We came across the following post on the social media site Reddit:
The post, which was later shared on a popular Singapore-focused Reddit channel (subreddit), shows a woman making the claim that it is ‘illegal to sing in Singapore’. It had over 4,600 upvotes at the time of writing.
The woman, who appears to be making a video to be shared on TikTok, invites several passers-by to sing with her. After a man joins her to sing, she tells him, ‘You could get locked up for that,’ before giving him some money.
It is uncertain which law the woman in the video was referring to, as it is not specified by her. Nevertheless, given the popularity of KTV outlets in Singapore, we suspected the veracity of these claims to be doubtful.
When we investigated the allegations made in the post, we indeed found no corresponding law in Singapore that forbids the act of singing. However, we did find some laws that may have been misinterpreted by the woman in the post.
Chapter 14 of Singapore’s Penal Code covers ‘offences affecting the public tranquility, public health, safety, convenience, decency and morals’. Section 294 in this chapter states, ‘Whoever, to the annoyance of others… sings, recites or utters any obscene words in or near any public place, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 months, or with fine, or with both’.
A close reading of this law indicates that it stipulates ‘obscene acts’—defined as singing obscene words in a public place—as illegal rather than singing itself.
Poor description of this law online and a lack of scrutiny by readers may also have contributed to misinterpretation of this law.
A 2015 listicle from Insider (formerly Business Insider), for example, lists ’16 odd things that are illegal in Singapore’, listing ‘singing’ fourth. While the description below the header is accurate and carries important context, the header lends the false impression that singing itself is illegal, posing a risk of misinformation for undiscerning readers.
As such, it is false that it is illegal to sing in Singapore, though singing obscene words in a public place is considered an offence.