Singapore

In Familiar Pattern, Singaporean Student Who Assaulted Ex-Girlfriend Gets Locked Up Just 12 Days

The case was just the latest example of a court going easy on a male university student convicted of gender-based violence, and young Singaporeans aren’t having it.
July 20, 2020, 11:20am
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The National University of Singapore. Image: Jack Lin via Unsplash

CORRECTION: This article was previously published under a different headline. It has since been edited to better reflect the apparent nuances of the situation.

Young Singaporeans are once again crying foul at the country’s justice system after yet another male university student got off with what many believe is a slap on the wrist for assaulting his ex-girlfriend.

On Friday, District Judge Marvin Bay sentenced National University of Singapore (NUS) dentistry student Yin Zi Qin, 23, to 12 days in detention, five months of probation with counselling, and 80 hours of community service after he pleaded guilty to criminal trespassing and voluntarily causing hurt, or assault.

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Although a guilty verdict for voluntarily causing hurt usually comes with a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine of as much as SG$5,000, Judge Bay said that Yin’s “relative youth,” his rehabilitative prospects, and his lack of criminal history made community-based sentencing a “viable option.” The case also won’t go on the student’s permanent record, despite the violent nature of the crime.

In a statement on Monday, NUS said that Yin had been suspended and banned from entering campus, pending ongoing disciplinary proceedings.

On the night of May 9, 2019, Yin trespassed into his ex-girlfriend’s housing compound using a key card she gave him while they were still dating. The woman, a 21-year-old NUS student, had broken up with him through WhatsApp and he was purportedly hoping to win her back, CNA reported.

Yin climbed into the woman’s bedroom window through an adjacent unit. He brought roses and begged his ex-girlfriend to take him back, but when she refused, he hit her head against the wall and proceeded to strangle her. When she screamed, Yin pressed his thumb into the woman’s eye, causing it to bleed. The woman eventually blacked out.

She was sent to a hospital with abrasions on her neck, pain in her eye, and blurred vision, and suffered temporary vision impairment and a conjunctival infection that took over five months to heal. She now also suffers from insomnia and anxiety, and experiences constant paranoia about bumping into Yin on campus.

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But the comparative lightness of Yin’s sentence has some Singaporeans up in arms, with many arguing that Yin deserved a much harsher punishment. The youth empowerment Instagram account @upand.out spoke out against the issue in a post on Sunday, saying: “I want equality in the way we try criminals. Why does it seem that NUS students disproportionately have ‘rehabilitative prospects’?”

“I'm totally for rehabilitation, but only if everyone gets it. If SG is taking a more compassionate stance for crimes now, it should be reflected in every case, not just for NUS students assaulting women,” the post continued. It had over 13,000 likes before briefly taken down and reposted.

Consistently ranked the top university in Asia, NUS is considered the most prestigious university in Singapore. However, it has also been the scene of various sexual harassment and assault cases involving students in recent years. These cases usually end with minimal punishments for the male perpetrators, despite serious physical and psychological consequences for the female survivors.

The most high-profile case involved Monica Baey, an NUS student who called out the university for its weak punishment of Nicholas Lim, a fellow student who filmed her while she showered in a residence hall in 2018. Lim was only given a warning by the police, suspended from school for a semester, and required to write an apology to Baey.

Unsatisfied with the punishment, Baey took to Instagram in April of 2019 to share her experience and call for stricter consequences. Her posts went viral, sparking a local movement against sexual harassment and earning her an award in the process.

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Still, lenient punishments continued to be meted out. In February of last year, Ryan You Jun Chao, a former NUS student, was also caught photographing women as they showered on campus. While criminal trespass and insulting modesty charges are punishable by up to one year in prison, Chao was only sentenced to seven weeks in jail.

In September of 2019, fellow NUS student Terence Siow Kai Yuan, who molested a 28-year-old woman on the train, was sentenced to just 21 months of supervised probation. District Judge Jasvender Kaur described his offences as “minor intrusions,” and said his academic records showed that he had the “potential to excel in life.”

Months later, the prosecution successfully appealed against the light sentence, and Yuan was ordered to serve two weeks in jail as he had not shown “an extremely strong propensity for reform.”

And such cases aren’t limited to NUS. On August 12, 2019, a former Nanyang Technological University student, Han Shiyu, was charged for filming a woman in the shower. The student was expelled from the university, and was given a short detention order of 14 days, CNA reported.

Despite the uproar over past cases, Friday’s verdict appeared merely to be more of the same, prompting renewed outcry online.

The frustration has prompted over 12,000 people to sign a petition calling for Yin to be expelled from NUS. Another petition asking for a harsher sentence has over 10,000 signatures.

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