“People have different attractions. Mine just happens to be corpses.” — Hayden.
The fantasy regarding corpses have often influenced the prominent works of literature in one way or another such as in Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare when Juliet kissed Romeo’s dead body in the name of eternal love to the sleeping beauty, a fairy tale with a hidden dark tragedy as a backdrop. These sexual fetishes and fantasies regarding corpses are predominant in the real world too and are termed as “necrophilia,” a psychosexual disorder. Necrophilia is a centuries-old concept but it still has its roots embedded in the world of law and order where the rights such as the right to life and liberty prevail. The offence of Necrophilia is criminalized in various countries across the world but no such legislation or precedents exists in the context of India. Moreover, the rights of the dead are only pertinent in its limited aspect. The research paper delves deep into the current legal status of Necrophilia in India while exploring its history, causes and classification.
Necrophilia, psychosexual disorder, paraphilia, law, sexually abuse and criminalization
Necrophilia is a rare paraphilia in which humans are erotically attracted to corpses.Paraphilia refers to disorders related to deviant sexual preferences evidently observed in males. Like other paraphilias, necrophilia is also exclusively observed in males. It is madeup of Greek Words clubbed together whereby Nekros or necro means “the dead” and philios or philia means “love.” It is also called necrolagnia, necrochelsis, necrophilism and thanatophilia.
Such a person who indulges in sexual intercourse with dead bodies or corpses is known as a “Necrophiliac.” Necrophiliacs live like normal human beings and often choose a profession such as mortuary attendants that allows them free access to their love object. Abraham A. Brill in 1994 stated that necrophiliacs were psychotic, mentally deficient, and incapable of finding a consenting partner. Necrophiliacs are often haunted by twisted fantasies which when triggered lead to the commission of this horrendous act. Since the act is often done inconspicuously by digging dead bodies from graves, there is a dearth in the number of reported or documented cases.
In the past few years, India has observed a spike in the number of cases of Necrophilia, however, owing to the prospective loopholes in the Indian Penal Code, the necrophiliac or the “wrongdoer” is often left unpunished. Though sections 375 and 376 deal with the non-consensual sexual activities committed by a man, there is no provision of the code explicitly criminalizing “Necrophilia” i.e., non-consensual sexual activities against a dead person. Nonetheless, it is one of the most gruesome crimes observed across the world and thereby, the objective of this paper is to emphasise upon the prospective loopholes in the current law and the need to bring the amendments for criminalizing such a heinous offence.
The research paper is based on non-empirical research and is descriptive in nature. It offers a thorough critique of the legal loopholes regarding necrophilia by delving deep into the existing provisions of Indian Penal Code,1860, primarily, sections 297 and 377 and analysing multiple cases. Secondary sources such as newspaper reports, legal articles, research papers, encyclopedias and books have been utilized by the author. Other foreign legislations have also been studied to provide a comparative study of laws across the world.
Review of Literature
The author has been able to understand the concept of Necrophilia by thorough study from the books written by the researchers and professionals. Books such Forensic and Medicolegal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices by Dr Anil Aggarwal and Homicide by Wayne Petherick, Natasha Petherick played an important role in comprehending the psychology, causes as well as classification of necrophiliacs.
Necrophilia can be traced back to centuries ago. As a matter of fact, Greek historian Herodotus, while writing about ancient Egypt in his book Historians, stated that there was a culture in which the dead bodies of noble ladies were not immediately given to the embalmers, particularly of those who were extremely attractive and drew a lot of attention for their beauty while they were alive. These measures were taken out of concern that the embalmers would have mistreated the corpse. Thereby to avoid such sexual violation at the hands of embalmers, their dead bodies were given after being rotted three to four days after the death.
Not only that, even Hittite law from the 16th century BC through to the 13th century BC explicitly permitted sex with the dead. Surprisingly one such instance was also prevalent in Indian customs. Earlier, there existed a necrophilic tradition whereby on the demise of a virgin fiancée, before the burial, the man was to have sexual intercourse with his fiancée’s dead body and deflower her in front of a priest.
