century and was a major trading post in the region. It was occupied by the Japanese from 1942 to 1945 during World War II, and was returned to the British after the war. In 1963, Singapore joined Malaya and Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia, but separated from Malaysia in 1965 and became an independent country.
Singapore is currently one of the world's leading financial centres and its port is among the busiest in the world. It is governed by a parliamentary republic, with the President as the head of state and the Prime Minister as the head of government.
Spanking in Singapore
Spanking (predominantly in the form of caning) is widely used as a disciplinary measure in Singapore, in various contexts - judicial, prison, military, reformatory, school and domestic. The traditional and most commonly used spanking implement is the rattan cane. Little is known about consensual spanking and BDSM in Singapore.
Judicial and prison caning
Singaporean law includes JCP (in the form of caning, up to a maximum of 24 strokes) for various crimes, including vandalism, robbery, rioting, sexual abuse and unlawful possession of weapons. It is mandatory for offences like rape, drug trafficking, and for male foreigners who overstay their visa by more than 90 days. Male criminals not sentenced to caning in court may, however, be punished by caning of up to 12 strokes if they break certain rules in prison. Only men below the age of 50, and who have been certified medically fit by a doctor, may be subjected to caning. Women are exempted from caning. On average, a few thousand men are caned every year, but in recent years (2007-2011), the number of caning sentences is decreasing.
The rattan cane used is 4 feet (1.2 m) long and 1⁄2 inches (1.3 cm) thick, and is soaked in water (not brine) to make it more flexible and prevent it from splitting, and treated with antiseptic to prevent infection. A smaller cane is used for juveniles (boys under 16), who may be sentenced to caning only by the High Court and not by the local courts. There are a few dozen of such canings of boys per year.
Caning is always ordered in addition to a jail sentence and never as a punishment by itself. Contrary to widespread belief, it is never administered in public, and has never been. The prisoner will not receive any advance notice as to when he will be caned, and is only notified on the day itself. He is ordered to strip completely naked; the prison doctor then examines him to see if he is medically fit, by measuring his blood pressure and other physical conditions. If the doctor certifies him fit, the prisoner will be caned, but if the doctor declares him unfit, he is exempted from caning and is sent back to court for his jail term to be increased instead. A prison officer confirms with the prisoner the number of strokes he is to receive.
The prisoner is brought to the caning trestle and bends over a padded crossbar on the frame, with his wrists and ankles secured tightly to the frame by strong leather straps. He is now restrained in a bent-over position with his legs together, at an angle of close to 90° at the hip. Protective padding is tied around his lower back to protect the kidney and lower spine area from any strokes that land off-target. The caning is administered on the prisoner's bared buttocks.
The specially trained prison officer administering the caning will then position himself beside the frame to take aim. He delivers the number of strokes specified in the sentence, at intervals of 10-15 seconds, using full force (as required by law). The caning is carried out in a single session, and not by 'instalments'. If the prisoner faints during the punishment, or if the doctor certifies that he cannot receive any more strokes due to his condition, the prisoner will be sent back to court for his jail time to be increased.
This form of caning is very severe and will usually draw blood and leave permanent scars. The cane is so flexible that 'wrapping' (the cane striking the side of the far buttock at the hip area, especially on the right side) frequently occurs, as seen in these pictures: , . Men who have been caned before described the pain they experienced as "excruciating" and "unbearable". After the caning, the prisoner is untied and given medical treatment. Antiseptic lotion is applied on the wounds, which take between a week and a month to heal.
Singaporean men who have been subjected to judicial caning are not required to undergo compulsory military service if they have not done so.
Differences between judicial caning in Singapore and in Malaysia
- In Malaysia, local courts may order the caning of boys under 16. In Singapore, only the High Court may do so.
- In Malaysia, the term "caning" is often used informally, and the phrases "strokes of the cane" and "strokes of the rotan" are used interchangeably, but officially the correct term is "whipping" in accordance with traditional British legislative terminology. In Singapore, in both legislation and press reports, the term "caning" is used to describe the punishment.
- In Singapore, no man above the age of 50 can be sentenced to caning. In Malaysia, however, this age limit has been abolished for rapists. In 2008, a 56-year-old man was sentenced to 57 years' jail and 12 strokes of the cane for rape.
- The Malaysian cane is marginally smaller than the Singaporean one but there are no discernible differences when first-person accounts from both countries are compared. In Malaysia, a smaller cane is used for white-collar offenders but there are no reports of any such distinction being made in Singapore.
- The "torso shield" that covers the offender's lower back and upper thighs while leaving the buttocks exposed is used only in Malaysia. In Singapore, rubber-lined padding is secured around the prisoner's lower back to protect the kidney and lower spine area from any strokes that land off-target. This is also a reason why 'wrapping' hardly occurs in a Malaysian caning, and the wounds are more concentrated around the middle of the buttocks (because the sides are covered by the torso shield). In Singapore, 'wrapping' occurs nearly all the time, because there is a very high tendency for the flexible cane to hit the side of the far buttock near the hip area (usually on the right side), which is not covered by any padding.
- The frame used to secure the prisoner in Malaysia is different from that used in Singapore. In Malaysia, the inmate stands upright (albeit leaning slightly forward) at the A-frame with his legs apart, while in Singapore the offender bends over a padded crossbar on the caning trestle with his feet together.
- In Malaysia, men have sometimes been sentenced to more than 24 strokes, such as in a case in 2004 when a man was given 75 years' jail and 50 strokes of the cane for molesting his stepdaughter. There are no reports of any man being sentenced to more than 24 strokes in a single sentence in Singapore.
- Syariah caning is practised in Malaysia, but not in Singapore. This form of punishment is applicable only to Muslims (both Malaysian and non-Malaysian).
