In partnership with the Law Society Pro Bono Services, our first legal workshop on criminal law was a massive success. Topics covered included harassment and cyber bullying, with participants deeply engaged in the conversation about what reaches the threshold of a crime.
There was so much to learn from the first trans-friendly legal workshop but here are just some key takeaways:
What can I do when harassed?
The Protections From Harassment Act (POHA) makes certain acts of harassments illegal. Feeling insulted is one matter, but feeling threatened and distressed from the harassment would be covered by POHA. It does cover stalking and people who use religion to threaten another person. If you require a legal consultation, Pro Bono Services does provide 20 minute legal clinics for civil cases, subject to a means test. Refer to their website for more information about their community legal clinic.
What if the authorities are abusive too?
When you report to the authorities and receive offensive comments or behaviours from the officer (for example comments like “You deserve to be beaten up”), do not engage with the officer in any way. It makes you liable for additional legal charges. On the scene, police officers will have a body worn camera, which can be requested for viewing by a lawyer. You should avoid recording (audio or visual) authorities when making the report. Instead, take note of the incident and make a report of it. A proper internal investigation will be requested and you don’t get into unnecessary trouble.
If there is no other avenues to raise your complaint, you can file a magistrate’s complaint with the state court. The case will be submitted before a magistrate who will review and decide how the case should proceed, whether it is a mediation, police investigation, or dismissal of the case. This should be your last resort, but you can be assured that the case will be reviewed objectively by a judge. What he/she decides will likely be the outcome in any court. More information about the process and costs can be found on their page.
Workplace harassment and sexual offences tend to fall on the criminal side of POHA. It may take a few years for investigations, and memory tends to fade. As always, you should take note of the details as soon as it happens, including date and time if possible, to avoid any inconsistencies. The important thing is anything that you allege, you have to be able to prove.
Harassment by children and youth are harder to fight, because the law regards them as incapable of making sound decisions. If there happens to be a disagreement involving children, it is best to refer to a teacher or the school counsellor. If the teacher is the one encouraging this behaviour, you may escalate this to the counsellor, vice principal, principal, or even MOE.
This is the first legal workshop by The T Project and Alicia Community Centre, in partnership with Law Society Pro Bono Services. Do look out for our other workshops for the transgender community in Singapore.