Woman, earlier cleared of sexual penetration of a minor, jailed 10 years

A three-judge court found that the previous judge had erred in his interpretation of the law when he acquitted Zunika Ahmad, 40.
A three-judge court found that the previous judge had erred in his interpretation of the law when he acquitted Zunika Ahmad, 40. PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - A transgender, who is biologically female but lives as a man, was on Monday (Oct 10) sentenced to 10 years in jail for sexual abuse of a teenage girl, after being initially cleared by a lower court which had ruled that a woman could not be convicted of sexual penetration of a minor.

The sentence came after a decision by the Court of Appeal on Sept 28 that a woman can just be as guilty as a man for the crime and reversed the acquittal.

In sentencing Zunika Ahmad, 40, on Monday, the Court of Appeal took into account as aggravating factors the number of offences and that Zunika had abused her position of trust.

On the other hand, the court also considered that the offences arose against the backdrop of a genuine romantic relationship developing between her and the victim, that Zunika was not a serial offender who targeted multiple victims, and that there was a low risk she would reoffend.

Diagnosed with gender dysphoria, Zunika speaks, dresses and behaves like a man. She was so convincing in passing herself off as an Indonesian man that her two wives did not know their "husband" was a woman until her sexual abuse of a girl who lived in the neighbourhood came to light.

 
 

The girl and her siblings, who were abandoned by their mother, had started going to Zunika's flat in 2011 to hang out with her "daughter".

In January 2012, Zunika kissed the victim on the cheek. Between March 2012 and December 2013, she had regular consensual sex with the girl using a sex aid. Zunika put a stop to the affair in December 2013. Three months later, the girl told her family about the acts after a quarrel with Zunika. A police report was made.

Last December, Zunika pleaded guilty to six counts of sexual penetration of a minor and one count of sexual exploitation under the Children and Young Person Act.

But in an unexpected twist, Senior Judge Kan Ting Chiu rejected her plea of guilt on the sexual penetration under Section 376A(1)(b) of the Penal Code and acquitted her in April. He set eight months' jail for the sexual exploitation charge.

He ruled that because of the way the law was worded, Zunika could not be guilty of the crime, despite her pleading guilty.

Section 376A(1)(b) states that "any person (A) who sexually penetrates, with a part of A's body (other than A's penis) or anything else", a person under the age of 16 is guilty of an offence.

The prosecution appealed. On Sept 28, the Court of Appeal agreed with the prosecution that the provision was gender-neutral, especially when read in the context of other provisions governing the offence.

Detailed written grounds of judgment will be released at a later date.