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Justice Beyond the Grave: A Legal Study of Necrophilia

Necrophilia is indeed a highly sensitive and rarely discussed topic in our nation, primarily due to its rarity as a crime. With just one or two reported cases each year in a country with over one billion people, it raises important questions for lawmakers about when an individual's rights cease to exist.

This area of study remains largely unexplored. Historical records and a few case studies suggest that necrophilia is profoundly destructive, affecting not only the individual with the condition but also society as a whole. In essence, necrophilia represents an attraction to deceased beings, either sexually or asexually, and it is categorized as a paraphilic disorder.

It is considered a violation of the rights of the deceased, who have the right to a respectful funeral. Given its infringement on the rights of individuals, necrophilia becomes a topic of legal discussion. Many countries have already established laws and punishments for necrophilia. However, as of now, there has been no substantial dialogue in India regarding the necessity of implementing specific legislation to address this matter. The rarity of such cases in the country may be one reason why the legal framework has not yet addressed the issue.

On September 19, 1995, a disturbing incident occurred at the mortuary of Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills. Two individuals reportedly broke into the mortuary and engaged in sexual intercourse with two deceased female bodies. The following day, the police announced that the two men were being held on suspicion of burglary.

Notably, the two men were not charged with having intercourse with a corpse because, at that time, engaging in sexual acts with a corpse was not explicitly illegal or any offence under California law1. Consequently, the charges against the individuals were limited to breaking into the mortuary and stealing computer chips from a personal computer within the facility.

Same happened in 2011 in Pakistan when a grave keeper named Muhammad Rizwan from north Nazimabad, Karachi was arrested after he confessed to raping 48-year-old female corpse but in Pakistan they have no any provisions of punishment on forming sexual relation with corpse hence later, he gets acquitted[i].

India is also grappling with a legal quandary concerning necrophilia. Every year, one or two cases reach the doors of the court, but due to the absence of specific legislation to address necrophiliac matters, the judiciary struggles to provide justice to the victims.

Under sec 21 of Indian constitution every person has right to get proper funeral according to their religious customs and traditions and necrophiliac acts violating this right of an individual. In 1989, a significant legal precedent was set by the Supreme Court of India in the landmark case of Parmanand Katara v. Union of India, the court ruled that the right to life, fair treatment, and dignity also extend to a deceased body[ii]. These rights find their foundation in Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Many legal systems are constructed on the foundation of preserving cultural values, ensuring public harmony, and safeguarding the rights and welfare of people. In many instances, engaging in negrophilic activities is regarded as a direct violation of these core principles so it must be a punishable offence under Indian penal code (I.P.C).

But The Indian Penal Code (IPC) does not explicitly list necrophilia as a separate crime. In the absence of a specific legal provision addressing necrophilia, the court, in this instance, considered the act as a form of necrophilia, which involves sexual intercourse with a deceased body.

The word necrophilia comes from the Greek words Philios means attraction to or love and Nekros means dead body. It's also known as Necrophilism, Necrocoitus, Necrochlesis, Necrolagnia, Thanatophilia.

According to the dictionary of Merriam Webster, Necrophilia is an "obsession with and usually erotic interest in or stimulation by corpses".[iii]

In Cambridge dictionary meaning of Necrophilia is "being sexually attracted to dead bodies, or sexual activity with dead bodies".[iv]

Historical background of Necrophilia

Necrophilia is considered an ancient practice, with historical evidence suggesting its existence for many years. In the 1980s, archaeologists discovered paintings in the pyramids of the Moche civilization, often referred to as the "Greeks of the Andes," depicting sexual acts involving the deceased. Additionally, there are beliefs that certain civilizations incorporated necrophilia into their traditions or rituals. These practices reflect the diverse and sometimes unsettling aspects of human history and cultural beliefs.

Throughout history, there have been documented incidents of necrophilia. One such historical account comes from the Greek author Herodotus (c. 484-425 BC)[v], who mentioned in his work "Histories" that in Ancient Egypt, a practice was observed where exceptionally beautiful women were not immediately embalmed upon their deaths. Instead, embalming was delayed for several days to prevent a recurrence of an incident where it was discovered that an embalmer had engaged in sexual activity with the body of a recently deceased woman[vi].

In Morden era there are also some serious cases on necrophilia. Among all serial murderers, Ted Bundy from America is one of the most well-known, and necrophilia was on his list of repulsive crimes. Lynette Culver, a 12-year-old from Idaho, was killed by Bundy in 1975, marking the first known incident of his having sex with a corpse.

While it's generally noted that the majority of necrophiles are male, Karen Greenlee stands out as a noteworthy exception. Greenlee held a position as an apprentice embalmer at the Sacramento Memorial Lawn mortuary. In 1979, at the age of 23, she openly admitted to engaging in sexual acts with 20 to 40 deceased male individuals.