Moreover, soldiers returning from wars were often accused of necrophilia. The conquering soldiers on the battlefield reportedly indulged in the performance of pederasty on their dead or dying victims to feel the anal spasms that happened just before death. Russo-Turkish War and the 1919–1926 Moroccan campaigns are examples of the same.
As far as the term “Necrophilia” is concerned, it was first mentioned by Joseph Guislain, a Belgian psychiatrist in 1850; however, it was Richard von Kraftt-Ebing who in 1894 for the first time used the term “necrophilia” called it a “horrible manifestation of sadism”.
Sexual Homicide and Necrophilia
Sexual homicide and Necrophilia though in contrast to each other are often used in correlation. Hence, before delving further, it becomes imperative for us to draw a line of distinction between these two concepts. In Necrophilia, a psychosexual disorder, the necrophiliac derives satisfaction from defiling the dead bodies. In contrast, sexual homicides are often committed to escape the punishment after the commission of non-consensual sexual activities (rape). Precisely, a victim of sexual homicide has been sexually violated or raped while they were alive and then killed afterwards to destroy the evidence. On the other hand, necrophilic activities are performed on a person who is already dead (or in short, on corpses).
Causes Of Necrophilia
Necrophilia is a disorder which stimulates the person’s attraction towards the dead body. There are various reasons attributed towards such stimulation. Some of the reasons are as follows:
- Fear of rejection and power dynamics- Necrophilia may also involve a desire for complete control and dominance over a passive and non-consenting partner. The necrophiliacs are often dreaded by the concept of rejection by the other party no matter whether the rejection is attributed to sexual intercourse or romantic relationships. They view a dead body as an object devoid of any control since corpses are incapable of rejecting or disagreeing or manipulating, it gives them the sense of being dominant. This stimulates the desire within necrophiliacs. They find dead bodies satisfying their low self-esteem needs and a partner who will not get tired of them easily.
- Psychological reasons- Individuals suffering from disorders such as sexual sadism, and antisocial personality disorder(sociopathy) including the incapability to empathize or experience remorse are more prone to necrophilic behaviours. Moreover, the extreme denial by a person to accept the death of their spouse or a lover often leads to unhealthy obsession such as the living party continuing to engage in sexual activities with the dead body of their other half. Not only that, in certain cases, psychological theories suggest that necrophilic behavioural tendencies are also attributed to the unconsciously suppressed hostility towards parental figures or sadistic thoughts of exploring the mother’s body. The offender takes revenge on a ‘female figure’ (the dead female, symbolizing mother or spouse), by ravishing her”
Classification of Necrophilia
A necrophiliac who has a strong desire to have sexual intercourse with a corpse instead of committing murder might just dig up the ground to get a corpse and then fulfill his desires. On the other hand, a necrophiliac might kill the victim to obtain the corpse and then sexually violate her body. Similarly, in some instances, a person might after committing homicide take advantage and rape the dead body. This leads to the first attempt at the classification of Necrophilia in 1989 by Jonathan Rosman and Philip Resnick.
The bifurcation is as follows:
- Genuine Necrophilia- It includes persistent sexual attraction to corpses. It is further segregated into three groups- Necrophilia homicide whereby necrophiliacs commit homicide to obtain the corpses; Regular Necrophilia whereby they use already dead corpses; and Necrophilic Fantasy whereby they fantasized about sexual activities with the corpse but do not actually commit any such act towards fulfilment of these fetishes.
- Pseudo Necrophilia- It includes temporary attraction towards corpses but eventually the human being prefers to indulge in sexual activities with a living person only.
Apart from the above classifications, Dr Anil Aggarwal in his book Forensic and Medicolegal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices also lists nine classes of Necrophiliacs including Role Players, Romantic Necrophiliacs, Homicidal Necrophiliacs, Opportunistic Necrophiliacs and so on. Amongst all the classes, homicidal Necrophiliacs are referred to as the peril to society. In order to fulfill their desire to have sexual intercourse with a dead body, they are well known to kill the victim and then sexually abuse their corpse. Serial Killers are often associated with Homicidal Necrophiliacs. The classification of Necrophilia by Rosman and Resnick and Dr Anil Aggarwal has been a great boon in the research field.
