These Things Are Better Off Banned

First it was chewing gum, now it is shisha. Singapore’s constant need for being a nanny to its citizens would be put to better use if they banned these things instead.

10. Sim Lim Scammers

dprkung2bcbtlwqog245(Mr Pham Van Thoai in anguish at Sim Lim)

They come by the hordes, preying on unsuspecting shoppers who are looking for a good electronics bargain. Singapore’s largest IT mall sullied its reputation most recently when a Vietnamese tourist was conned into buying an iPhone 6. He was left on his knees in tears after the salespeople demanded an additional $1,500 for “warranty”. From sales tax to pressurizing customers, these black sheep use a variety of tactics to con customers.

While not all the stores in Sim Lim are out to cheat buyers, the ones who do repeatedly should have their license revoked.

9. Cringe-Worthy Mascots

After the retirement of Singapore’s cultural icon, Singa The Courtesy Lion, a couple of questionable characters have tried to instill graciousness into Singaporeans. The latest eyebrow-raising characters are Move-in Martin, Stand-up Stacey and Give-way Glenda who are part of a campaign launched by Land Transport Authority (LTA) to promote thoughtfulness on buses and trains.

Apart from feeling like I am reliving my childhood watching Hi-5 sing-a-tons, the campaign mascots do not bring much effect. Those seated away from reserved seats still do not feel obliged to give up their seats to those in need.

Besides, the real characters on board are angry aunties, sleepy students and worn out workers.

8. Over Instagram-ing Food

For the love of food, just eat it already. Taking pictures in moderation is alright, but over 20 photos of the same dish from different angles only makes the food cold. It distracts you, the people you are with and other diners.

Some restaurants in New York have already banned taking pictures of your food in restaurants.

7. Texting While Walking

Sure, a text or two or even five is fine but if someone’s eyes are constantly glued to his phone screens throughout their walk, chances are, they are not paying attention to what is going on around them. You do not have to look very far to see someone with their head down, texting, taking photos or surfing the net. Many people are putting themselves in harm’s way because they do not notice their surroundings while being absorbed in using the phone.

6. Overemphasis On Tests

Cue the cheers of students doing after school supplementary classes all over Singapore – test should be abolished. By that, we mean unnecessary tests that fuel unhealthy competition amongst students.

Tests show a student’s progress, but can you really assess someone’s capability from a series of questions? Tests do not reveal people’s potential. They only reveal students’ ability to memorise and regurgitate the curriculum, which probably slip from their memory once the test is over.

It is true that Singapore students often rank the top 3 in tests that attempt to rank the smartest students of the world. But they have also been called uncreative, rigid, uninspired and unemotional. What a student receives in grades, he loses out in learning.

Milestone exams are sufficient as a gauge of a student’s proficiency to enter the working world. But is difficult to see the joy of learning in students who stay up the middle of the night armed with coffee and struggling to cram notes into their memory for another standardised test. Do away with all these unnecessarily repetitive tests and come up with better ways to let students enjoy learning.

5. Bad Advertisements

Remember the infamous Singapore Tourism Board advertisement? The video was meant to promote Singapore to the Philippines market but Singaporeans were not willing to back it up.

In the failed ad, a Filipino couple travel around Singapore as part of their romantic wedding anniversary. Their over-sentimentality from the constant “Oh look honey!” at every Singapore icon turned viewers’ stomachs queasy. But the real vomit inducing moment came when the man presents his partner a jewelry box with a pregnancy kit inside. No diamonds in there, but that moment will last forever. Ads should go through rounds of vetting before they are released for public viewing.

4. The Glass Ceiling

Raffles_PlaceThe glass ceiling is still there. Singapore companies are not enthusiastic about letting women head their firms. In a global survey, Singapore ranked 33 out of 45 economies in employing women in senior management positions. Women in Singapore hold only 23 percent of senior management roles, the lowest in ASEAN.

Women can be leaders and should be allowed to ascend the corporate ladder, too.

3. Section 377A

Singapore Gay RightsSection 377A of the Penal Code should not even exist anymore. Under Section 377A, men who engage in “any act of gross indecency” in private or public can be punished with a jail term of up to two years. It does not matter that it is between two consenting adults.

Gay marriage remains illegal in Singapore despite multiple court cases challenging the status quo. While there is more tolerance towards gays in recent years, there is no concrete support just yet.

Outside Hong Lim Park during the Pink Dot, the LGBT community still faces every day stigma. The National Library Board shelved children’s books into the adult section because it featured two male penguins bringing up a child. Earlier in 2014, a #WearWhite movement went up against the Pink Dot with their state-sanctioned prejudice.

Singapore’s issue with gay rights has sparked intense debate worldwide. Even the UN weighed in on the colonial-aged law.

“Using criminal law to prosecute individuals for engaging in consensual same sex conduct violates a host of human rights.. it nonetheless codifies discrimination and contributes to societal stigma against individuals who are gay. Gay people are as entitled as anyone else to be treated with respect and dignity.”

Despite the heavy resistance, there has been a major social shift towards accepting same sex marriages on a global scale. Within two generations, gay marriages have gone from a blasphemous joke to everyday truth all over the world, just as how interracial marriages used to be stigmatised. It is only a matter of time that these changes around the world strike a change back home.

2. Prostitution


Prostitution is legal in Singapore. Even though street soliciting and pimping is illegal, it is a common sight on some roads. In fact, not much else comes to mind when someone mentions Orchard Towers or Geylang Lorong 21.

To clear things, there is no loss of dignity nor is anyone less of a human for working as a prostitute. The problem is in the fact that prostitution exploits people, as these women are brought over under false premises. Even though the transaction between customer and call girl looks legal on the surface, there is no way to regulate the sex industry. It is covered in shards of illegal activity from sex trafficking of underaged workers to labour exploitation.

1. The Death Penalty

ImmigrationCard-Singapore-DeathPenalty-20051226The death penalty gives one group of people the power to take away the life of another person for a reason ‘society’ thinks is acceptable.

While most countries have done away with the death penalty, Singapore is still determined to use the noose as capital state punishment for its worst crimes. It’s used to combat drug trafficking, but it is difficult to find a direct link between the decline of a crime to the death penalty or any of the laws that try to deter the perpetrators. In fact, even with the harsh laws, drug-related crimes remain high. Singapore’s drug-related offences are worse than countries like Turkey and Costa Rica. In recent years, the number of drugs busts have continues to climb.

Together with its ineffectiveness, there are serious human rights issues. Most of the time, it is the drug mules, not the masterminds who are caught and sentenced to death for drug trafficking. Drug mules are often poorly educated or come from troubled backgrounds. Their bosses are probably checking into Singapore in style for medical appointments in private hospitals.

There are bigger social problems that need more attention than the banning of shisha, and looking out for the underdogs is one of them. After all, a society is measured by how it treats its weakest members.

With reference to UNODC, The Diplomat, Today, The independent Singapore, Mumbrella, All Voices
Images via Wikimedia, Wikimedia, Sodahead, Wikimedia, Twitter, Wikimedia, Chinnian on Flickr
Featured image via Wikimedia