Parliamentary committee heeds PETA’s recommendation to make ‘bestiality’ a crime in BNS Bill

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, proposed to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), does not have a Section equivalent to Section 377 of the IPC. PETA has recommended closing this gap.

PEOPLE for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), India has called for the inclusion of “sexual violence against animals” as an offence in India’s new penal law, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill, 2023.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs has made a recommendation based on PETA India’s urging.

PETA is an animal rights non-profit organisation that is involved in public education, research, animal rescue, protest campaigns and other activities for animal welfare.

PETA India’s motto is: “Animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way”. It opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview.

The BNS Bill, 2023 proposes to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860.

Section 377 of the IPC lays down the punishment for “unnatural offences”, which are defined as having sex with any man, woman or animal “against the order of nature”.

Historically, the Section was used to criminalise and prosecute sodomy (homosexuality) as well as bestiality (sexual violence againist animals).

Section 377 regards rape of an animal as a non-bailable offence and imposes a punishment of imprisonment for life or with imprisonment which may extend to ten years, and fine.

In its landmark judgment of September 6, 2018, the Supreme Court in Navtej Singh Johar versus Union of India read down the Section 377, decriminalising sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex.

Non-consensual sexual acts against adults, all acts of carnal intercourse against minors and acts of bestiality continued to be penalised.

However, in a bid to reflect the progressive new reality, the BNS Bill throws the baby out with the bathwater by having no equivalent Section for protection of animals against sexual violence.

On September 14 this year, PETA had written to the Home Affairs Committee on the absence of protection for animals, equal to the protection provided under Section 377 of the IPC.

PETA had also recommended the expansion of Clause 323 of the BNS Bill, 2023 by defining the term “maiming” or “rendering useless any animal”.

In its current form, Clause 323 proposes to punish any person who commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless any animal with imprisonment for up to five years or a fine or both.

The press statement highlights that in 2021, the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations released a report revealing that in the last decade, nearly 500,000 animals, including cows and dogs, have been victims of crimes and many had been subjected to sexual violence. 

In addition, PETA stated that a Voice of Stray Dogs report had calculated that the sexual abuse of animals was often underreported but likely committed at a similar rate to human rape cases.

According to PETA, many violent criminals have a documented history of cruelty against animals. 

The statement emphasises a study published in the Journal of Emotional Abuse, which found that 71 percent of women with companion animals who sought shelter from abuse at a safe home confirmed that their partner had threatened, injured, or killed the animals.

In India, a man, who was convicted of raping and murdering a Kerala law student, had a history of raping and killing dogs and goats, the statement adds.

PETA India’s statement quotes its Cruelty Case Division Legal Advisor and Manager, Meet Ashar, “Providing the strongest level of legal protection for animals helps safeguard all our country’s citizens, as the link between cruelty to animals and violence against humans is well-known.”

We request that the government strengthen animal protection even further by introducing and passing a strong Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act Amendment Bill in the winter session of Parliament for a safer society for all,” Ashar adds.

The Leaflet