Mr Seah Kian Peng
MP for Marine Parade GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development what is the Ministry's position on the dating platform "The SugarBook" which targets young females and whether the Ministry will be taking steps to address the possible harm and exploitation that such young females could be subjected to.
Ms Tin Pei Ling
MP for MacPherson
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development what measures are in place to protect teenagers and young persons from online platforms such as TheSugarBook that aim to capitalise on their emotional or financial vulnerabilities and exploit them sexually.
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development whether online platforms such as TheSugarBook are legal in Singapore and what actions will be taken to ensure vice activities do not proliferate through such a channel.
1. Sugar dating platforms like The SugarBook commoditise and devalue relationships under the cover of a ‘mutually beneficial arrangement’. Relationships become transactional: an exchange of money and gifts in return for companionship and “other” services.
2. But what is of greater concern is that the site targets young people who are in their late teens and early 20s, even while they are still students at polytechnics and universities, exposing them to the risk of being exploited and abused. These transactions are fundamentally imbalanced, in favour of older and wealthier people. Young women, for instance, may feel pressurised to comply with their wishes or demands, and risk physical or sexual harm if they reject them.
3. The Police will keep a close eye on The SugarBook, as well as the individuals who use its services. For instance, if there is any procurement of sexual services for payment, the Police will take enforcement action under the Women’s Charter, including possibly against the website and its owners.
4. While we collectively object to such websites, the more effective and enduring solution lies in increasing the awareness of young people to such dangers, so that they exercise discretion and good judgement when navigating the online world. Students in MOE schools are taught to establish boundaries for personal safety, discern risks, and exercise sound judgment when going onto online platforms and managing relationships, both online and offline. In addition, during Cyber Wellness lessons, they learn about safe and responsible use of technology and cover topics such as danger with cyber contacts. We will also link up with our universities and polytechnics to help raise awareness of such risks. At the same time, parents play a critical role in guiding their children and helping them to stay away from undesirable online content.
5. At the end of the day, while we recognise that these websites undermine families and society, our best defence is for society, communities and our families to reinforce values that anchor us so that we do not to succumb to such influences.