Necrophilia, whether in a sexual or asexual form, represents an extraordinary and unconventional inclination towards the deceased. It is not a common or customary behaviour but rather a manifestation of a paraphilic disorder. Both humans and animals can be susceptible to developing psychological and psychiatric conditions that may give rise to paraphilic disorders such as necrophilia. This blog uncovers the historical backdrop, the intricate legal framework, and the profound ethical dimensions entwined within this forbidden desire.
KEYWORDS: Necrophilia, Legal Perspective, Ethical dilemma, Crime against dead.
According to American Psychological Association, Necrophilia, a rare paraphilia, encompasses a desire for sexual encounters or intimate contact with lifeless corpses. While the majority of necrophiles fall within the male demographic, aged between twenty and fifty, instances of female and homosexual individuals engaging in necrophiliac acts have also been documented. Although Necrophilia is an uncommon paraphilia, it has persisted across the globe throughout centuries. Certain individuals with such inclinations actively pursue employment in mortuaries or coroners' offices, where they gain convenient access to deceased bodies and exploit the circumstances available to satisfy their desires.
In a society shrouded in countless taboos, necrophilia emerges as a haunting and secretive domain. The very notion of indulging in intimate acts with the deceased evokes deep-rooted ethical and legal dilemmas. This blog immerses itself in the realm of necrophilia laws in India, delving into its historical background, legal framework, and the urgent call for heightened awareness and transformative change.
In the ancient world, shipmen returning carcasses to their home country were frequently indicted of necrophilia. Throughout history, accounts of necrophilia have been occasional. Still, written records have stressed that the practice was present in Ancient Egypt and many other such civilizations. Herodotus has written in ‘The Histories’ that, to discourage intercourse with a corpse, ancient Egyptians left departed beautiful women to decay for "three or four days" before giving them to the mortician. He also suggested that Greek dictator Periander had defiled the cadaver of his woman, giving rise to a famous saying in Greek history " Periander ignited his chuck in a cold roaster”.
In the Moche culture, acts of necrophilia have been depicted through various mediums including pottery, which reigned in northern Peru from the first to the eighth century. During the period of Renaissance in Italy, following the reputed moral collapse brought about by the Black Death and before the Roman Inquisition, the literature was replete with obscene references; these included references to necrophilia and other such activities, in the case of the grand lyric Orlando Innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo, first published in 1483.
In another notorious illustration, American serial psycho killer Jeffrey Dahmer was a necrophiliac. He wanted to have a lovemaking slave that would mindlessly assent to whatever he wanted. He aimed out that he killed his victims because they would leave after having intercourse, and also be angry with him for drugging them. Dennis Nilsen, a British episodic killer is also considered to have been a necrophiliac. Although necrophilia was mentioned for the first time by name in 1850 by Belgian psychiatrist Joseph Guislain, the term necrophilia wasn't astronomically used until Richard von Krafft- Ebing published his 1894 work Psychopathia Sexualis, which called necrophilia a ― horrible incarnation. His misreading continued through 1941 when Abraham A. Brill stated that necrophiliacs were psychotic, mentally deficient, and unable to ever get an assenting consort.
LAWS ON NECROPHILIA AROUND THE WORLD AND IN INDIA
The majority of nations lack legislation addressing the grave issue of Necrophilia, a psychosexual affliction. Furthermore, the few countries that do recognize the sanctity of the deceased and condemn desecration of the dead, possess penal regulations that, regrettably, remain predominantly vague and inadequately refined.
In the ancient times, since there were no fast mediums of transportation, the dead bodies had to be transported to different places through ships and the sailors while on board used to abuse the corpses sexually. There were even reports of necrophilia and cannibalism as an integrated offense. Such incidences also occurred during wars though there is no accurate data to reflect the same.
Let’s glance at the legislative framework some countries across the globe have adopted to deal with the issue of necrophilia:
U.S.A: The States has yet to adopt any Federal law which deals with necrophilia, so it is up to the individual states to form an opinion in this regard. For instance, Arizona in The States penalizes necrophilia as class 4 felony, Florida classifies necrophilia as a second-degree felony, while Hawaii only charges necrophilia as a misdemeanour. Likewise, other states in the U.S have their own provisions to tackle necrophilia.
U.K: Section 70 of the Sexual Offences Act (SCO), 2003 criminalizes the act of sexual assault to a corpse and prescribes a punishment of imprisonment for two years. But if records were to be scanned, no prosecution has been made under this particular provision till date.
France: The French have one of the most bizarre takes on necrophilia in the world. They believe that marrying the dead is even older than the “Magna Carta” and is termed as ghost marriage. There is allegedly a type of marriage called Posthumous marriage in which a living person marries a dead person and this is also called necrogamy. This practice has been given legislative protection under Article 171 of their Civil Code.
India: While India is yet to frame any law that penalizes necrophilia, Section 297 of the Indian Penal Code, 1869 that penalizes the act of ‘Trespassing in burial places’ etc., which provides for punishment of imprisonment which may extend to one year, or fine, or with both, comes close in bridging the gap.
THE MORAL DILEMMA
The question really comes down to, Is Necrophilia Wrong? And with this another one being Should the dead also have right to dignity?
Now, while both the questions are not new and require careful deliberation and thinking to answer, it is imperative to acknowledge that the dead will not thank us for the coffins made in accordance with their last wishes nor will they commend us on the choice of flowers or gravestones. Why? Well, it’s simple really, because they are by definition ‘dead’. Hence, they feel nothing as such cannot communicate. This is why the concept of ‘abusing the dead’ sounds kind of bizarre. Also, why are we willing to chop up, burn and mutilate a body but suddenly become a fountain of moral virtue anytime sex enters the picture? Again one might oppose it on proper violation grounds, but this only highlights the irrelevance of its being a dead human being. This need not be said but at least should be mentioned.
Firstly, we need to correct certain distorted facts about necrophilia, it is not a mental disorder it belongs to a broader category called paraphilias. Moreover, it is also crystal clear that the assessment and treatment of sexual assault and associated disorders of sexual arousal require an understanding of recent research findings. There are a lot of factors like hormone levels, substance abuse etc., that come into play.
The individual should be assessed for associated psychopathology and treated accordingly. Treatment for necrophilia would be similar to that prescribed for most paraphilias: Cognitive Therapy, use of sex-drive-reducing medications, assistance in improving social and sexual relations etc.
Defining necrophilia presents an arduous task, as its boundaries are elusive to capture. In order to comprehend the diverse motivating factors behind this peculiar phenomenon, we must delve into the motivations underlying affection for the living. By doing so, we can identify the circumstances in which an individual’s inclinations might shift towards the deceased.
This terrain lies within the realm of mental health and social sciences demanding heightened attention due to the nature of this affliction. Further research in this domain is imperative to inform more effective policies and mitigate the risks associated with necrophilia, safeguarding against harm.
REFERENCES  “Necrophilia” <https://dictionary.apa.org/necrophilia> accessed on July 2, 2023  Tv P, “Cannibalism and Necrophilia” (MediumSeptember 19, 2018) <https://medium.com/@premisetv/cannib alism-and-necrophilia-311d08de88c7> accessed July 5, 2023  Participation E, “Sexual Offences Act 2003” (Legislation.gov.uk) <https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga /2003/42/section/70> accessed July 5, 2023  The National Archives, “Magna Carta, 1215” (February 5, 2015) <https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ education/resources/magna-carta/british-library-magna-carta-1215-runnymede/> accessed September 25, 2020 13 Rouhette G and Rouhette-Berton A, “Article 171, French Civil Code”