Woman jailed 10 years for sex abuse of girl

The minor who was sexually abused at 13 never suspected her abuser of being a woman.
The minor who was sexually abused at 13 never suspected her abuser of being a woman.PHOTO: ST FILE

She had earlier been acquitted on basis that a woman can't be guilty of penetration of minor

A 40-year-old woman was yesterday jailed for 10 years for sexual abuse of a girl, after being initially cleared of most charges by a lower court, which had ruled that a woman could not be convicted of the crime of sexual penetration of a minor.

Zunika Ahmad, a transgender individual who is biologically female but lives as a man, appeared relaxed on being sentenced. Wearing her usual court attire of a loose-fitting hooded robe, she spoke calmly to her parents and one of her two "wives" before being led away.

Although she had pleaded guilty to seven charges last December, her case took a dramatic turn in April when a High Court judge rejected her plea and acquitted her of six counts of sexual penetration of a minor. The victim was then 13. Zunika received eight months' jail on one count of sexual exploitation.

Senior Judge Kan Ting Chiu reasoned that because of the way the law was worded, only a man could be found guilty. The prosecution appealed against this decision, arguing that the provision was intended to apply to male and female offenders.

On Sept 28, the Court of Appeal agreed and ruled that Section 376A(1)(b) of the Penal Code was gender-neutral. The court also reversed the acquittal and reinstated Zunika's conviction.

 

Diagnosed with gender dysphoria, Zunika speaks, dresses and behaves like a man. Even the two women she "married" in Indonesia did not know their "husband" was a woman.

SPEAK UP ABOUT ABUSE

The sentence is fair compared to the eight months she was given on her first trial. To the other abusers who are still out there, take this case as a lesson. No matter how manipulative you are and no matter how clever you think you are, one day you will still fall, so repent now before you regret. To others who are being abused, please tell people about it no matter how much you think you 'love' somebody... please don't be as stupid as I used to be.

THE VICTIM, who was 13 when Zunika first started having sex with her using a sex aid

The victim and her siblings, who were abandoned by their mother, started going to Zunika's flat in 2011. 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 stopped the affair in December 2013. Three months later, the girl told her family, and a police report was made.

Yesterday, the prosecution sought at least eight years' jail. Second Solicitor-General Kwek Mean Luck said Zunika had abused her position of authority and exploited the girl's naivety by perpetrating a series of offences over 20 months.

Zunika's lawyer, Ms N. Sudha Nair, asked for less than three years' jail. She argued that her client had not sought out the victim for sexual gratification; it was after the girl confessed her feelings for the accused that she realised she was also developing feelings for the girl.

In sentencing Zunika to 10 years' jail, the apex court took into account as aggravating factors the number of offences and that she had abused her position of trust. But the court also considered that the offences were committed against the backdrop of a genuine romantic relationship, that Zunika was not a serial offender, and there was a low risk she would re-offend.

A detailed written judgment will be released at a later date.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2016, with the headline 'Woman jailed 10 years for sex abuse of girl'. Print Edition | Subscribe