Notable cases involving foreigners
Shades of Singapore book
Within months of the Michael Fay incident, a paperback book titled Shades of Singapore: Sister Sarah Balfour's Memoirs of Judicial Caning in South Africa, Vol. I, by Angus Balfour (New York: Blue Moon Books, 1994), was published. This 294-page novel of punishment erotica purports to be the memoirs of a retired Nursing Sister who took part in dozens of court-appointed canings of women in pre-war South Africa.
The original title, Judicial Female Corporal Punishment Memoirs, appears on the contents page. It is indicative of the widespread notoriety of the Fay controversy that a book set in South Africa in the 1930s would have its title hastily altered to capitalise on a contemporary incident in Singapore.
In Singapore, all male citizens who have reached the age of 18 are required to serve in the military (Singapore Armed Forces, SAF) for about two years. A soldier who breaks certain military rules can be sentenced to a maximum of 24 strokes of the cane (a maximum of 12 strokes per offence) by a military court or the officer in charge of the SAF Detention Barracks.
Military caning is less severe than judicial/prison caning and is designed not to cause bleeding or permanent scars. The soldier is bound to a caning trestle (similar to the one used in judicial/prison canings) in a bent-over position, and receives the strokes on the buttocks, which are covered by a protective cloth to prevent cuts. The cane used is 1⁄4 inches (6.4 mm) in diameter (half the thickness of the judicial/prison cane) though it is about the same length.
Caning is also used as a form of legal corporal punishment in reformatories, where juvenile delinquents below the age of 16 are detained.
The managers of these reformatories have the authority to order detainees to be caned for committing serious offences. A maximum of 10 strokes can be administered. The type of cane used is similar to the one used in ordinary secondary schools. The punishment is administered in private. Boys can be caned on the hand or on the bottom over clothing. Girls may be caned only on the palm of the hand, and this is the only form of official corporal punishment in Singapore that can be applied to females.
Singaporean schools are known for their strict and high standards of discipline. School uniforms are mandatory (except in some private schools). School corporal punishment exists in the form of caning and is applicable only to schoolboys; it is illegal to cane schoolgirls. The implement used is a light rattan cane of about four feet long. Government regulations state that the student cannot receive more than six strokes (but the majority of canings range from one to three strokes), and may be caned only on the palm of the hand (hand caning) or on the buttocks over clothing. Hand canings are very rare, with Saint Andrew's Secondary School (an all-boys school) being one notable exception, as students are just as likely to be caned on the hand as on the bottom.
Boys are typically caned for committing serious offences like fighting, smoking, cheating in tests/examinations, gangsterism, vandalism, showing disrespect towards teachers, and truancy. In the hierarchy of penalties, caning comes after detention but before suspension and expulsion. Students may also be caned for repeatedly making minor offences, such as being repeatedly late for school in a term. The punishment can only be administered by the principal, vice principal, or a specially designated and trained 'Discipline Master'.
The caning is administered in a formal and ritualistic manner, similar to the traditional British style - the boy adopts either a bent-over position (bending over a desk or a chair) or leaning position (placing his hands or elbows on the desk and leaning slightly forward), and receives a number of hard strokes on the buttocks over his uniform trousers (primary and lower secondary students wear shorts, while upper secondary students wear long pants). Sometimes, before the caning, the discipline master will tuck a protective item (a book or a file) into the boy's trouser waistband to protect the lower back from strokes that land off-target, and then pull the boy's pants tight across the target area. In some schools (especially all-boys schools), following British traditions, the student may be asked to change into PE attire for the punishment, because PE shorts are apparently thinner than the usual uniform trousers.
School canings usually take place in private inside the school office (with the principal/vice-principal and another teacher around to witness the punishment), but boys who have committed very serious offences may be caned in public - in the classroom in front of their classmates; or on stage in the assembly hall in front of the whole school population, to serve as a warning to potential offenders. A 'public caning' is a very solemn ceremony, as the principal will usually announce to the school why the student is being punished, and the student may be asked to read out a public apology before or after the caning.
Boys of any age from 6 to 19 may be caned, but the majority of canings are of secondary school students aged 14 to 16. The education ministry recommends that the student receive counselling before and/or after his caning.
Routine school canings are naturally not normally publicised, so cases only get reported in the press in rare special cases.
Domestic corporal punishment
According to a survey conducted by the Singaporean newspaper The Sunday Times in January 2009, out of 100 parents surveyed, 57 said that caning was an acceptable form of punishment and they had used it on their children. Parents usually punish their children (both boys and girls) for disobedience or lying, and this form of punishment is not illegal in Singapore. The government does not particularly encourage this, and parents may be charged with child abuse if their children get injured.
The most common implement used is a thin, whippy rattan cane, about 65cm long, with a plastic hook at the end, which comes in a variety of colours. They are easily available in grocery shops around the country. Each cane costs about 50 Singapore cents. Sometimes, parents may use other implements like feather duster handles, rulers, and clothes hangers. The child is usually beaten on the buttocks, thighs, calves or palm of the hand. This type of punishment usually leaves the child with marks that will fade in a few days.
Singaporean spanking artists
None known so far.
- Severe Singapore Judicial Canings (Sarah Gregory Spanking)
- Singapore Criminal Procedure Code
- Judicial Caning in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei on World Corporal Punishment Research
- Computer-generated visualisation of the successive stages of a judicial caning on the Internet Archive
- Real Life Singaporean Spanking Stories. A Singaporean spanking blog by Cedric Foo, containing several (most probably fictional) domestic spanking stories set in Singapore.
- The State of Discipline: Chinese Masculinity and BDSM in Singapore (Thesis)
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