Prosecutors appeal sex assault acquittal due to 'men only law'

Singapore state prosecutors on Monday appealed against a high court decision acquitting a woman of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl because the law applied only to men, citing public interest.

Zunika Ahmad, 40, a woman who lives as a man, was acquitted last week of six counts of sexual assault despite pleading guilty to the charges, sparking strong reaction from women's and gay rights activists.

Judge Kan Ting Chiu said he threw out the guilty plea and acquitted Zunika because the law on which the charges were based relates only to men with a penis.

He jailed Zunika eight months on the lesser charge of having a sexual relationship with a person aged under 16.

Calling the case a matter of public interest, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said the law was intended by parliament to be gender neutral.

"Having reviewed the written grounds of decision, the prosecution has concluded that an appeal is merited against Senior Judge Kan's finding that section 376A(1)(b) does not apply to female accused persons," the AGC said in a statement.

It is also appealing Zunika's eight-month jail sentence.

Zunika, who is biologically female but has lived as a man since youth, pleaded guilty last year to sexually assaulting her young neighbour using a sex toy and her fingers.

The plea was rejected last week by the judge who said the provision, enacted in 2007, specifically covers a person with a penis even if he did not use the organ in the assault.

This meant that the law could only be referring to a male, the judge said.

Singapore classifies gender based on anatomy.