Women can get away with rape in Singapore

Should we do away with gender-specific laws?

Aisyah Lyana
Aisyah Lyana

Published: 15 April 2016, 4:43 PM

A woman in Singapore was cleared of charges of penetrating a minor thanks to gender-specific laws. On Apr 12, Zunika Ahmad, 39, who pleaded guilty to penetrating her 13-year-old neighbour with a dildo, was let off the hook because the law could only be used against males.

What’s going on?

Zunika had been living as a transgendered man since she was 16, and even married two wives. Although she behaved like a man and initiated the sexual act upon her young neighbour, the law that punished males for sexual crimes could not be used against her.

She was acquitted of six charges, but convicted of one charge of sexual exploitation under the Children and Young Persons Act and sentenced to eight months’ jail.

Section 376A of the Penal Code implies that only a person with a penis (i.e a man) can be guilty of sexual penetration. Justice Kan Ting Chiu, who acquitted Zunika of her charges, said: “The reference to a person who has a penis cannot be construed to include a woman without doing violence to common sense and anatomy.”

There has been uproar among netizens who expressed disappointment that the law in question is unfair and should be reviewed.

Netizens voiced out that regardless of genders, a sexual offender should be charged if found guilty.

Part-time waitress Fathimah Rafi’ee, 19, said: “Rape and sexual exploitation are cases where victims are sexually violated without their consent. The sex orientation of the offender does not matter.”

“With the growing number of transgender people, perhaps gender-specific laws need to be reviewed to avoid ambiguity. Zunika getting away with her offence does not bring justice to, or make it less traumatizing for the victim,” added the prospective biological science student.

Even Zunika’s victim has spoken up. The now 18-year-old teenager told The Straits Times that she still suffers nightmares. She said: “I thought she was a man when she took my virginity, so why can’t she be charged like a man?”

On the other side of the fence, some argue that gender-specific laws should stay in place to protect women.

While a majority of those who experience sexual harassment are women, men can be sexually harassed too. Photo credit : AWARE

Prospective law student Irene Kim, 22, said: “Although gender-neutral laws may appear unbiased, removing the gender-specific laws completely will definitely impact the society, especially the traditionally vulnerable women.

“If laws protecting women such as those involving women-targeted interventions and domestic abuse are removed, then won’t it cause more problems in society?”

What’s your take?

1. Do you think the law should allow women to be convicted of sexual assault? Why?
2. Should all laws be gender-neutral? Why?

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