Singapore parents are visibly shaken after two incidents of strangers approaching young female students within a week hit headlines, making the city-state ponder over women's security.
Parents have expressed concern about the safety of their wards after the incidents came to light. Though police confirmed that one of the drivers in two kidnap scares had no ill intentions, parents say it is difficult to believe him as his approach was out of known order.
The first incident happened on 11 January, when teenage United World College (UWC) South-east Asia Dover campus middle-school student was offered a lift by a van driver, completely a stranger to her. She declined and later filed a police report with her parents. After being questioned by the police, he said he offered a lift as it was raining.
However, another mother of a five-year-old student of the school reportedly said she is skeptical about the intentions of the driver as it rains quite often in Singapore, but offering lift is not a common practice. She was never offered any lift, she reminisced.
The second case, which happened on 16 January, is more alarming as it involved a female driver. A female student from Tanglin Trust School in Portsdown Road was approached by two people in a white van when she was walking towards her school from MRT station. Even after she ignored them, the female driver and her companion got out of the van and continued coaxing her, following which she alerted the school management.
Both these incidents happened in broad daylight and the roads in front of these education institutions remain crowded as cars line up to drop off the students. Moreover, Tanglin Trust School has handed over special passes to drivers for identifying them themselves as parents or guardians.
A Tanglin Trust School student has pointed out that people have a general notion that there are rich kids studying in in international schools and thus, they become kidnap targets.
However, a UWC student said that he is feeling better after knowing the driver's intention and feels safe as kidnapping is not a very common in the city-state. A Westerner and father of a 13-year-old student said people like him come with many apprehensions but may find the city-state much safer with cameras and security personnel seen everywhere.
Otherwise, a man has been jailed in Singapore recently for allegedly placing his mobile phone under the skirt of a woman in an MRT train. The city is also witnessing growing number of cases of ill-treatment meted out to women domestic helpers. An independent consultancy Research Across Borders mentioned that 60% of maids in Singapore are exploited by their employers.