The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) defines violence against women as any act of gender violence against women which affects them physically, sexually and psychologically. There are certain kinds of sexual advances which attack the self-esteem and dignity of a woman, but are not recognised as offences because they don’t fit in the conventional definitions of statutes.

There is a need to codify subtle acts of harassment so that they can be legally categorised as offences and the offenders can adequately be tried. Semen terrorism is one such act of sexual misconduct which needs to be recognised as a sex crime.

Semen terrorism is an act of delivering or smearing semen on someone else, or doing the same to their belongings. This act is not only derogatory but also a direct intrusion into the private space of the individual. There is a conflict of law in developing as well as developed countries with respect to this act of sexual misconduct. It is not categorised as sexually criminal behaviour, but rather as an act that inflicts damages to a person’s property.

Semen Terrorism' is a Thing. And It's Even Worse than it Sounds.
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Semen terrorism: The situation across the globe

Sex crimes in South Korea mandate the exercise of violence or intimidation so as to make it a valid crime. This means that there can be no offence if the act is of an indirect, non-physical nature. Even if it is meant to be physical, the law mandates the element of friction and aggression. This is why politicians in South Korea are urging to change the law related to sex crimes and include semen terrorism, because the present definitions of sex crimes are inadequate to address it.

There have previously been efforts to criminalise semen terrorism and make it fall under the ambit of sexual crimes because of some incidents in South Korea. The present law of South Korea considers this offence as a ‘damage to ladies’ property’ because of the fact that the ejaculation happens secretly on their property and there is no physical violence.

There is an urgent need to recognise nuanced layers of sexual assault like semen terrorism and legally demarcate them as sexual offences. The existing provisions of IPC should be scrutinised so as to widen the scope and interpretation of sex crimes to accommodate the changing nature of such offences

This is in itself derogatory because in reality, the trauma and uncertainty of being attacked is not factored in by the law here. There are few real-life instances of semen terrorism that were reported from South Korea. In one case, out of revenge for rejecting romantic advances, a man allegedly placed semen and laxatives in a girl’s beverage. Despite adding his semen and phlegm to the mix along with other items, the crime was not recognised as a sex crime because no forced sexual assault was established.

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In another case, a male civil servant ejaculated into a female colleague’s coffee tumbler almost six times over a period of sex months, but he was not tried for a sex crime. The court ruled that his moves ruined the ‘utility’ of the tumbler. Even though in both the cases, the victim was attacked mentally and sexually humiliated, the Court didn’t recognise it as a crime of spite against a particular gender, rooted on sexual humiliation.

In America an incident was reported where a 38 years old man who lobbed foul-smelling liquid from his car and approached his victim was put on New York sex offender registry and he was indicted under several criminal offences. In Los Angeles, a man was convicted for smearing semen on the working desk, computer keyboard and personal belongings of his female colleague. He was convicted of misdemeanor, assault and battery charges and registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Indian scenario

Offences related to semen terrorism can also be observed in India. However, such an incident is not considered a separate offence or under a category in our country. However, these kinds of offences might fall under the ambit of the definition of ‘criminal force’ and ‘assault’ under Section 350 and Section 351 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), respectively.

Criminal force’ however, restricts itself to the application of non-consensual force on a person’s body which means that if the property of the person is attacked, this definition does not hold. In the case of ‘assault’, there has to be ‘a preparation or gesture’, i.e. an apprehension of criminal force must be present.

We must look deeper into the various kinds of sex crimes and sexual humiliation faced by survivors and legislate sensitively to include under the ambit of law all kinds of criminal behaviour that reflects sexual power assertion, humiliation and assault on the emotional and mental integrity of individuals

If we delve further through other provisions, Section 509 of the IPC perhaps can be used to address semen terrorism because it punishes words, gestures or acts that are intended to insult a woman’s modesty. But then, the definitions of ‘modesty‘ and the determination of whether the said act has outraged it or not are extremely complex to determine.

The Supreme Court has tried to define ‘modesty’ in Ramkripal v. State of Madhya Pradesh by laying down that the essence of a women’s modesty is her sex. But, such definitions are problematic and regressive and do not have the scope to include instances of semen terrorism to address the issue comprehensively.

Also read: ‘My Boss Kept Complimenting My WhatsApp Dp’: Addressing Subtle Forms Of Harassment

South Korean politicians want 'semen terrorism' labelled as a sex crime |  National Post
Image: Vice

There is an urgent need to recognise nuanced layers of sexual assault like semen terrorism and legally demarcate them as sexual offences. The existing provisions of IPC should be scrutinised so as to widen the scope and interpretation of sex crimes to accommodate the changing nature of such offences. In cases of the semen terrorism by children of minor age, the law is further conflicting and cumbersome.

Therefore, we must look deeper into the various kinds of sex crimes and sexual humiliation faced by survivors and legislate sensitively to include under the ambit of law all kinds of criminal behaviour that reflects sexual power assertion, humiliation and assault on the emotional and mental integrity of individuals.

Also read: Work From Home: Unpacking The Layers Of Sexual Harassment In Virtual Workspaces


Somya Kumari and Parth Jain are students of law pursuing LL.B at the Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi. Both Somya and Parth may be found on LinkedIn

Featured Image Source: Vice

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