Singapore: Rules, safety and privacy
When you think of Singapore, you think of the well-maintained gardens, clean streets and public safety. There are probably more laws than in any other part of South-East Asia, such as no spitting, no chewing gum and no annoying other people with a musical instrument. Though these rules may seem a bit strict to some of us, they do add to a common awareness of abiding the rules and of public scrutiny. If you do wrong, other people will call you out on it. There are also numerous ways in which the government can track what you are doing. This results in a very safe country where you should watch your steps. The problem with this type of safety, where you are constantly being watched, is that it interferes with your privacy. Does Singapore have the right balance between public safety and privacy?
Guaranteeing safety and order
Singapore tries very hard to maintain being one of the safest countries in the world. There are CCTV’s everywhere that record every move you make and the media get regulated heavily. For this reason, if you do something against the rules, they will know how to find you. That is why it is safe to take public transportation, to walk around the city as a girl and even to walk home from the city late at night. You do not have to worry about predators, because the government will find them and give them a fierce punishment. Harassing women is seen as a major crime and can result in predators being caned (getting whipped with a stick). The safety is one reason why people just love to visit Singapore and why it is one of the most livable countries in Asia.
Safety seems more important than privacy
In Western countries, privacy is very important. It is one of their most valuable human rights. But privacy is interpretable in many ways. Where in Western countries almost every interference with privacy needs to be validated by a more important right, in Singapore safety is a more important right than privacy. But how bad is it? The government of Singapore does not follow you into your home, does not tap what you are doing if what you are doing does not affect the country and you are free to move around the country without constantly having to identify yourself. You could say that Singapore only interferes your privacy, if it is necessary to maintain safety.
Is the interference with privacy a problem?
As with all human rights, it is a matter of perception whether you would like one right to prevail over the other. Though safety may seem as one of the most important human rights, privacy should not be underestimated. People in Singapore have often said that they feel uncomfortable being followed around all the time. It is not nice to know that someone may be watching your every move. Because of this, you may adjust your behavior. While you would normally feel free and act naturally, people may feel restricted because of the constant surveillance. This also results in journalist being scared to write controversial articles, in filmmakers to feel restricted in their creativity and singers not to sing about how they actually feel. Overall this will cause people not to fully express themselves.
There is a solution to everything, but I don’t know if Singapore would want one. Even though privacy is very important, having a low crime rate and having citizens feeling safe might be just as important. It really stimulates the economy and makes the country a very interesting place for expats. No wonder that people who work for international companies always put Singapore on top of their list when it comes to placement! It is safe for children to grow up in and for wives to walk around in. There are no uprisings, no rebellion and because you are not allowed to stand up against the government, it feels like as if people live together in peace more than in other countries.
Should you visit Singapore
Singapore is a great country to visit if you like a clean, livable and safe space. Read about all the rules before you go there and make sure not to feed the pigeons or forget to flush. Do not think that you are in just another South-East Asian country: there is no buying off a police officer once you have done something illegal. If you don’t mind the CCTV’s and if you are not planning on writing something super offensive about the country, there is no need to worry about anything really. Even if you are not familiar with some rules, Singaporean people will kindly remind you. Enjoy your stay in Singapore and don’t forget: never bring a durian on the train!
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