In the last week of October, a 26-year-old dead woman was gang raped by three men in Ghaziabad district in Uttar Pradesh after they dug her body out from the grave.
The womanâ€™s naked body was found by local residents, nearly 20 feet away from the grave, and the police have begun investigations.
India has been witnessing a rising number of cases of necrophilia over the past decade, and yet does not have any laws that deal specifically with the crime.
Rewind the clock nine years back, to the 2006 Noida serial killings also known as the Nithari serial murders.
In a book titled 'Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices,' Dr Anil Aggrawal cites the murders and writes:
During December 2006, skulls and bones of a number of missing children belonging to migrant workers were discovered in the village of Nithari. On December 26, Delhi police arrested a rich and politically connected businessman, Moninder Singh Pandher, and on the following day his cook and aide Surendra Kohli, on the suspicion of the murder of a 19-year-old girl.
A massive investigation followed, which the media called the 'Noida serial murder investigation.' On March 2, 2007, Kohli reportedly to unburden his conscience, at a Delhi court admitted to raping, killing and having sex with dead bodies of children and women. He gave a clean chit to his employer Pandher, perhaps under pressure. Subsequently, a case was registered against Kohli under various sections of the IPC, including rape, murder, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy.
However, the CBI had a tough time charging Pandher and Kohli with necrophilia, as there were no well-defined laws in the country dealing with the crime. Nine years later, we're no better.
Many times, the crimes are committed by the night guard or a worker at the graveyard itself, seemingly, owing to their loneliness.
In India, necrophiliacs are charged under Section 297 (trespassing on burial places) and Section 377 (unnatural sex).
However, many cases, including the 2006 murders, involve the accused luring and killing the victim first and then committing the crime. This would completely rule out Section 297.
While speaking to the Times of India on the Robinson Street skeleton case, psychiatrist Dr Jaydip Sarkar said:
Necrophilia can be of various types. Necro means 'dead' and philia means 'love' in Greek. Necrophilia can be of a romantic nature (not able to let go of a deceased loved one) and not always sexual (sex with body) or sadistic....A romantic necrophiliac refers to people who don't believe a loved one is dead. In such cases, they tend to mummify the body and keep it and speak to it as though it were still alive.
Other researchers have grouped necrophilia into ten classifications ranging from 'role players' to homicidal necrophiles, who will kill and make sure that their victim is dead, before raping the body.
Is it time for a specific law?
The problem with many necrophilia crimes is that unless a specific law exists for making the acts illegal, it can become difficult to punish.
Bestiality is another such concern. There are no studies indicating statistics on sexual activity with animals in the country. Most sexologists say it's high in rural areas and among those living in close proximity to livestock.
In a report for The Conversation, John Tyror wrote:
Dead bodies arenâ€™t people. They are most certainly human, but once any of us dies we become quasi-subjects before the law. A dead bodyâ€™s legal status often makes necrophilia all the more impossible to fathom when we think about it in relation to the sacredness that many families will view a corpse as holding â€“ the person may be dead, but they remain a loved one. In the eyes of the law in many necrophilia cases, a dead body becomes a kind of â€śpropertyâ€ť for the next-of-kin, which is a concept that many people find doubly disturbing. Because necrophilia, in this sense, becomes an act of vandalism, not a sexual attack against a person.
Maybe, we can learn from other countries.
New Zealand, has a section under its Crimes Act 1961, where a two year prison sentence is served for anyone who "improperly or indecently interferes with or offers any indignity to any dead human body or human remains, whether buried or not."
Section 14 of South Africa's law deals directly with 'committing a sexual act with a corpse' while Section 70 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, covers this in the UK. While the US lacks a federal law, each state has its own laws with varying degrees of punishment.