Police must not investigate Sugarbook’s “compensated” dating service, despite its apparent immorality, lawyers said.
After police announced an investigation into women subscribing to the service, they said the exchanges between two consenting adults were not the authorities’ business.
Tertiary College Academic Director Daniel Abishegam told Malay mail that Sugarbook was simply a “glorified” dating agency whose services did not explicitly include exchanging sex for money.
Abishegam expressed concern that the police were playing the role of a “morality” team by investigating Sugarbook users despite the suggestive nature of the service, saying it was not the role of the authorities to be guardians of virtue.
“I think this is a jerky response to the moral outrage in our society and you need to see the police doing something.
“If you start controlling sex between two consenting adults, whatever their age difference, it will open a Pandora’s Box that must be kept closed,” he warned.
Attorney Fahri Azzat argued that Sugarbook was not fundamentally different from other dating services, despite the premise “where romance and finance meet.”
He agreed with Abishegam that there should be no moral control whatsoever, but qualified this by saying that investigation should be allowed if there were elements of crime.
“It is not the job of the police to enforce morality, but if there is an offense and there is a basis for conducting an investigation into that crime, then an investigation or prosecution of a person who Violates that provision, should not be construed as the enforcement of morale by the police, ”he said.
Criminal attorney Rajsurian Pillai, who also agreed that the police investigation appeared reactive, noted that since the service did not explicitly promote sex for money, it was disqualified as a prostitution service.
“People interpret it as prostitution, which may not be the case, but that’s the fact that people assume it is; something that appears immoral doesn’t mean it’s illegal, ”he said.
Rajsurian said that even if the women who subscribed to Sugarbook ended up receiving cash, such transactions took place between consenting adults and could not be applied to the service as it would have no control over them.
“The police now seem to be investigating because there is social and public pressure to do so. The use of the app isn’t well public, but that doesn’t mean it’s illegal.
“The police will have a hard time proving elements within sections 372 and 372B for exploiting and soliciting prostitution; these ‘sugar’ arrangements seem to be more complicated than prostitution, ”he added.
Section 372 deals with crimes related to the exploitation of someone for prostitution purposes, with provisions pertaining to promoting, employing, housing and even improperly incarcerating someone for the stated purpose, while 372B deals with soliciting prostitution.
Abishegam also agreed that the element of prostitution would be difficult for researchers to prove, as the platform requires blatant marketing of sex for cash.
“They (Sugarbook) seem to be offering company. You can say it (sex) is understood, but I think it proves that is the problem, ”he added.
As for Fahri, authorities investigating the possibility of prostitution services being offered through the platform should screen the dynamics of any relationship sparked through the app to determine if their suspicions are true.
“I think the owners’ blame would ultimately depend on whether they were a pure platform and service provider or whether they went further and attracted women to lure others onto the platform,” he said.
In a knock-on effect, controversial data released by Sugarbook last week, claiming that the majority of users were young Malaysian college students, naturally sparked public outrage, with many expressing the immoral and exploitative nature of the ‘compensated dating’ offered by the app is being promoted, questioned and condemned. .
Several police reports were subsequently filed on the claims.
Fast forward a week later, Sugarbook’s 34-year-old creator and chief executive was arrested on suspicion of unlawfully detaining persons for prostitution, requesting prostitution, making statements with the intention of causing fear or public unrest and for improper use of network facilities or a network service.
SAC Datuk Fadzil Ahmat, chief of Selangor’s Criminal Investigations Department, said the executive was arrested on Wednesday from a location along Persiaran Dutamas and remained in police custody as of Thursday night to assist in investigations into a separate rape and prostitution case, despite a denial. request for pre-trial detention. by the court.
According to Fadzil, the police are investigating the case under four different sections of the law, three under the Criminal Code, namely section 372 (1) (d) for unlawfully restraining someone in a place for prostitution, section 372B for searching for purposes of prostitution, and section 505 (b) which relates to making statements with the intention of likely to cause fear or alarm in the public.
Investigations under section 505 (b) are believed to be due to the controversial statistics recently released by the platform, information that mentioned not only the distribution of local institutions where these sugar babies are registered, but also how Malaysia is home to over 300,000 persons offering paid companionship.
In addition, the trio of attorneys were also on the same page that authorities would find it difficult to bind the founder to a violation under section 505 (b), saying that the ambiguity of the law made it difficult to prove that it was platform had previously planned to cause unrest.
“If he simply provides a platform for them to meet up, I don’t see how that would be an offense under section 505 (b), because the publication of Sugarbook or the service it provides does not in itself infringe on the crime described Fahri said.
Abishegam said authorities should prove to the public the real unrest, fear and alarms that arose from material promoted by the platform.
“But what must also be shown is that that fear or alarm incites people to commit a crime against the state or public peace.
“That is so long in my opinion. Section 505 (b) should be for people spreading rumors to cause panic or anger, ”claimed Abishegam.
Sugarbook’s chief executive is also under investigation under section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) for the improper use of network facilities or a network service.
According to Rajsurian, since it is a law over 20 years old, the CMA is crying out for the need for revision, claiming that its provisions have yet to catch up with the present day and that its provisions remain largely ambiguous and vague.
“The CMA is a law of 1998 and they are broad provisions of the law whose definition of the crime is quite vague.
Therefore, there was strong opposition to such laws, especially Section 233 of the CMA, where it appears to be a ‘catch all’ provision with vaguely defined terms.
“These laws have not yet caught up with the use of such platforms or apps,” he added. Malay mail
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