Legal Provisions in India and their inapplicability
Regardless of the fact that there is no provision explicitly criminalizing this heinous act in India, some legal provisions are to be taken into cognizance to understand the loopholes in the prevailing law of the country.
Section 297 Trespassing on burial grounds
This section does not specifically deal with any necrophilic activity. Still, it does cover in its ambit the trespass in the place of worship or burial grounds with the intention or knowledge to hurt the sentiments of any person or insult the person’s religion by disturbing the performance of funeral rites of any person or offering indignity to a human corpse. This section is often deliberated upon as far as necrophilia’s legal stance is concerned as it has the full potential to inculcate the offence within the wider interpretation; however, it cannot be applied unless there is any trespass to the burial grounds with the intention to insult the religion or hurt the sentiments. Moreover, as stated above, necrophiliac does not only attack corpses dug from burial grounds. In other instances, such as when a person is killed and then sexually abused, the necrophiliac cannot be punished under the ambit of this section. For this section to be applied against this offence, the legislature must bring an amendment.
Section 377 Unnatural offences
Moving further, this section contains provisions for penalising unnatural offences. Unnatural offences are those offences whereby a person voluntarily engages in carnal intercourse against the ordinary course of nature between man, woman and animal. This provision was recently amended decriminalising homosexuality. Though a necrophilic activity i.e., sexual intercourse with a corpse can be integrated into this definition. However, as of now, this definition of unnatural offences does not explicitly include carnal intercourse between the man and the dead body due to which a necrophiliac is often left unpunished thereby serving as a loophole in Indian criminal law.
Similarly, other sections such as Section 375 which defines rape and Section 376 which penalise the offence and provide for severe punishments in certain circumstances in their definition are not inclusive of non-consensual sexual activity against a dead body. Rather, they emphasize the commitment of such an offence against a human or a living being. The lawmakers, if intended, could have made necrophilia an offence under any of the sections mentioned above of the Indian Penal Code. However, such a sight as of now is absent. Recently, the Karnataka High Court while raising its concern over no clear provision on Necrophilia to punish the wrongdoer for his barbarity urges the Central government to provide for a clear legal stance.
The following judicial rulings in certain cases will further help us to perceive the legal status of necrophilia and the barbarity of the necrophiliac reflecting on the urgent need for the incorporation of necrophilia as an offence.
A horrific tale of Nithari Serial Killings (2006)
Famously known as Nithari Serial Killings, this case of Necrophilia shook the whole country. Due to the brutal and horrendous nature of the act, it gained a lot of traction in the media. To begin with, In December 2006, a report of a missing girl was filed after she disappeared from the accused’s Moninder Singh Pandher bungalow. Following that many skulls and bones of the children who were earlier reported to be missing from the Nithari village were discovered in the drainage behind the accused’s bungalow, leading to the arrest of the accused and his servant Surrender Koli. During the investigation, police found abundant pornographic material in the house related to women and children such as magazines etc. In March 2007, the servant confessed to the crime. It was discovered that the accused and his servant were involved in the murder, kidnapping, cannibalism, slaughtering, necrophilia and bestiality. The majority of the victims constitute girls. They used to murder the victim, then sexually abuse the body and afterwards cut the flesh into smaller pieces, cooked that flesh and consumed it. They discard the rest of the body parts in the drainage. His confession led to the conviction of both master and servant. They were awarded a death sentence.