Notably, at that time, necrophilia was not a criminal offense in the state of California. Nevertheless, Greenlee faced legal consequences and was convicted for unlawfully operating a hearse and disrupting a burial due to her involvement in the abduction of a 33-year-old man's body[vii].

The most popular cases which have been reported belongs to western counties as now they have specific statutes to deal with negrophilic crimes. These kinds of crimes are not only limited to western countries. In Pakistan 2021, a freshly-buried teenage girl in the Maulvi Ashraf Chandio village near the coastal town of Ghulamullah was raped by unknown men after digging out the body. The victim family stated that a local goon the son of the village landlord was the main perpetrator in the heinous crime[viii].

Cross-National Examination of Necrophilia Laws
Necrophilia, considered one of the most heinous crimes, surprisingly remains without legal consequences in many countries. However, in those nations that place a significant emphasis on upholding the dignity of deceased bodies, they have established legal provisions for the punishment of necrophiliac acts to deter and prevent such heinous crimes from occurring.
 To gain a comprehensive understanding of necrophilia from diverse viewpoints, let's examine the legal systems of various countries concerning this issue:
  • Brazil:
    Article 212 of the Brazilian Penal Code - To abuse a cadaver or its ashes: Penalty: detention, from 1 to 3 years, plus fine.[ix]
  • New Zealand:
    In New Zealand, the law explicitly addresses the issue of "misconduct with human remains." According to Section 50 of the Crimes Act, 1961, individuals can face a sentence of up to 2 years in prison for any actions that compromise the dignity of a deceased body, whether it is buried or unburied.[x]
  • South Africa:
    The South African government has effectively enacted legislation to classify necrophilia as a criminal offense. Specifically, Section 14 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007, explicitly prohibits engaging in a sexual act with a corpse.[xi]
  • Sweden:
    In Sweden, necrophilia is criminalized under the Swedish Penal Code, although it is not explicitly mentioned. Instead, necrophilia is addressed within the regulations that pertain to abusing a corpse or grave. Engaging in necrophilia in Sweden carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
  • U.K:
    Section 70 of the Sexual Offences Act, 2003, criminalizes sexual penetration of a corpse and imposes a maximum punishment of imprisonment not exceeding two years.[xii]
  • United States:
    There is no federal law that classifies necrophilia as a criminal offense. However, individual states have their own legislations addressing this issue. For instance, in Washington, necrophilia is considered a felony. In Nevada, it is also penalized as a felony. In contrast, in Texas and Hawaii, engaging in necrophilia is categorized as a misdemeanor.
  • France:
    There is a concept of ghost marriage in France which they believe it belongs very soon before Magna carta where they perform marriage with death bodies and this is known as necrogamy. This is legal according to Article 171 of their Civil Code which is very odd.[xiii]
  • Australia:
    Necrophilia is not explicitly mentioned in Australian law. Under New South Wales' Crimes Act 1900 penalized for misconduct about corpses is any person who indecently interferes with any dead human body or improperly interferes with, or offers any indignity to, any dead human body or human remains (whether buried or not, and shall be liable to imprisonment for two years.[xiv]

Indian and Necrophilia

India is among the countries that hold the dignity of deceased bodies in regard, as reflected in Article 21, which guarantees the right to life[xv]. However, there is currently no specific legislation that addresses the punishment for necrophiliac acts in the country. Some have suggested that it could potentially fall under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which pertains to unnatural acts, or Section 297 of the IPC, which penalizes trespass in places of worship, burial grounds, or crematoriums.

Nevertheless, it's essential to note that the legal interpretation, including a recent clarification from the Karnataka High Court in case Rangaraj Vajapeyi vs state of Karnataka, asserts that necrophilia does not neatly fit within these sections, as they do not explicitly address this particular act[xvi]. This situation highlights a notable gap in the Indian judicial system, which calls for further examination and potential legal reform.

Individuals afflicted by this condition often exhibit a proclivity for seeking employment within mortuaries, cemeteries, and cremation facilities. This occupational choice allows them to maintain direct and sustained contact with deceased individuals, thus affording them the opportunity to satiate their desire for such interactions as and when they deem fit. So that case of Rangaraj Vajapeyi vs state of Karnataka, the court also ordered the installation of CCTV in Karnataka mortgage within 6 months and directed the government to maintain hygiene and a privacy, ensure the security of a clinical record and information and sensitize mortuary staff.

It is crucial to have punishment provisions on necrophiliac acts, even though only 2 or 3 cases are reported in India each year. Due to the infrequency of reported cases, the government may not be giving this issue adequate attention. It's imperative to emphasize that safeguarding the rights of an individual is just as vital as protecting the rights of society as a whole.

