By Ravi Philemon
In July 2012, a local newspaper published the story about a 16-year-old Nanyang Junior College student, Liu Yifan, who tried to use another person’s identification card to gain entry into a club. Although Liu has been dealt with by the law, questions about the problems of under-age clubbing still remain.
A few weeks ago, I had lunch with a friend, the father of a 14-year-old girl who studies at an international school. A few weeks ago, the school called up my friend to inform him that his daughter was caught in night club in Esplanade Mall by a staff of the school who happened to be at the club on that night.
My friend was surprised. How did his daughter gain entry to the club? She was only 14 years old.
At the meeting with the school counsellors, my friend was shown the fake proof of age identification card his daughter had used to gain access to the night club. The identification card looked authentic enough, with a hologram, bar-code and ultraviolet images.
My friend showed me the card his daughter had used and I was surprised to notice how authentic it looked as proof of identification. But did the security at the night club not demand her NRIC or passport as proof of age?
My friend told me that his daughter and her friends managed to convince the security that they were foreigners and that it was not safe for them to be carrying their passports around.
I did a casual check on the Internet and found Mun Li Ping, a Malaysian’s blog post about how she went clubbing in a night club in Singapore, Zirca, when she was only 16, and was under-age. She brags about how she got drunk, danced crazily and left the club way past midnight.
I also found an advertisement of a past event of Club Avatar, which states that anyone caught under-age with fake identification cards at their swag party will be handed over to the authorities.
It also did not take me very long to search for a fake ID maker on the Internet who could produce what they claim to be, an authentic looking fake, for the price of a week of student’s allowance.
These suggested to me a few things. That the night club scene here is too alluring for some under-age persons that they try to get in by any means possible; that the barrier to prove your age to gain access to the night clubs here must be set much higher; and that as long as this hurdle for the under-age customer is not raised, at least some will gain access to these clubs.
The risks though for such under-age clubbers is too high. Drugs and booze which are more freely available in these places means that the young who patronise them risk becoming addicted to these at a very young age. Also, when you are drunk and high, the risks of being robbed, sexually violated escalates.
Despite the restrictions my friend has now placed his daughter under, he is fearful that she will find a way to sneak out of the house to enjoy the night-life in the clubs again, and that when she does, harm will befall her.
A website catering to the expatriate community in Singapore claims in a FAQ titled “The law and your child in Singapore” that anyone found guilty of under-age clubbing in Singapore is counselled by the school or by the child guidance clinic at the Ministry of Health. The fact that there is a need to provide clarity in the area of under-age clubbing in Singapore suggests that under-age clubbing is a problem in Singapore. But how big a social problem is it? Unless we know how big a problem under-age clubbing is, besides the sporadic prosecutions, we will not be able to address it comprehensively.
But until the problem is more appropriately addressed, the night clubs have a social responsibility to up their screening process to ensure that no under-age people sneak in to their clubs. The police too have a responsibility to increase the patrols on these clubs and take to task any night club which has allowed under-age clubbers into its premises.
We need such zero tolerance for under-age clubbing to ease parents’ anxiety, and to better protect our young people.