Impact of deviant sexual behaviour on Koodathai killings: Study
Sexual proclivity on murder is a complex area of research. Criminological studies from different cultures and geographical regions have proved that sexual predisposition of a person has a symbiotic relationship with murderous behaviour. All societies maintain normative parameters regarding sex codes and sexual conduct. These reflect in the permissible limits by time, place, family, groups, community and individuals, believe some sociologists.
For a group of psychologists, sexual behaviour is natural, and it should not be regulated, and the individual has the innate ability to take a decision on his or her sexual attitude. To regulate sex codes often results in conflicts in the person and as a consequence, society suffers, they argue. For some Social-psychologists, sexual problems would explode if the sexual norms are not observed as these mores have been crystallised after considerable time and reflect the wisdom of cumulative experience of humankind, they think.
Sexual norms and mores:
If sex was purely natural and its regulations harmful, how does it happen that all societies in time have evolved standards governing sexual conduct? But the question is if the existing sexual mores were valued, why are so many of them so frequently violated, and perverted sexual behaviours lead to murder.
Jolly’s probable sexual misconduct and the Koodathai Killings need to be analysed in the light of the above arguments. Some psychiatrists feel that the basis of human behaviour could be traced in sex. Therefore, the murderous act is explained through sex expressions of an individual. The police claim that the suspect Jolly had sexual contact with a minimum of five persons outside marriage. It follows that if Jolly had broken the existing sexual norms, she did it because her behaviours satisfied her needs. In this context, the suspect’s sexual functioning leading to murder envelops four assumptions:
- The offences involved a degree of consent;
- The behaviour grew out of law violation, even though they limited the nature of the sexual objects. Most countries restrict legitimate sex objects to humans of the opposite sex and certain social distance in kinship terms;
- Offences against legal restrictions that are placed on the nature of the sex act. In Jolly’s case, sexual contacts, outside marriage, if any, was illegitimate in this context;
- Relationships and behaviours that otherwise would be ignored may be subject to interferences when they occur publicly.
Sexual Behaviour and the Demon
Persons who indulge in deviant sexual behaviour represent individuals who have not learned to abide by the rules of etiquette that are reflected in the criminal code, or do not care to do so, one manner or another or incapable of doing it. Here the pertinent questions are:
- Was Jolly incapable of following the mores and laws of the society?
- Was Jolly suffering from some inherent behavioural deficiencies? It was said by the police that Jolly had the belief that at times she “was possessed by the demon or evil spirit and she had no control over her behaviour.”
The confession of Jolly indicates that she had been suffering from “psychic isolation” for a long time, probably from her childhood. She attributes this isolation to evil spirits. This may be because of the influence of the Bible, especially that of the Gospels, which narrate many stories about the evil spirit and Jesus curing the people possessed by the demon. For Jolly, demons were natural and universal. It follows that as the devil was compelling to break the law, she was not responsible for her acts.
Besides, as Jesus had expelled the demon from many people and made them normal, she too had a chance of recovering from the evil spirit. Her catechism had a significant impact on the personality and outlook of Jolly, it seems. The 18th Century criminologist Cesare Beccaria, in his masterpiece On Crime and Punishments categorically highlights the people’s belief in the demon in influencing crime and the need for treatment and correction of such offenders.
Even though Jolly was unemployed, in the pretext of her NIT teaching, she was away from home throughout the day. This may be analysed in the context of the police conjecture that the suspect had an extra-marital affair. Many studies have found that staying away from the spouse did not mean that a person was abstaining from sexual activity; often, it was the contrary. Sex acts, sexual objects, and sexual patterns are social indicators and personal tools that have specific meaning.
Sexual rules are societal, but sexual activity is private. The learning process created sexual motives in Jolly’s life and designated patterns of sexual relationships, besides the kind of people to be selected or accepted for a specific act to attain specific sexual objectives. It seems, possessed by the demon or evil spirit, the suspect engaged in sex which led her towards committing murder, or to have extra-marital sex, murder had become a necessity.
The suspect might have learned her specific sexual behaviour from experience and from the selected person with whom she engaged whose needs were similar to hers. Her sexual roles were learned through her socialisation experiences and at times they expressed themselves the influence of the demon or evil spirit. And she was aware of it, and she could not control her behaviour, and she became s slave of her needs and practices.
The kind of experience involved in healthy socialisation is those in which parents consistently deal with the child within the guidelines of culturally prescribed parent-child interaction. In Jolly’s case, she might not have received a balanced or accepted socialisation from her parents. It is also possible that Jolly might have failed to internalise the values inculcated in her by her parents, family, religion, and society. There was a conflict between Jolly’s values and societal norms.
Many studies have found that a large number of murderers, including women murderers, had extra-marital sexual relationships. There is a close relationship between the number of extra-marital sexual partners and the frequency of extra-marital sex act. Studies show that more significant the number of extra-marital sexual partners, higher the degree of tension an offender faced in her family and interpersonal relations. But it is difficult to hypothesis whether pre-marital and extra-marital behaviour is specific to the suspect in the context of Koodathai killings.
Family disorganization and sexual perversion:
Deviant sexual adjustment patterns are commonly the product of typical socialisation experience in which the individual is dealt with in sexually inappropriate ways or failure to acquire appropriate models of identification. Jolly might have failed in identifying sexual norms, there is also a possibility that Jolly’s sexual behaviour probably might have emerged out of her adult sexual experiences. So, Jolly’s sexual self-image might have developed after some initial self-exploratory playing of new sex roles.
There is no police data on any incestuous behaviours of Jolly. Studies have proved that incest is a manifestation of personal inability and retarded emotional development. Those who indulge in incest are two types:
- Those who suffer from various degrees of alienations and anomie; and
- Those who have psychopathic characteristics and have insufficient internalised guilt and aversion towards sexual relations towards persons with close blood relationship.
No analysis is possible without sufficient observed data regarding abusive behaviours of the suspect, even though she had been suffering from psychic isolation and alienation. There existed anomie in her immediate surroundings, besides family disorganisation. Involvement in sex with inappropriate partners seems related to the availability and non-availability of partners at home itself and the nature of the relationship with outsiders. The disorganised character of family relationships is one of the causes of incest and studies have proved that a large number of female murders were victims of incest.
One thing is sure that perverted or unaccepted sexual behaviour of a person, especially that of a married person leads to the murder of the spouse as sex outside marriage is anathema to a successful, peaceful, contented and loving family relationship.
(The author is former Professor and Dean, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai)
*The above analysis is mainly based on the findings of the authors three research publications such as The Phenomenon of Murder (Dattsons, Nagpur); Female Criminals and Female Victims (Dattsons, Nagpur) Criminology, Victimology and Correction (Ashish Publishing House, New Delhi. The author’s PhD was on Criminal Homicide, for which he studied 220 convicted murders in Maharashtra.