Animal cruelty has been a major issue for the legal system, the animal rights community, and the psychiatric profession everywhere on the globe from antiquity to the present. Bestiality is a sexual act with an animal that involves sexual contact, such as penetration between a human and an animal with or without the use of force. Other words commonly used for bestiality include zoophilia and zoosexuality. Bestiality is a form of animal abuse and is illegal in many countries around the world, including India. Since animals cannot understand, communicate, or give informed consent about sexual acts in the same way that humans can, sexual assault against them is viewed as egregious and harmful not only for the animal but for the perpetrator as well. Bestiality is a terrible but less often reported form of animal cruelty that occurs in a civilization.
BESTIALITY, ZOOPHILIA, AND PARAPHILIA: LANGUAGE MATTERS
It is important to clarify the differences between the terms “bestiality”, “paraphilia”, and “zoophilia”, as these terms are sometimes used interchangeably but actually refer to distinct concepts. Bestiality refers to the act of engaging in sexual activity with an animal. It is considered a form of animal abuse and is illegal in most countries. Zoophilia, on the other hand, refers to a sexual attraction or orientation toward animals that are not considered illegal around the globe. Paraphilia is sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviors that involve atypical objects or non-consenting individuals, including animals.
UNDERSTANDING THE PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL CONSEQUENCES OF BESTIALITY
When humans engage in sexual activities with animals, they are essentially exploiting them for their own pleasure without any regard for their well-being. In addition to the harm caused to the animals, engaging in bestiality can have serious consequences for humans. The practice can result in serious legal repercussions, including imprisonment and fines. Furthermore, people who engage in bestiality are at a higher risk of contracting infections, as animals can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans, popularly known as zoonoses.
It is also important to recognize that zoophilia can also be harmful to the individuals involved. Zoophiles may experience social stigma, discrimination, and legal consequences if their attraction is discovered, and the animals are harmed by human sexual advances.
PAST INCIDENTS OF ANIMAL SEXUAL ABUSE: A DISTURBING TREND IN HUMAN-ANIMAL INTERACTIONS
This is an instance from 2017 when a 34-year-old man raped a female puppy to death in Delhi. The man named Naresh, a taxi driver, later confessed to an animal lover and a few neighbors.
Another instance of the same nature occurred in 2018, when a goat was allegedly gang-raped by eight men in Maroda village, Haryana. The pregnant goat, who was seven years old, passed away one day after the assault. The postmortem report further revealed human semen in the vulva and brain injury, which caused the goat to succumb to its injuries.
In 2022, four men were arrested on charges of raping a Bengal monitor lizard in the Sahydari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra. The Bengal monitor lizard is categorized as a reserved species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
LEGAL PROVISIONS AGAINST BESTIALITY IN INDIA: COUNTERING THE MENACE
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code categorizes Unnatural offences as the act of carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal. It punishes the perpetrator with either life imprisonment or ten years imprisonment and a fine. For the sake of this provision, penetration is sufficient to establish carnal intercourse.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 addresses the issue of unnecessary pain and suffering inflicted on animals. Section 3 state that It is the duty of a person who is in charge of an animal to take all reasonable measures for its well-being. Establishment of the Animal Welfare Board of India to protect animals from any pain and suffering, along with the promotion of animal welfare generally under Section 4 . Various actions that are classified under treatment of animals with Cruelty under Section 11
Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 establishes a framework for the legal protection of different wild animal and plant species, the management of their habitats, and the regulation and control of commerce in such species and the goods derived from them. This act also categories animal and plant species into four schedules according to their need for protection.
Article 48A of the Constitution establishes an obligation on the state to safeguard the forests as well as the wildlife of the country. Article 51A(g) of the Constitution establishes a duty on every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment as well as wildlife.
There is a lacuna in terms of international legislation to combat bestiality. When it comes to bestiality, the United Nations has not established any specific treaties or conventions, creating a significant gap in the fight against this menace. Although the creation of a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare has been repeatedly proposed for the United Nations by the animal rights organization World Animal Protection, no action has been taken in that direction to date.
STRATEGIES FOR COMBATING BESTIALITY: POSSIBLE STEPS TO REDUCE THE CRIMES
- The Government of India, along with the Animal Welfare Board of India, should ensure education and outreach programmes regarding bestiality and its physical and mental consequences in schools, colleges, and other pertinent settings.
- The prevention of these kinds of cases by anyone would be ensured if existing laws that prohibit bestiality are enforced effectively. This includes prosecuting perpetrators and imposing appropriate penalties.
- Underreporting of cases of bestiality could be prevented if people were encouraged to report any instances of bestiality to the appropriate authorities in exchange for keeping their identities a secret.
- People who engage in bestiality may have underlying mental health issues. Providing access to mental health services and support can help address the root causes of this behaviour.
- Rehabilitation programmes should be available for individuals who have engaged in bestiality. These programmes should focus on helping them overcome any underlying issues that may have led them to engage in such behaviour.
Bestiality is a destructive and inhumane activity that ought to be avoided at all costs. It is a serious issue that requires the attention of society, governments, law enforcement agencies, and animal welfare organizations. While legal sanctions and punishment are necessary to deter individuals from engaging in bestiality, it is also essential to address the underlying causes of this behavior, such as psychological issues, social factors, and cultural attitudes towards animals. It is our collective responsibility to prevent and eliminate the practice of bestiality, ensuring that animals are treated with respect and dignity.
Author(s) Name: Akshat Sharma (Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar)