Break-up generic
The man alleged that the woman's rejection caused him "sustained trauma" and "reductions in his earning capacity." Image Credit: Supplied. (Photo for illustrative purposes only)

Singapore: A man in Singapore is seeking more than $2 million in legal damages against a woman who he said caused him trauma after she rebuffed his romantic advances and told him she saw him only as a friend.

The man, identified as drone racing executive K. Kawshigan in legal documents, alleged in a defamation lawsuit set to be heard in Singapore's High Court next week that the woman's rejection caused him "sustained trauma" and "reductions in his earning capacity."

The suit, which the woman is contesting, seeks about $2.3 million in damages for the alleged harm of being friend-zoned.

A separate case filed by Kawshigan in Singapore's Magistrate Court was struck down last month for abuse of process, and the woman's lawyers said Kawshigan was ordered to pay her legal costs. In that suit, he had sought nearly $17,000, alleging that the woman had breached an "offer" she made that included "offering room for [Kawshigan] to share inspiration, struggle and achievements" and "meeting up based on mutual availability, beyond coffee settings."

The woman had argued that the suit seeking $17,000 was abuse of process because it was "brought for an ulterior purpose" to force her to "comply with his demands to, among other things, resume communications with him."

The lawsuit illustrates a challenge faced by women around the world: That men sometimes feel entitled to their affection.

"Women do not owe men their time or attention, much less their friendship, love, sexual activity or emotional labour," Aware Singapore, which advocates for women's rights and gender equality, said in a statement regarding the lawsuit. "Attempting to demand or coerce these things, via legal means or otherwise, can constitute harassment."

Singapore ranked 49th on Global Gender Gap Index
Singapore ranks 49th in the World Economic Forum's 2022 Global Gender Gap report, making it the country with the second-highest level of gender equality in Asia, after the Philippines. Japan has long struggled with gender-based income inequality, and just whispering of feminism in South Korea can spark sharp outcry. Still, as with many other developed nations, Singapore is grappling with sexism and misogyny, such as the pervasiveness of incels, or involuntarily celibate, anti-feminist men.

Kawshigan first met the woman in a "social setting" in 2016, according to the magistrate court's ruling. "Over time, their friendship developed, but problems began to arise" in September 2020, when "they became misaligned about how they saw their relationship."

The woman saw Kawshigan as a friend, while Kawshigan "considered her to be his 'closest friend,'" according to court records, which said that she asked to see Kawshigan less frequently, upsetting him. He said such action would be "taking a step back" in their "relationship." She in turn said they needed to set boundaries, urging Kawshigan to be "self-reliant."

Kawshigan, according to the ruling, "did not react well to this."

He sent the woman a letter in October 2020 threatening legal action for damages stemming from "emotional distress and possible defamation." She told Kawshigan that she was genuinely uncomfortable. He threatened that if she did not comply with his demands, she would face "damages to her personal and professional endeavours."

The woman agreed to participate in counseling sessions with Kawshigan, which kept his legal threats at bay, according to court records. But after some 1 1/2 years of counseling, she felt the exercises had become meaningless, she said, as Kawshigan appeared "unable to accept her reasons for not wanting any relationship or association with him."

She obtained a restraining order against Kawshigan, who then filed the lawsuit in the magistrate court while the other case was pending.

Kawshigan said in an email that "as there are still key proceedings ongoing," he would not comment until the case was decided. Kawshigan represented himself in both cases, according to court records.

Siyuan Chen, an associate professor of law at Singapore Management University, said there were "probably no merits" to Kawshigan's claim.

"Substantively, the purported damage suffered must come from something, be it a contract or a claim," he said, adding that the judgment in the magistrate court showed that "neither can be established."