After seeing the topic of this article, I expect one of three things from you: either consult your dictionary if you have one handy like I do always; or click the link of the article hoping to learn a new word today like I always try to do; or finally, if you do not belong to any of the foregoing categories, click the link because you wish to know the position of the law regarding necrophilia.
Whichever is your lot, welcome on board because some days ago, I fell in all of the categories when I first saw the word on a video uploaded by Pulse TV on social media. I consulted my dictionaries to learn a new word and then set out on a voyage of worthwhile discovery to know the position of the law on something as disgusting, yet real as this. The outcome of my discovery is this article you are reading.
Firstly, necrophilia is a pathological attraction to dead bodies, especially sexual attraction or intercourse. Another dictionary of mine defines it as sexual interest in dead bodies. Now, you may wonder what my fascination is with the word that spurred an article. It’s simple. The video of the Ghanaian morgue attendant who confessed to such debased act ended with the question: “is there any law against this shameful act?” As a lawyer, that whetted my legal appetite and spurred my interest in researching on the subject, as Lord Denning, the Master of Rolls said, “God forbid that a lawyer knows all the law, but a good lawyer is one who knows where to find the law.”
However, before we go on, it is pertinent to ask, who in their right senses sleep with or have sexual interest in dead bodies? If you say it may be for ritual purposes, I won’t dispute. Our society is yet to be fully divorced from crude practices. But if it is not for such, then the most reasonable explanation for people who do such is this: “aye n se won”, with the cannot-do-justice-to-the-real-meaning interpretation of “they are under a spell.”
It didn’t take me much time to find out that apart from the fact that necrophilia might be a pathological disorder or might have a spiritual connotation, it is a crime and it is outlawed by the Criminal Code Act of Nigeria which applies only in the Southern part of the country. Sadly, there is no equivalent provision in the Penal Code, the operative legislation in the North. Section 242(1) (b) of the Criminal Code provides as follows:
“Any person who without lawful justification or excuse, the proof of which lies on him, improperly or indecently interferes with, or offers any indignity to any dead human body or human remains, whether buried or not is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for two years.”
A cursory look at this provision shows that sleeping with dead bodies is not the only act contemplated by this provision of the law. In actual fact, it is the opinion of a colleague that the legislators may not even have contemplated “sleeping with dead bodies” due to the paucity of specificity in this provision. For instance, a comparative look at the provision for the offence of rape shows otherwise. Section 357 of the same Act provides that:
“Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or, in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape” (emphasis mine).
This provision on rape is explicit and specific, especially with the highlighted words above as touching having “unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl.” However, it is not unsafe to interpret, it violates no interpretation rule and it is obviously right that “improper or indecent interference or offering of any indignity” referred to in section 242(1) (b) of the Act covers the subject of this article. In actual fact, Black’s Law Dictionary, Tenth Edition, defines “indecency” as the quality, state, or condition of being outrageously offensive, especially in a vulgar or sexual way.
Away from that, I have two grouses against this provision. Firstly, the statement, “without lawful justification or excuse”, means that the drafters of the legislation might have envisaged a situation where a necrophiliac would have a lawful excuse for engaging in such act. The question is, which lawful justification would a human have for sleeping with dead bodies? I’m yet to come up with one. Though in another way round, a lawful justification for improper or indecent interference or offer of any indignity to any dead human body might be in the form of a pathologist performing autopsy, but definitely not sleeping with a dead body.
Secondly, the punishment of two years seems like a slap on the wrist for offenders. Imagine mourning the death of a loved one and some debased humans somewhere are sexually feasting on the body. Two years is definitely not commensurate with this inconceivable and unimaginable act but I am far from surprised. The same Criminal Code Act prescribes the ludicrous punishment of N100 for some offences, yet we still have lawmakers in the hallowed chambers.
Definitely, morgue attendants would be much more prone to such an ungodly and unhuman act, but it is better to seek help or flee, like the Bible commands, than be a necrophiliac and even a proud one like the Ghanaian morgue attendant. What can be worse than sexual intercourse with a dead body?
If you sleep with dead bodies, you are toying with two years behind bars. But wait, who would even arrest and prosecute you? Everybody would think you dine with the devil himself.
S.O.J. Fadipe, Esq.
Fadipe is a young lawyer currently practicing in Benin City, Edo State.
You can connect with him via Twitter and Instagram: @inspiredsunfad; and email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org