According to Minister Indranee Rajah, male police officers or immigration officers can now strip search women who are suspected to be linked to a terrorist plot. The new police powers will supersede the existing regulation where a female officer would be required before any search or pat down can be performed.
The Senior Minister of State for Law said that there have been a number of female terrorists around the world in a 23-year period citing terrorist attacks in India, Africa and Iraq:
“There is a well-recorded history of the use of women in terror attacks. Some have been coerced into this role but others have volunteered. Between 1985 and 2008, female suicide bombers carried out more than 230 attacks – about a quarter of all such acts, Ms Indranee noted. She highlighted the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was killed by a 17-year-old girl in a suicide bomb attack in 1991. The suicide bomber was a member of the Tamil Tigers. Female suicide bombers deployed by Boko Haram have killed more than 1,225 people. Research suggests that terror groups use female attackers to gain specific tactical advantages. This includes a perceived unwillingness on the part of security officers to search women. In Iraq, Al-Qaeda repeatedly exploited a cultural taboo against the searching of women, allowing their female suicide bombers to pass through checkpoints without being searched.”
Minister Indranee Rajah however did not explain how allowing male officers to search female suspects would have prevented these terrorist attacks. Nonetheless the PAP Minister then threatened that lives would be lost and gave a watered-down version of the new legislation claiming that this would only be done with “strict regard to decency”:
“The police will put in place strict standard operating procedures to ensure that any searches conducted by male officers on women will be done with strict regard to decency. So, it really is about striking a balance. In our case as mentioned, male officers will only be allowed to search a woman in very narrowly defined circumstances. These circumstances dictate that the officer must reasonably suspect that the woman is involved in a terrorist act, that the officer believes in good faith that the terrorist act is imminent, and that the search cannot be made within a reasonable time by a relevant officer who is a woman. The rationale, as explained, is that time is of the essence in such situations and it’s where any delay could mean a loss of lives.”