In a move to bust vice activities, Parliament had erected stiffer penalties against unlicensed massage establishments. Unlicensed operators will be slapped with fines of up to $10,000 and two years jail.
At present the maximum fine is $1,000, a sum which Second Minister of Home Affairs Josephine Teo called “grossly insufficient compared to the profits that such establishments can make, especially by engaging in vice activities”.
Repeat offenders can be fined up to $20,000 and jailed for five years.
Operators caught engaging in vice activities may also be guilty of offences under the Women’s Charter as well as other breaches of the Penal Code. These moves will make it extremely hard for these operators to continue.
Bad news also for brazen operators who persist after being charged in court. The coming laws will allow police to shut down an establishment if they have “reasonable grounds” to suspect illegal activities.
The new law also deals a blow to irresponsible landlords who “knowingly” lease their premises to unlicensed operators. It is now the landlord’s job to lend a hand in weeding out potential vice activities. Landlords will also be required to eject tenants who have been convicted of unlicensed massage establishment operations.
Eleven MPs came in support of the amendments on Monday, all of them drove hard the point about the need to weed out unlicensed massage establishments in residential areas.
MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, Melvin Yong asked for clarity on how landlords may be found culpable of “knowingly” leasing their properties to tenants that engage in vice activities.
MP for West Coast GRC, Foo Mee Har suggested a limit on the number of massage operators within a given area and to subject these establishments to an advertising code of practice that would prohibit unsubstantiated claims and the suggested offer of seductive services.
Ms. Teo also reminded the house that prostitution is not illegal, however the activities carried out by sex workers in the parlours do not fall within the fit and proper conduct of a masseuse.