A 40-year-old woman who admitted to repeatedly sexually assaulting her 13-year-old neighbour over almost two years was acquitted of six charges on Tuesday (Apr 12).
However, Zunika Ahmad was convicted under the Children and Young Persons Act for committing an obscene act with the victim in February 2012. She was sentenced to eight months' jail; she could have been jailed up to five years and/or fined up to S$10,000.
In a landmark judgment on the six charges for which Zunika was acquitted, Justice Kan Ting Chiu said the particular section of the law under which she was charged “does not cover women as offenders”.
Zunika had pleaded guilty in December last year to six counts under section 376A(1)(b) of the Penal Code for sexually assaulting the young girl using a sex toy. Section 376A(1)(b) criminalises the sexual penetration of a minor “with a part of A’s body (other than A’s penis) or anything else”.
Both the prosecution, led by Deputy Public Prosecutors John Lu and Dwayne Lum, and Zunika's lawyer, Ms Sudha Nair, had agreed that a woman could be charged under section 376A(1)(b) after studying the Interpretation Act.
But Justice Kan, noting that the issue of whether a woman can be charged under section 376A had not been decided before, said: "The charges cannot stand even after (Zunika) had pleaded guilty to them.
“The reference to a person who has a penis cannot be construed to include a woman without doing violence to common sense and anatomy”, he added, noting that the law is clearly not gender-neutral and that “we should be slow to suggest or infer the contrary.”
"SHE DOES NOT REQUIRE PSYCHIATRIC TREATMENT"
Zunika, who had passed herself off as an Indonesian man, met the girl in 2011, when she moved into a flat two units away from the victim’s. Over time, Zunika, her two wives and a daughter became friendly with the victim’s family.
Zunika’s wives were also under the impression they were married to an Indonesian man. In fact, her first wife became pregnant after an affair, but told Zunika the baby was hers. As she wanted to have a family, and was unwilling to reveal her true identity, Zunika went along with the lie.
Zunika’s sexual relationship with the girl began in February 2012 and continued for almost two years. Though the sex acts were committed with the girl’s consent, they are still illegal as the age of consent in Singapore is 16.
Justice Kan noted that three psychiatrists had separately diagnosed Zunika with gender dysphoria, or a strong desire to be male.
“She does not require psychiatric treatment,” one report stated, recommending sexual reassignment surgery instead, “so that (Zunika) can continue life as a man”.
Zunika’s lawyer Ms Nair had previously stated her client’s intention to undergo surgery after serving her sentence, and continue living with her wives and daughter, who have come to terms with her transsexualism.
Justice Kan said Zunika had not forced herself on the victim, had surrendered herself to the police and cooperated with investigations. She had also pleaded guilty, thereby "saving (the victim) from having to recount the unrecorded and uncorroborated events which took place years ago".
"The acts were consensual," he said, adding that Zunika had not coerced or preyed on the victim and is "unlikely to prey on other minors". Zunika "had not left any severe or lasting psychological harm on (the victim) as far as we know," the judge concluded.