She betrayed my trust, says victim
HE WAS known as a generous and religious man and his neighbours' children treated him as an older brother.
They trusted him so much that their daughter, R, used to stay with him and his two "wives". They sang karaoke, played with cats and he even advised her to wear the hijab.
She was 13 then and told The Straits Times that they developed feelings for each other. Her own family was crumbling and he was there for her. But he also repeatedly had sex with her.
No one - neither the neighbours nor his wives - suspected then that this person with his masculine manners was, in fact, a woman.
The victim, now 18, says she still suffers nightmares and can hardly sleep. "She took advantage of my family situation, betrayed my trust and destroyed our lives."
This unusual case has come under the spotlight after Senior Judge Kan Ting Chiu on Tuesday acquitted 39-year-old Zunika Ahmad of six counts of sexual penetration of a minor, to which she had pleaded guilty.
He reasoned that only a man can be charged with such a crime given the way Section 376(A) of the Penal Code, enacted in 2007, was written.
He added it was up to the legislature to amend the provision to make it clear that it includes women, if that was indeed the intention.
Zunika was found guilty of one count of sexual exploitation under the Children and Young Persons Act and given an eight-month jail sentence.
The victim was saddened that Zunika, who faced 20 charges of penetrating her with a dildo, was acquitted of nearly every charge.
"The same thing could happen to other young children," she said.
Her real name is not used to protect her identity.
The teenager currently lives with a younger sister, an older brother and their parents in a four-room public flat.
Seven years ago, they got to know Zunika, her "wives" and a child of one of the women.
Though Zunika had no facial hair, her deep voice, masculine demeanour and that he was "married" gave her neighbours no reason to suspect her real gender.
"My family trusted her because she has her own family and seemed very religious," said the victim.
In 2012, when she was around 13, R and two of her siblings began to spend most of their time in Zunika's flat.
R said she chose to live with Zunika as her own family was crumbling. Frequent quarrels between parents saw her mother leave home for six months.
Her siblings had their own problems.
Zunika provided the children with pocket money, even giving them mobile phones to use.
But R was allowed to leave only for school, after which she had to come home to clean the flat.
If she was late or did not do her chores well, she alleged that Zunika would hit her.
But she put up with it because she thought she was in love with Zunika, who had promised to marry her when she turned 16.
The sexual abuse first started in February 2012, with a kiss. The next month, they had sex, with Zunika using a dildo. This happened at least once nearly every month until December 2013.
R never suspected that Zunika, who wore T-shirts and three-quarter pants at home, was a woman.
"When Zunika was menstruating, she told me it was because she had a stomach tumour. She was also taking a lot of hormone pills but she told me those were to control the growth of her beard," she said.
In March 2014, according to court documents, Zunika argued with the victim over text messages.
She allegedly slapped and punched R, then chased her out of the house.
Two days later, R's sister told Zunika the victim would no longer stay over as the relationship had turned sexual. The family went to the police.
They were shocked when police told them Zunika was a woman.
This was when Zunika's two "wives" also found out her real gender. Till then, Zunika, who had a fake Indonesian passport with a man's identity, had told them that they must not touch or see her private parts for superstitious reasons.
Though her parents have reconciled and she has a boyfriend now, R, who works part-time, still has nightmares and manages to fall asleep only after 4am every day.
"I thought she was a man when she took my virginity, so why can't she be charged like a man?" asked R.
According to her lawyer, Zunika intends to go for gender reassignment surgery once she has served her jail term and reunites with her two "wives".