By Leong Wee Keat, TODAY | Posted: 13 February 2011 2245 hrs
SINGAPORE: The number of teenaged girls engaging in underage sex rose last year, even as the authorities scored a success in reducing the number of younger girls from doing so.
The latest police figures show that there were 198 cases of sexual penetration involving a girl aged below 16 last year. This was 10 more than in 2009.
However, the number of cases last year was an improvement from the figures in 2008, which saw 249 cases.
The police said that, most of the time, these girls were having underaged sex with men known to them, usually their boyfriends or friends.
In one such case heard last month, Muhammad Shafiq Abdul Ghani, then 20, pleaded guilty to having consensual sex with a 14-year-old girl between late February and early March, last year.
The court heard the girl had initiated sex as she wanted to "have his child". Muhammad Shafiq agreed.
Now 21, he was fined $4,000 and spared jail. District Judge Eddy Tham felt the girl's "active initiation" where the offender was below 21 was a sentencing consideration. Prosecutors have appealed.
However, statutory rape cases - for girls under 14 -improved. Compared to 2009, last year saw a 40-per-cent drop in the number of cases.
Deputy Superintendent William Goh said police have been delivering talks on teenaged sex and the law to students from secondary schools and junior colleges, as well as training teachers so that they can raise awareness on the issue.
He added: "Since 2009, police have extended such talks to social service networks, with the objective of widening the reach to create a greater awareness of the legal and social consequences of teenage sex."
Mr Yusof Ismail, chief executive of Ain Society, which works with troubled youth, suggested that the authorities could extend these talks to primary school students as he was now seeing children, aged 12 to 14, becoming sexually active.
He said: "If we want to bring numbers down over the next five years, we should consider extending efforts upstream."
Clinical psychologist Carol Balhetchet suggested using role models, such as celebrities, to deliver the abstinence message.
She added: "Families could help in spreading the right values but parents sometimes don't touch on the subject because it is awkward."
DSP Goh agreed and said all stakeholders, including the community, schools, parents, and media have an important role to play in educating youth against underage sex.
"Care should be taken by families to observe changes in the behaviour or activities of the young as most of the perpetrators in such cases are known to the victims," he added. - TODAY