Necrophilia: Its Legal and Ethical Implications

Categories: JOURNAL
VOLUME:- 1  ISSUE NO:- 1  , July 27, 2023

Necrophilia: Its Legal and Ethical Implications

Author: Mrs. Shamim Mohammed Anwar Shaikh

Title of the Article: Necrophilia: Its Legal and Ethical Implications

Mumbai University




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Necrophilia: Its Legal and Ethical Implications

Necrophilia, the sexual attraction or engagement with the Corpses, has been documented in various historical accounts, and some cultural beliefs suggest the practice of Necrophilia in a certain civilization is a highly taboo and illegal activity in most societies. The reference with respect to Necrophilia practice is found in ancient art and writings, such as paintings in Mooches, pyramids, and Descriptions of Egyptian burial customs. This Article will provide you with the nexus idea of the heinous crime, which is a debatable issue in India and globally. Necrophilia becomes a highly controversial topic not only in India but in the world as it elicits strong feelings of disgust and aversion, which often creates hesitancy to further explore the topic.

Keywords: Necrophilia, sex, sexual desires, Rape of the dead, crimes against the dead.


In the Rangaraju Vajpayi case, the Karnataka High Court recently explained that “Necrophilia, is a morbid fascination with death and more particularly, an erotic attraction to corpses”[1].

In Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the term Necrophilia has defined as “Obsession with and usually erotic interest in or stimulation by corpses.”[2] There are other terms such as; Necrophilism, Necrolagnia, Necrocoitus, Necrochlesis and Thanatophilia are also used for Necrophillia. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and The American Psychiatric Association have classified Necrophilia as Paraphilia, considering it a severe medical illness.

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It’s a psychosexual disorder and researcher has classified this rare mental health into two broader categories namely;

  1. Pseudo Necrophilia[3]: In a clinical interview with the American Psychiatric Association in 1994, clarified that Pseudo necrophilia is An Antisocial Personality disorder and major depression, where a person is attracted to a living individual pretending to be dead or engaging in role-playing scenarios.
  2. Genuine Necrophilia[4]:
  3. Necrophiliac homicide: An individual commits murder in order to engage in a sexual act
  4. Regular necrophilia: Individuals who have a sexual attraction to corpses.
  5. Necrophiliac fantasy: Individuals just have fantasies for corpses but do not act upon them in reality.


This research will adopt a qualitative approach to explore the legal and ethical implications of necrophilia. Qualitative researches allow for an in-depth understanding of complex and sensitive topics, like Necrophilia, by delving into an individual’s perceptions, experiences, and attitudes.  The study will employ a literature review and content analysis to gather and analyse existing academic literature, legal documents, and case studies related to necrophilia and its legal status in different countries.


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The term necrophilia has been derived from the combination of ‘necro’ meaning ‘Corps’ and ‘philia’ meaning attachment. Necrophilia has been documented in various historical accounts and cultural beliefs, suggesting its presence in many ancient civilizations. In his book titled “The Historian,” the Egyptian historian Herodotus described the practice of allowing a woman’s body to decompose for several days before preservation to prevent sexual contact with the corpse. The Archaeological findings, such as paintings in the pyramids of mooches, depict sexual acts with the dead.

Necrophilia homicide is rare, and this sexual disorder is usually a victimless interest. The true extent and causes of its prevalence remain largely unknown due to limited recorded instances. Notable cases in modern times include the Nithari case (Surendra Koli and Maninder Singh Pandher), where acts of necrophilia were committed on the bodies of young children and women. In another instance, famously known as “the vampire of Paris” include instances of mutilation, drinking blood, and digging up corpses for sexual purposes.

There are various social, political, cultural, psychological, and economic factors can influence the understanding of necrophilia. Social institutions like marriage and religiousness may shape attitudes towards necrophilia, and cultural norms and definitions surrounding sexuality and death can also play an important role.  Psychological factors such as oedipal conflict and castration anxiety, have been suggested as potential contributors. Economic circumstances, like socio-economic status, might indirectly impact attitudes and behaviors related to necrophilia.

The Cultural belief and practices dictate the treatment of dead bodies or corpses and the concept of afterlife may shape attitudes toward India, which can potentially influence the prevalence of necrophilia in various ways. The stigma and taboo surrounding necrophilia in Indian society may hinder open discussion and reporting of cases, making it challenging to gauge the true extent of the issue.

Lack of awareness and education about necrophilia may further contribute to the difficulty in addressing this issue. Furthermore, cultural beliefs about death and the deceased may influence the perception of the dead as non-threatening and unable to resist advances.