Right Of Corpse Under Article 21

Living individuals are accorded a range of rights under various laws and statutes. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the protection of life and personal liberty to its citizens, encompassing rights such as the right to travel abroad, right to privacy, right against solitary confinement, right to legal aid, and the right to health, among others. These rights are inherent in individuals and are constitutionally guaranteed, with any denial subject to due legal processes[xvii].

The Supreme Court, through a series of cases and the most popular one is Parmanand Katara, Advocate v. Union of India & Anr, has upheld the principle that the right to dignity and fair treatment enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India extends not only to a living person but also to their body after death. The term "person" in Article 21 is construed to encompass a deceased individual in a limited sense.

This perspective acknowledges that a deceased person's rights to life, which include the right to live with human dignity, extend to the respectful treatment of their body, in line with their traditions, culture, and religion. Furthermore, this imposes an obligation on the State to ensure the adherence to these principles and standards.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a disturbing incident unfolded wherein deceased bodies were found disposed of in the Ganga River. This situation once again underscored the significance of upholding the rights and dignity of the deceased.

Rangaraj Vajapeji vs state of Karnataka
The case pertains to the purported homicide of a 21-year-old woman named Rathnamma, with the petitioner, Rangaraju Vajapeyi, facing allegations of engaging in sexual assault before the act of murder.

The trial court's decision to impose a life imprisonment sentence for the murder offense under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code was confirmed by the Karnataka High Court. Nevertheless, the Karnataka High Court acquitted the defendant of the charges under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code. This acquittal was based on the reasoning that there is no specific provision in the Indian Penal Code that addresses the act of sexually assaulting a deceased body.

The Karnataka High Court also provided a clarification that engaging in necrophilia, which involves having sexual intercourse with a corpse, is not encompassed by the provisions of Section 377 (pertaining to unnatural offenses) or Section 297 (related to trespassing on burial grounds) of the Indian Penal Code[xviii].

The bench, in its recommendations, suggested that the government should explore the possibility of amending or introducing a new law to address and penalize such acts. Consequently, it urged the Central Government to consider amending Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code to encompass offenses related to the bodies of deceased individuals, whether they be men, women, or animals.

It also proposed the creation of a separate provision to address offenses against deceased women, such as necrophilia or sadism, similar to the legal frameworks established in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Nithari case
The Nithari case also known as Surendra koli vs state of U.P, commonly referred to as the 2006 Noida serial murders, unfolded between 2005 and 2006 within the residence of businessman Moninder Singh Pandher. In this case, Pandher's domestic helper, Surinder Koli, faced accusations of enticing children to the house using sweets and chocolates. Subsequently, he would subject them to sexual abuse and ultimately commit murder. Pandher himself was also implicated in some of these cases as an alleged accomplice.

Necrophilia played a notable role in the Nithari case. The individual accused in this case confessed to both killing a woman and sexually abusing her corpse. However, it's crucial to note that he was solely convicted of the murder charge and not rape. This outcome was due to the absence of a specific legal provision for necrophilia as a criminal offense in India [xix].

Other popular cases:
  • Vampire of Muy
    Victor Ardisson, also known as the "Vampire of Muy," worked as an undertaker and gravedigger in the small town of Muy within the Provence region of France. Over the years, he committed numerous acts of necrophilia. When he was eventually apprehended, Ardisson confessed to having engaged in sexual acts with more than 100 corpses that he had been responsible for. He also admitted to frequently exhuming bodies and transporting them to his residence [xx].
  • Ted Bundy:
    Ted Bundy (1946-1989) was a notorious American serial killer of the 1970s, responsible for the rape and murder of no fewer than 30 young women. Additionally, he admitted to engaging in necrophilic behavior, Lynette Culver, a 12-year-old from Idaho, was killed by Bundy in 1975, marking the first known incident of his having sex with a corpse [xxi].
  • Karen Greenlee:
    Greenlee served as an apprentice embalmer at Sacramento Memorial Lawn mortuary. In 1979, at the age of 23, she admitted to engaging in sexual acts with 20 to 40 deceased male individuals. It's important to note that at the time, necrophilia was not a crime in California. Consequently, her conviction was related to unlawfully operating a hearse and obstructing a burial when she took possession of a 33-year-old man's body. Her legal punishment consisted of an 11-month jail sentence, a 2-month probation period, and a fine of $255[xxii].
  • David Fuller:
    David Fuller, a British man, garnered notoriety in 2021 after being found guilty of the murder of three women. His case has brought attention to the issue of necrophilia, a crime that, until relatively recently, remained largely unaddressed in British law. Presently, necrophilia is punishable by a maximum prison term of just two years. Advocates, including the mother of one of Fuller's victims, are advocating for a substantial increase in sentences, proposing a minimum of 10 years as a more fitting penalty for this deeply disturbing offense[xxiii].
Recommendation to protects the dignity of the dead:
The following recommendations address the need for legal measures and infrastructure improvements in response to the issues related to sexual abuse, sexual intercourse, and other disturbing acts involving deceased bodies, particularly in cases of necrophilia:
The government should introduce a new section in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that specifically addresses the punishment for individuals involved in any form of sexual abuse, sexual intercourse, or any other disturbing act with a deceased body.
  • In cases of necrophiliac crimes, the punishment should not be less than a three-year imprisonment, or with fine or without fine
  • To enhance surveillance and security, the installation of CCTV cameras should be mandated in mortuaries across the entire country.
  • Specialized sections within hospitals, rehabilitation centres, and mental health facilities should be established to address the unique needs and treatment of individuals grappling with such disorders.
  • There is a need for ongoing and thorough research to comprehend and address individuals with necrophiliac tendencies.
  • Law enforcement personnel should undergo specialized training that equips them to effectively manage and interact with individuals afflicted by these disorders, as well as to properly detain them when necessary.

