When you travel abroad, it’s essential to be aware of local laws and customs, and the penalties for breaking the law. Certain activities, which may not be illegal or even considered immoral in your home country, can carry severe penalties elsewhere.

Here we will focus on the example of Singapore, where:

  • 1. Drug offences can result in the death penalty
  • 2. Corporal punishment (including the cane) may be imposed for crimes such as rioting, extortion and vandalism
  • 3. Driving under the influence of alcohol, public indecency, and petty theft are all jailable offences
  • 4. Smoking, chewing gum, and spitting are prohibited in public

Earlier this year, an Australian woman was arrested in Singapore under local sedition laws, which carry a jail term of up to three years. The arrest came after the woman made a comment on a website called The Real Singapore, which police said “could promote ill-will and hostility among the different races in Singapore."

It was reported that the woman made a negative comment of the behaviour of a particular ethnic group in Singapore.

Curtin University Head of Media, Culture and Creative Arts Dr Joseph Fernandez said Singapore's Sedition Act was a "very outdated, very crude" tool designed to promote social harmony, but used instead to restrain free speech. "Sedition law has no place in a modern democracy," he says.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) helps Australians who are arrested or imprisoned overseas, some of whom are involved in complex legal proceedings. DFAT, however, acknowledges that their influence is limited:

“You are subject to the local laws of Singapore, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.”

There are several sources that you can use to research local laws of the country you are visiting. The Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website has a page dedicated to most countries, with detailed information about local laws as well as health and safety.

Smart Traveller
Smart Traveller on Singapore

If you require additional assistance, Dynamiq offers on-site travel safety training and detailed country-specific risk reports. For information, contact Philip Kent-Hughes at Philip.KentHughes@dynamiqglobal.com.

Back to all news