Palghar Case (2020)
In July 2020, during the coronavirus outbreak, a heart-wrenching case came to the limelight whereby a 30-year-old shopkeeper brutally killed a woman after an altercation over the price of certain goods. He allegedly slapped the woman, dragged her body to the back of his shop, strangulated her and then slit her throat. The postmortem report shockingly revealed that the married woman was raped after being murdered. The accused, Shiva Chaudhary on being arrested confessed that he killed the woman and afterwards sexually assaulted her dead body before putting it in his van and dumping it some half a kilometre away from the shop. The accused had no acquaintance nearby as he lived separately from his family due to business.
A Bizarre Case on Necrophilia (2023)
In the research done throughout the world, Necrophilia is termed to be exclusively present in males. However, no such thing has been said regarding the victim. This case is the prime example that a victim, as well as a perpetrator, can be a male. It clearly debunks any presumption that necrophilia only involves “female” as the victim. In this case, a “psycho killer” identified as Pervinder was arrested. The accused strangled the man that is the victim to death, chopped his arms and legs and then raped the dead body.
Karnataka Case on Necrophilia (2023)
This recent case of Rangaraju Vajapeyi v State of Karnataka has fuelled the ongoing debate over Necrophilia and its position in Indian Law. In 2015, a 21-year-old girl on her way home was brutally dragged by the accused (Ragranjan) to a nearby bush where he killed her after slitting her throat and then raped her dead body. The lower court charged the accused with murder and rape under sections 302 and 376 respectively. Consequently, an appeal was filed by the accused against the decision of the lower court. While maintaining the charge under Section 302, the high court acquitted Ragranjan from the charge of rape under Section 376.
It was opined by the court that one has to take into cognizance that a dead body cannot be called a human being or a person. Moreover, the court’s interpretation suggested that the offence of Necrophilia has the full potential to be inculcated under Section 297 which pertains to offering indignity to the human dead body by trespassing. However, this case could not be under the ambit of this section. Subsequently, owing to the absence of any provision in IPC which expressly penalise the rape of a dead body, the accused was not punished for “Necrophilia”
The above judgment is the reflection of the present scenario of the grotesque crime of Necrophilia in Indian Criminal Law. Due to such ignorance of the lawmakers, the wrongdoer’s acts of such bestiality, barbarity and savageness are left unpunished and even giving him a way out after the commission of such activities.
Constitutional Rights of the Dead
Corpses are not an alien subject. They are humans in their entirety. After being cremated, they cannot be treated as discarded objects and let be violated at the hand of beasts. Though there is no provision for the criminalization of Necrophilia, the Indian Constitution provides for the right to die with dignity. The Supreme Court in its landmark judgment of Parmanand Katara v Union of India, opined that the Constitution of India not only recognises the right to live with dignity but also envisages within the ambit of Article 21, the right to die with dignity. Hence, the right to life, privacy and dignity which is integral to the living person extends to a dead person. This interpretation of Article 21 leads to the inference that the dignity of a dead person is to be respected and that the dead person should be given proper cremation according to their religious customs. Furthermore, the Allahabad high court in Ramji Singh and Mujeeb Bhai v. State of U.P. & Ors., reiterated that the corpse should be treated with respect equivalent to what he or she received throughout life and in order to preserve the dignity of the dead, unnecessary post-mortem of the body should not take place. Similarly, Justice S. Vaidyanathan, said a dead person has the right to privacy and the souls put on rest for further immortal life should not be disturbed in the judgment of Amrutha v. the state of Kerala.
Comparative Study of Laws on Necrophilia
Many countries respect the dignity of the dead and hence have criminalised Necrophilia. However, different countries follow different legal practices related to Necrophilia. In the UK, Necrophilia is criminalised under Section 70 of the Sexual Offences Act, of 2003. Surprisingly, no conviction is made under this section. In the U.S.A., there is an absence of federal law on this subject. Regardless of this, the individual states have exercised their right to penalise it. For instance, In Florida, it is a second-degree felony and in Alaska, it is penalised as a class A misdemeanour. Similarly, New Zealand though does not have a specific punishment laid down but it still does cover necrophilia under Section 150 of the New Zealand Crimes Act, 1961 as “Misconduct in respect of human remains”. On the other hand. Countries like France follow the concept of “necrogamy” or “posthumous marriage” whereby a living person is married off to a dead person. This probably has made necrophilia, a legal practice under Article 171 of their Civil Code. Furthermore, there are many international laws dealing with the rights of dead persons, in the context of war crimes. This inculcate Article 16 of the Geneva Convention,1986, the UK Military Manual (1956) and the US Naval Hand book (1995) protecting the dead bodies from being mutilated or mal-treatment.