the penalization of necrophilia is an urgent and vital matter that transcends the boundaries of conventional legal discourse. As this article has explored, necrophilia represents a unique challenge, requiring a delicate balance between punitive measures and considerations for rehabilitation. Addressing this issue not only serves to protect the rights and dignity of the deceased but also reinforces the moral and ethical fabric of society.

The recommendations provided in this article, including the introduction of a specific IPC section with punitive measures and the enhancement of infrastructure, underscore the necessity for a comprehensive approach to combatting necrophilia. It is crucial not only for the victims and their families but for the broader moral fabric of our society.

In doing so, we strike a balance between punishment and rehabilitation, recognizing the multifaceted nature of this issue. In a society that values the sanctity of the individual, the penalization of necrophilia is not only a legal necessity but a moral imperative.

By addressing this issue robustly, we strive to ensure the protection of the deceased, the preservation of societal values, and the rehabilitation of those afflicted by this challenging condition. As the legal landscape evolves to accommodate these needs, society takes a significant step towards a more just and compassionate future.

  1. Frank B. Williams, Two Valley Men Arrested In Sex Assault On Corpses: Crime: Phares Gonzales And Brandon Christopher Held On Suspicion Of Burglary At Hollywood Hills Mortuary., Sept. 20, 1995 12 Am Pt, Los Angeles Times, < >
  2. Pakistan: Men Dig Up Grave Of A Woman And Rape The Dead Body A Day After Burial, 5 November, 2019, Opindia.Com < Https://Www.Opindia.Com/2019/11/Pakistan-Grave-Dug-Rape-Woman-Grave-Necrophilia-Karachi/ >
  3. "Necrophilia"
  4. "Necrophilia" < >
  5. Brill, Abraham A. (1941). "Necrophilia". Journal of Criminal Psychopathology, 433-443
  6. Herodotus (c. 440 BC) (July 2001). The Histories (Book 2). Archived from the original on 7 October 2019. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  7. John (19 December 1979). "Stolen Body and Hearse Recovered". The Sacramento Bee. Vol. 244, no. 40513. p. B1. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  8. Pakistan: Unidentified Men Dig Up The Grave Of A Teenage Woman And Rape Her Corpse, 17 Accused Being Interrogated, Investigation Underway, 7 May, 2022, Opindia.Com < Https://Www.Opindia.Com/2022/05/Pakistan-Dig-Up-Grave-Teenage-Woman-Rape-Her-Corpse/ >
  9. Penal Code of Brazil,1940
  10. Crimes act, 1961 < >
  11. Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007< >
  12. Sexual Offences Act, 2003,
  13. civil code of France,
  14. New South Wales' Crimes Act 1900, < >
  15. Permanand katara v. union of India
  16. Rangaraj Vajapeyi vs state of Karnataka
  17. Indian penal code, 1860
  18. Surendra koli vs state of U.P,
  19. Theresa Cheung. The Element Encyclopedia of Vampires. HarperCollins UK. p. 49.
  20. Molinari, Christina (August 2005). Necrophilic and Necrophagic Serial Killers: Understanding Their Motivations through Case Study Analysis. Florida Gulf Coast University. pp. 59-60.
  21. John (19 December 1979). "Stolen Body and Hearse Recovered". The Sacramento Bee. Vol. 244, no. 40513. p. B1. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  22. "Hospital electrician convicted of cold-case double murder and 51 sexual offences". Crown Prosecution Service. 15 December 2021.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Suraj Gupta, Bharati Vidyapeeth (Deemed to be University), New Law College, Pune
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: JN437835998853-12-0124

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