The transgender case of Hen Alkobi, a woman who impersonated a man and was originally accused of raping and sexual abusing teenage girls in the Haifa area, ended in a plea bargain arrangement.
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- Haifa transgender sex scandal ends with a plea and community service (09/08/2003)
By David Ratner
Ha'aretz - September 8, 2003
The transgender case of Hen Alkobi, a woman who impersonated a man and was originally accused of raping and sexual abusing teenage girls in the Haifa area, ended yesterday in a plea bargain arrangement.
Describing the case as "unprecedented in Israeli law," the Haifa District Court sentenced Alkobi to six months of community service for wrongfully assuming an identity.
The case came to light a year ago, when a number of minors lodged complaints. Alkobi was held in custody for a month, and then placed under house arrest. The original indictment included charges of rape - the teenage girls claimed Alkobi raped them using a dildo.
Alkobi claimed the minors lodged their complaints because of parental pressure - the parents were apprehensive that their daughters would be stigmatized as lesbians, and so instructed them to submit charges of rape, Alkobi claimed.
Alkobi added that 16-year-old girls should be able to discern at a moment of intimacy that a partner does not have a genuine male sex organ.
Four months ago, a Haaretz report disclosed that one of the complainants had sent a letter to the court in which she withdrew the rape charges, and said that she felt genuine feelings of love for Alkobi. The letter's author identified herself as a lesbian.
Partly as a result of this letter, prosecutors and defense attorney Ronen Bendel worked out a plea bargain deal in which rape charges were omitted.
Yesterday, the Haifa District Court sentenced Alkobi to six months of community service, and ordered her to pay fines of NIS 50,000 to two of the teenagers who lodged complaints.
Oren Sinai, a friend of Alkobi's who helped her impersonate a man, received a sentence of 220 hours of community service.
The Haifa District Court emphasized that this case lacks precedent in Israeli law.
The three-judge panel began its opinion by writing that, "`this is not a lady, it's a man,' says the song ... But in the case under consideration, it turns out that the man is a lady."
Finding that Alkobi is guilty of wrongful impersonation, the judges noted that the defendant used the assumed male identity to "commit erotic acts on the bodies of the complainants."
"Had had they been in full possession of the facts, they would not have consented to the sexual acts," said the judges.
During the in camera court proceedings, a number of expert witnesses answered questions about transgender issues.
The witnesses included a woman who had a sex change operation at the age of 46, and a man who served in the Israel Defense Forces as a hand-to-hand combat instructor but whose Israel identity card lists him as a woman.
In their opinion, the judges cited a growing list of films and books in popular culture that refer to the complexity of transgender issues.
The judges rejected a contention voiced by a number of witnesses, holding that a person in Alkobi's position is not obligated to reveal her identity as she begins sexual relations with unknowing partners.
"We can't agree with this [contention]," wrote the judges. "When a person becomes involved in intimate relations with another, he or she must reveal his or her identity as a `male' or `female,' in the standard sense of the term," the judges opined.
"In a case in which relations of love are established, and the `consent' of one side is won without the disclosure of this essential fact, there is a violation of the partner's autonomy, and the situation cannot be described as `free consent.'"
Responding to yesterday's sentencing, Alkobi told the judges: "I've already received my punishment. A year of my life has been erased."