Allure of the 'untouchable'
Why do men prey on underage girls?
In the last two years, more than 100 men here have been charged or jailed for having sex with underage girls.
Some had commercial sex with girls under 18. Others had sex with girls under 16.
The men were construction workers, lawyers, teachers and even former police officers. Many were married and some had young children.
Why do adult men seek out young girls?
"These younger women make them (the men) feel younger, and men all over the world fear their own aging process," said Dr Carol Balhetchet, clinical psychologist and senior director of youth services at the Singapore Children's Society.
She said young girls are in demand because they are seen as "untouchables" or forbidden fruit of society.
Then there are the men who believe young girls are "pure" or virgins, added Dr Balhetchet.
And that is based on the "misconception that younger women are more disease free and this brings about more thrill in these old men", said Ms Sharon Teo, a senior lecturer in Temasek Polytechnic's psychology diploma course.
Ms Teo, as a former psychotherapist, has worked with delinquent youth and girls who became sexually active at a young age.
EASIER TO COAX
She said: "For these men, these younger girls are easier to coax into doing such things. Additionally, the girls' needs are different - their demands and expectations are lower and generally, the younger girls have more energy and are more willing to try new things."
And so some men will risk it all because young girls are considered "rare and valuable", said psychologist Daniel Koh of Insights Mind Centre.
He said: "Some think they can get away with it as the girls may not report them."
Others, he said, think they will not be caught if they have sexual relations "in the privacy of their home".
But many are found out and dragged to court eventually.
On Monday, Malaysian Teoh Nai Jin, 38, became the 37th man here jailed for having commercial sex with an underage escort in a high-profile online vice ring case. He was sentenced to 10 weeks behind bars.
The Singapore permanent resident, a manager at the time of the offence, had paid $500 for the sexual services of the minor at Hotel 81 Bencoolen in Bencoolen Street on Oct 22, 2010.
Criminal lawyer Amolat Singh said in some cases, the law can make exceptions for those caught having sex with someone under 16 years of age.
On May 5, an 18-year-old, who twice had sex with his underage girlfriend and got her pregnant, was sentenced to 15 months' probation. He could have been jailed for 10 years, fined or both.
The two teenagers - then 17 and 15 - were in a steady relationship when they had sex last year.
Mr Singh said such a ruling happens when both parties are about the same age and "the law works on the basis that the young do not know better and a conviction will be a blot on their records".
The boy, who attended the same secondary school as the girl, was also ordered by the court to perform 100 hours of community service.
His parents had to sign a $5,000 bond to ensure his good behaviour, reported The Straits Times.
Criminal lawyer Sunil Sudheesan said even with the high number of men charged and jailed in the last two years, it is unlikely the law will be toughened to deter other predators.
"The law was already amended in 2008 to make going overseas for underage sex unlawful" he said.
Under the law, it is an offence for any person to make travel arrangements for tours outside Singapore for commercial sex with minors under 18. It is punishable with up to 10 years imprisonment, a fine or both.
Anyone caught having commercial sex with a minor under the age of 18 here or overseas can also be jailed up to seven years and fined.
A 2008 amendment made having commercial sex with a minor below the age of 18 an offence that carries a jail term of up to seven years, a fine or both.
The maximum penalty for having sex with someone under 16 years of age is a jail term of 10 years and a fine.
Prostitution is not illegal in Singapore.
For these men, these younger girls are easier to coax into doing such things. Additionally, the girls' needs are different - their demands and expectations are lower and generally, the younger girls have more energy and are more willing to try new things.
- Ms Sharon Teo, senior lecturer in Temasek Polytechnic
Some have sex for wrong reasons
Most of the girls involved in underage sex cases are victims, manipulated by older men into having a sexual liaison.
But there are also those who seek out sex for company or money.
Some openly call out to "sugar daddys" to finance their lifestyle. Others are lonely and want company, only to find the wrong type online.
But the law is clear; the girls' lack of maturity means they must be protected.
Mr Shashi Nathan, a partner at KhattarWong LLP law firm says: "The men know the law, so there shouldn't be an excuse for them to do all of this.
"If they know that the girls are young and still want to be involved sexually with them, they should be punished."
What then of girls who have sex for cash, even when they are underage?
In 2008, the law was amended making commercial sex with a minor below the age of 18 an offence that carries a jail term of up to seven years, a fine or both.
The argument then was that young people, because they were immature and vulnerable, should be protected from providing sexual services.
But lawyer Gloria James-Civetta of Gloria James-Civetta and Company said there is a need to implement something in the law to keep the girls on the right path.
She added: "The law has been changed by The Women's Charter, so there is no law to charge these girls. The men are given the brunt of the punishment."
Who are these girls?
"These girls usually do not have a close relationship with their families and this results in little guidance as the parents are not involved in the kid's life," said Ms Frances Yeo, a psychologist at Thompson Pediatric Centre.
She said some girls also may have deep emotional attention problems and these relationships may help them feel good about themselves.
"It all goes back to how secure they feel about themselves. With no love at home, they will have a void in them and they try to fill it," she said.
And of those girls who trade their modesty for branded handbags, Dr Carol Belhetchet, senior director for youth services and clinical psychologist for the Singapore Children's Society, said: "We live in a indulgent society and everything is getting more expensive.
"With the competition with friends to do better, these wannabe adults do such things to attain their goals".
- Darishini Thiyagarajan and Melody Ng
Man, 24, and girl, 15
Chee Wei Tong, 24, was sent to jail for 30 months on April 8 for having underage sex with a 15-year-old girl.
The former customer service officer had sex multiple times at his flat and at an HDB staircase landing in August 2012.
He had met the girl on a dating website and convinced her to have sex with him. The girl was a virgin.
Man, 24, and girl, 13
A Singapore Civil Defence Force deserter was jailed a year on April 22 for underage sex and desertion.
Khairul Juperi, 24, who is married with two children, had sex with a 13-year-old girl last November.
The sexual encounter was uncovered when police found the girl who was a runaway.
Man, 30, and girl, 14
Eugene Prem Kumar, 30, was a delivery driver when he had underage sex with a student shortly after getting to know her on Facebook in Sept 2010.
Last month, he was jailed 24 months after admitting to having sex with the 14-year-old at his flat.
He had asked her to be his girlfriend and initiated sex. She later told a social worker at Gracehaven Home.
Kumar is married with a daughter.
Man, 38, and girl, 17
A construction worker became the 24th man to be jailed last month for engaging in commercial sex with a 17-year-old girl from China, who was forced into prostitution by her pimp.
Li Zhiguang, 38, admitted to paying $60 for her sexual services at a hotel in Geylang in May 2013.