Necrophilia is the most gruesome and horrendous crime. Even though corpses are not persons in the eyes of the law and at most are treated as semi-subjects, nobody has the right to disrupt the peace or tranquillity of a dead person. The disrespect shown to corpses reverberates the disregard for the deceased in society. Though sections in the Indian Penal Code,1860 clearly have the full potential to inculcate crimes against the dead but ambiguity still persists because of no legislation and no clear precedents over the issue. It is high time India like Uk and U.S.A., provides a clear legal stance on Necrophilia. Moreover, the perpetrator of such crimes often revealed to be medically suffering from psychological disorders but the same should not hinder the punishment as the wrongdoer are conscious enough to wilfully engage in such activities. Apart from that, for early detection of such disorders, awareness must be made among people and the government must try to facilitate the treatment of people seeking help. Law is dynamic in nature that keeps on changing with the changing need of society. With the onset of Necrophilic activities in society, it becomes a mandate on the part of the legislature to penalise this heinous offence.
Name- DRISHTI KOCHHAR
Student at: LAW CENTRE 2, FACULTY OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF DELHI
 Daniel Obuster, The Little Death: Living and Loving as a Necrophiliac, VICE (July 13, 2023, 2:00pm), https://www.vice.com/en/article/yvxem5/the-little-death-living-and-loving-as-a-necrophiliac-511.
 Ashley Jellison, Necrophilia in ancient and Modern Times, OUT FRONT. (July 12, 2023, 4:00pm) https://www.outfrontmagazine.com/necrophilia-ancient-modern-times/.
 Brenda Love, The encyclopedia of unusual sex practices 176-177 (Barricade Books 1994).
 Wayne Patheric and Natasha Petherick, Homicide (Academic Press,2019).
 Robert E. L Masters, Perverse Crimes in History 174 (1st ed. 1963).
 Robert E. L Masters, Perverse Crimes in History 113,204 (1st ed. 1963).
 Ashley Jellison, Necrophilia in ancient and Modern Times, OUT FRONT. (July 12, 2023, 4:00pm) https://www.outfrontmagazine.com/necrophilia-ancient-modern-times/.
 Jonathan Rosman and Philip Resnick, Sexual Attraction to Corpses: A Psychiatric Review of Necrophilia, 17.2 the Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law 153-163 (1984).
 Anil Aggrawal, Forensic and Medicolegal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, 370 (CRC Press, 2008)
 Jonathan Rosman and Philip Resnick, Sexual Attraction to Corpses: A Psychiatric Review of Necrophilia, 17.2, The Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law 153-163 (1984).
 Anil Aggrawal, Forensic and Medicolegal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, (CRC Press, 2008)
 Indian Penal Code 1860, §297, Act No. 45 of 1860
 Indian Penal Code 1860, §377, Act No. 45 of 1860
 Palghar stunned by Necrophilia, a man raped woman’s corpse, The Tribune, (July 04, 2020, 1:50pm) https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/palghar-stunned-by-necrophilia-a-man-raped-womans-corpse-108480
 Delhi: Bizarre case of necrophilia comes to light, suspect nabbed, The Indian Express, (March 25th 2023 08:26 AM ) https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/delhi/2023/mar/25/delhi-bizarre-case-of-necrophilia-comes-to-light-suspect-nabbed-2559382.html
 Pt. Parmanand Katara vs Union of India & Ors (1995) 3 SCC 248
 Ramji Singh and Mujeeb Bhai v. State of U.P. & Ors (2009) 5 Alj 376
 Amrutha v. State of Kerala