On a recent trip to Singapore – one could not help but tune into the current debate among the legal profession, lawmakers and prosecutors as well has human rights groups on whether the current exemption for men over 50 years of age are to be spared from being caned, for sex offences against children.
Caning is applicable to more that 30 offences in Singapore. Caning goes back to the 19th Century when under British Rule caning was enacted in the Criminal Procedure Code 1900. Today, caning in Singapore is provided in the Criminal Procedure Code 2010.
There are exemption: women and men of death row – the former saying much about gender inequality.
Why 50? At the turn of the 19th Century life expectancy for men was around the age of 48 years. Caning was thought to hurry the offender to his grave, something a legal system could not possibly consider today. Back then punishment and retribution and to give some comfort to victims and family and friend prevailed. Now deterrence and rehabilitation feature largely in judicial determination on sentence but in Singapore caning still exists.
There is anecdotal evidence that caning offenders gives much relief to the family and friends of the child victim although the ultimate penalty of execution is considered the only sentence among by the same cohort.
The legal profession is at odds as to whether the exemption should be lifted. Those favouring exemption and those favouring its continuation surprisingly are spread across learned prosecutors and learned defence lawyers. My Singapore colleagues bar none suggest that exemption will remain.