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Throw the book at sham tenants who lease premises for vice

There are a slew of websites advertising the sex trade, and they list hundreds of prostitutes, organised by the area in which they provide their services, for the convenience of customers at all times, island-wide.

There are a slew of websites advertising the sex trade, and they list hundreds of prostitutes, organised by the area in which they provide their services, for the convenience of customers at all times, island-wide.

The reports of raids may be merely the tip of this iceberg of vice (“6 arrested in anti-vice raids”; May 6, online and “4 arrested in high-class Russian prostitution ring bust”; May 5, online).

It is understandably difficult to apprehend the website operators owing to the non-transparency of the domain ownership.

It is possible, however, to reduce the number of illegal prostitutes by prosecuting sham tenants who enter into lease agreements and then sublet or allow women on social passes to use the premises for vice.

Section 148 of the Women’s Charter states: “Any ... tenant, lessee, occupier or person in charge of any place which is used as a brothel shall, unless he proves that he has no knowledge that the place is used as a brothel, be guilty of an offence.”

The presumption of guilt unless the tenant can prove otherwise is logical because once the keys are handed over to him, only he can access the premises.

Such tenants may not even move in and may hold work passes to mislead landlords.

The ease with which syndicates can procure rented premises contributes to the number of willing and unwilling prostitutes who are at risk of abuse in a foreign land.

Also, security and social issues arise for residents of estates that fall prey to such syndicates and tenants.

The police’s pragmatic approach, focused on confining prostitution to red-light districts, is laudable.

For this to work, tenants who act as runners for syndicates and prostitutes must be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law, pursuant to Section 148 of the Women’s Charter, to reduce their numbers.

The actual syndicate members or website operators may be unidentifiable, but these tenants who hold work passes and are employed in Singapore are traceable.

In view of the proliferation of sex websites, a proactive application of the law is vital to address the upsurge in vice and contain such activities in traditional red-light districts.

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