Crimes against animals have hit terrible new lows in India. In recent cases of bestiality, a man was arrested a few days ago for allegedly raping several cows at a shelter in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. The accused claims he was under the influence of alcohol. In March this year, a man in Chennai was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting four newborn puppies. Last August, a security guard from Mumbai was accused of forcing a sharp object into a dog’s vagina and causing a painful death. A month earlier, a pregnant goat was reportedly gang-raped by eight men in Haryana, after which she was found dead by the owner. Prior to that a pregnant cow was alleged raped by unidentified men. The gruesome instances just go on and on…
A staggering fact is that the repeat crimes committed by animal offenders are the rule and not mere exceptions. As per a study that spanned over 21 years, it was noticed that over 70 per cent of animal sexual offenders went on to commit some of the most heinous crimes, from assaulting fellow humans to sexual homicide. Almost each one of these criminals had a history of being cruel towards animals. As if to back this study, Robert Ressler, who documents profiles of serial killers for FBI states, “Murderers often start out by killing and torturing animals as kids.” Yet a veil of secrecy seems to cover these crimes…
Shakuntala Majumdar, President, Thane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, says, “The simple reason why such cases are not reported much is that they are committed behind closed doors. Bestiality is not an uncommon occurrence in the villages and the rural parts of the country. Not only dogs and kittens, even stray cattle and livestock animals are victims of sexual crimes.” Majumdar believes that the carnal desires of certain people can result in them reaching new lows of crimes.
Indian equal rights activist Harish Iyer, who was one of the leading people to move the Supreme Court to decriminalise homosexuality, has a different yet vital point. “The law has clearly stated about homosexuality and what is defined as animal cruelty. However, we still require a clear declaration from the court that interspecies sex is a crime and will be dealt with stern action. This is missing,” he says, adding that during the initial days of social media, umpteen videos of human and animal sexual intercourse would be doing the rounds. However, those were considered as comic relief. It is only in recent years, with the growing awareness about cruelty to animals, that such videos are deleted as soon as they go on air. Like many animal lovers, Iyer too is disappointed that the fine imposed for animal cruelty is a mere Rs.50 which clearly is not acting as the deterrent that it should be. “The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act should be strong and act as a real deterrent with no scope for offenders to escape,” Iyer points out.
However, apart from the disturbing nature of these crimes, there is the fact that the current laws do not address the point of cruelty from the sexual harassment perspective. There has been an uproar and consistent demand from many animal activists and NGOs working on animal welfare to amend the current PCA of 1960. Unfortunately, the law is silent on this.
Asmita Deshmukh, an activist hailing from Chembur, had reported a case of sexual harassment on a female dog in her locality. Sharing the details of the case, Asmita says, “The case dates back to September 2017. The society watchman used to flash in front of the dog and then take her inside the society toilet. As I am the secretary of the society, I regularly check the CCTV footage. After seeing this, I took the matter to the police. However, I had to visit the police station twice in order to get the case registered. After the required paper work was done, the watchman was arrested but very shortly he was released on bail. There was not much investigation that was carried out and according to the current status, even the forensic investigation is yet to be done. I also learnt that after the firm he worked with had fired him, his whereabouts cannot be traced.”
Activists have also fond it tough to defend the cases in court as over 90 per cent cases related to sexual crimes on animals are scrapped as a result of lack of evidence. Those who are initially the whistle-blowers about such crimes are unwilling to testify in court and thus weaken the possibility of proving the offender guilty. Culprits walk free and the problem remains unsolved.
Another area wherein animals could possibly be victims of cruelty is in their usage during filming. To address this concern, in a first, a workshop was conducted recently for Animal Owners by Producers Guild of India in Mumbai. The participants were explained the features of the new online portal for obtaining permissions for usage of animals in films, television programmes and web content.
Speaking more about the workshop, Kulmeet Makkar, Chief Executive Officer, Producers Guild of India stated, “Animals require proper care and parenting which we believe can be provided by animal owners. There may be some initial concerns of the animal owners in migrating to an online model which we believe will be ironed out in due course. We are confident that the new system will help in making the process of obtaining permissions more transparent and simpler.”
Though the law has now started to take cognizance of such cases as cruelty towards animals, the crimes of sexual nature that are dastardly committed are not registered as rape. Petty fines and rare small term imprisonments have not been able to generate fear in the minds of offenders. Rarely do the guilty face a prison term. There appears to be a lack of awareness even when it comes to law-enforcers. While organisations like the Animal
Welfare Board of India are taking initiatives, there is need for widespread awareness and support via workshops and programmes that deal with the growing menace of animal abuse.