Male Impersonator Who Had Sex With Minors Escapes Jail Term

David Ratner, Haaretz Correspondent
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David Ratner, Haaretz Correspondent

The transgender case of Hen Alkobi, a woman who impersonated a man and was originally accused of the rape and sexual abuse of teenage girls in the Haifa area, ended Sunday 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 Alkobi case came to light last year, when a number of female minors lodged complaints against her. She was held in custody for a month, and then placed under house arrest. The original indictment included charges of rape; the teenage girls claimed that Alkobi raped them while using a dildo.

Alkobi claimed that the minors lodged their complaints entirely due to 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 genuine male sex organs.

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 author of the letter 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.

On Sunday 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 the Alkobi case lacks precedent in Israeli law.

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 they been in full possession of the facts, they would not have consented to the sexual acts."

During the in-camera court proceedings, a number of expert witnesses answered questions about transgender issues. These witnesses included a woman who had a sex change operation at the age of 46, and a man who served in the Israel Defense Force as a hand-to-hand combat instructor but whose Israel identity card lists him as a woman.

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 relations of sexual intimacy 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," they wrote. "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 the sentencing, Alkobi said: "I've already received my punishment. A year of my life has been erased."

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