Dating platform The SugarBook will be closely watched: Minister
Dating platform The SugarBook will be closely watched, but good values more important when teaching young to be discerning: Minister
Users of dating platform The SugarBook, whose tagline reads "where romance meets finance", will be watched closely by the police and action will be taken if the platform or its users cross the line.
Addressing this money-for-love platform, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said: "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."
Mr Lee was responding to MPs Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) and Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson SMC), who raised concerns in Parliament yesterday about how The SugarBook could expose young people to harm.
Founded in 2016, the Malaysia-based dating platform has 90,000 users, close to 30,000 of whom are from Singapore, a spokesman for the site told The New Paper.
Others come from parts of Asia as well as the US and UK.
Anyone can sign up for free as sugar babies or sugar daddies and mummies to access The SugarBook's database, of which about 65 per cent are female and 35 per cent are male.
Those who want extra features, like seeing who viewed their profile, who "favourited" them or wish to send unlimited messages, can sign up as premium members by paying a monthly subscription.
This costs between US$35.95 (S$47) to US$49.95 a month for sugar daddies and mummies, and US$5.95 to US$9.95 for sugar babies.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Mr Lee said the Government "collectively objects" to such websites as they not only demean the youth but also expose them to abuse and exploitation.
"These transactions are fundamentally imbalanced, in favour of older and wealthier people. Young women, for instance, may feel pressured to comply with their wishes or demands, and risk physical or sexual harm if they reject them," he said.
Mr Lee also brought up how the MSF had banned extra-marital dating website Ashley Madison 2.0 in 2013 because it supported infidelity.
He added that the Internet is "very broad" and the Government has to "strike a balance".
Rather than banning sites like The SugarBook, Mr Lee said that the more sustainable way to protect young people here would be to nurture good values so that they can exercise discretion and "good judgment".
When asked about Mr Lee's comments in Parliament, the spokesman for The SugarBook said: "We understand the concerns our platform will trigger in different countries... due to its controversial nature, and we will work with the authorities to address any questions and concerns raised as the community's understanding of our platform is of utmost importance to us."
One user of the platform, Joanne, 22, a university student in Malaysia, told TNP she is currently dating a 36-year-old Briton in Singapore whom she had met shortly after joining the platform a year ago. She visits him once a month and "he pays for everything".
She told TNP: "Let's just say if I am looking for someone who can take me for dinners at expensive restaurants, nice five-star holidays, give me advice on work and life, and make me feel secure both financially and emotionally, I wouldn't be dating someone my age."
Another user, 23-year-old university student Madeline from the Philippines, signed up for the platform 10 months ago. She has gone out with two men that she found on the app while travelling. She told TNP that these men funded her travels and provided her with "financial support".
National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said that the platform promotes values contrary to what Singaporeans subscribe to - as it turns love into a "commodity" that can be "bought and sold on the online market".
The platform is also problematic because it involves people with money exploiting those without and those who desire luxuries demeaning themselves.
"It should be disallowed, since it is contrary to our values," said Dr Tan. "I recognise we can't really stop this practice if there are people willing to be 'sugar babies' and people with the money to spend on them, but there is no need to support a platform that facilitates the practice."