12 days for assault: Fury at weak penalties for attacks on women

Singapore - Sexual harassment and assaults against women are not being taken seriously enough in Singapore, activists warn, after students at elite universities were given punishments criticised as too lenient for their crimes. In the most recent incident, a 23-year-old spent just 12 days behind bars after he tried to strangle his ex-girlfriend during a vicious assault. The city-state is known for its tough approach to law and order, with vandalism punishable by caning, while drug trafficking and murder carry the death penalty. But campaigners say crimes against women have long been minimalised -- marital rape was only criminalised this year. “The justice system is very harsh on people who vandalise state-owned property. But you want to threaten and violate a woman’s life? Oh yeah, sure. It’s not as serious, is the message (authorities) are giving,” said Pamela Ng, a spokeswoman for the Aim For Zero campaign against sexual violence. There are also concerns the academic potential of male perpetrators is being prioritised over the actual effect of sex crimes on women.  This echoes criticisms of incidents at prestigious schools in the US, including the six-month imprisonment of Brock Turner for three counts of sexual assault, where a judge feared a longer sentence would severely “impact” the Stanford University swimmer. 

Syria blackout after suspected pipeline attack: state media

Damascus - A suspected attack on a pipeline in Syria caused a nationwide blackout overnight, the state news agency quoted ministers as saying Monday. According to SANA, the electricity minister said an explosion on a pipeline in the Damascus area late Sunday “led to an electricity blackout across Syria”. Some power stations were eventually reconnected and power provided to vital infrastructure, he said, adding that by dawn electricity was gradually returning to several provinces. The news agency published pictures of a nighttime blaze it said was caused by the pipeline explosion. The oil minister said the blast on the main pipeline supplying southern Syria “may have been caused by a terrorist act” but he provided no further details.