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Legal Status: World and India

The legal status of necrophilia varies as per the country’s cultural beliefs and ethos. There are no specific laws criminalizing it in India, but it is explicitly outlawed in some countries. In the United Kingdom (Sexual Offences Act 2003) and Canada (Section 182 of the criminal code)[5], necrophilia is punishable under specific sections of their criminal codes[6]. In the US, the legality varies from state to state, with some states having explicit laws against it, while some of them have loopholes or lack specific statutes addressing the acts.

There were many countries in the world that did not have any specific laws related to necrophilia but they learned from their mistake and established an Act against such a heinous crime, California is one of the best examples of such countries. A case in 2003 prompted legislative action to criminalize the practice. Other states have varying punishments for necrophilia; some consider it a felony while others treat it less seriously. Many states without specific laws against necrophilia interpret existing statutes broadly to prevent such acts. Wisconsin faced a controversial case in 2008, where the state’s supreme court of California eventually reinstated charges of attempted sexual assault against individuals who tried to dig up a corpse for sexual purposes[7].

As per section 81C of criminal act 199 in New South Wales, Australia[8], indecently interfering with any corpse is considered an offense. The court’s interpretation suggests that it could potentially fall under section 297, which pertains to causing “indignity to any human corpse” when someone trespasses into a place used for funeral rites or storing the remains of the deceased. To consider an act an offense under section 297, it must be accompanied by an intention to hurt someone’s feelings or insult their religion.

These cases highlighted the challenges and variations in addressing this distributing behaviour within the legal system Engaging in necrophilia is morally reprehensible and deeply offensive to society’s values. A state without specific laws against necrophilia will lead to severe legal and social consequences.

India, where no Written provision is there in Indian Penal Code (IPC) that directly prohibits necrophilia, however, it may be interpreted as an unnatural sexual act” under Section 377 of the IPC, which criminalized voluntary carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal. Nevertheless, this section does not explicitly mention ‘corpses.’

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It’s worth noting that even though necrophilia is not directly classified as a criminal offense in Indian law, certain actions related to indecent acts can potentially be covered under section 297 of the Indian penal code.

Though there is no specifical outlawed in India, the Karnataka High Court has recommended that the government must amend the Indian penal Code to criminalize and ensure that necrophilia is considered an offense or introduce a separate provision specifically for criminalizing having sex with corpses.


Necrophilia is a highly sensitive and controversial topic that elicits strong feelings of disgust and aversion. It is essential for societies to address it with empathy and sensitivity while also prioritizing the protection of the deceased and their dignity and giving the cultural and social significance of this issue.

Education and awareness about necrophilia are paramount to addressing this sensitive and disturbing issue. To enable the understanding of the gravity of the problems and their potential consequences is essential to raise awareness among society. Here are the reasons why education and awareness are crucial:

  1. Educating people about the existence and implications of necrophilia can act as a preventive measure.
  2. Awareness campaigns can encourage individuals to report any suspected cases of necrophilia, helping law enforcement take appropriate actions and protect the deceased’s dignity.
  3. Knowledge about the lack of specific laws or legal ambiguity surrounding necrophilia can prompt discussions for legislative reforms. Awareness can lead to demands for the introduction of appropriate laws to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.
  4. Open discussions and education can help reduce the stigma of discussing sensitive topics like necrophilia. This can create an environment where people feel comfortable seeking help or reporting incidents.
  5. Awareness efforts can also focus on supporting the families and loved ones of the deceased who may be affected by such heinous acts, providing resources for counselling and support.

Educating society about necrophilia will help to create an awareness to foster a society that understands the gravity of this issue, takes appropriate actions, and advocates for stricter legal measures to protect the dignity and rights of the deceased.

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It is essential to understand that our actions guided our ethical standards for the well-being of others. Seeking professional help from a psychiatrist to address any underlying issues is crucial, and consulting with a criminal attorney can provide guidance on potential legal implications. Ultimately, respecting the deceased and the sanctity of life is essential regardless of the legal framework.


[2] Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, August 8, 2020

[3]J R Meloy, Pseudonecrophilia following spousal homicide, National Library of medicine, 1996 July

[4] Jp Rosman, P J Resnick, Sexual attraction to corpses: a psychiatric review of necrophilia, Bull am acad psychiatry Law,1989.

[5]Imogen Jones, A Grave Offence: Corpse Desecration and the Criminal Law, Cambridge University Press, 02 January 2018


[7] Necrophilia Laws You Are Dying to Know About, Handel on the Law, 2008


[8] Jimmy singh, penalties for indencently interferaing with or misconduct with a corpse in NSW, 15/01/2020

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