An average of seven women and girls fell prey to rapists, mostly their acquaintances, neighbours, relatives or trusted persons of the victims, during the last fiscal, revealed the latest report of Nepal Police providing a stark picture of rape in the country.

A 40-year-old man of Mahalaxmi Municipality, Lalitpur, was arrested for repeatedly raping his teenage daughter. Unable to bear the sexual assault being inflicted on her, the victim finally mustered courage to file an FIR against her father at the nearest station. The rapist father is now languishing in jail.

Police arrested a rickshaw-puller from New Road for raping an eightyear-old girl whose parents he knew for long. Surya Tamang, 35, of Dhading lured the minor to a deserted house and raped her last month. Kathmandu District Court has already sentenced him to jail.

As per the Criminal Code Act, having sexual intercourse with any woman without her consent or any minor under 18 years of age with or without her consent by using force or temptation shall be considered a heinous crime of rape. One who commits rape shall face jail sentence ranging from seven to 20 years depending on the age of the victim and circumstances of rape.

The report shows that the rape graph continues to rise despite the provision of harsh punishment against the perpetrator(s). Nepal Police dealt with 2,534 cases of rape in 2020-21 against 2,144 of previous fiscal, an increase by 18.19 per cent.

Similarly, as many as 735 incidents of attempt-to-rape were reported in 2020-21 compared to 687 in 2019-20. It accounts for an increase of 6.99 per cent.

The perpetrators includes, but is not limited to, acquaintances, close relatives, trusted persons, neighbours, grandfathers, fathers, father-in-laws, uncles, maternal uncles, brothers, brother-in-laws, landlords, boyfriends, teachers, husbands, divorced husbands, teachers and strangers.

The law provisions punishment of up to life imprisonment (25 years) for anyone found guilty of incestuous rape. "If a biological mother or son or father or daughter is raped, the guilty shall be liable to life imprisonment," the law states.

Senior Superintendent of Police Basant Bahadur Kunwar, Nepal Police Spokesperson, said the security agency was working proactively to prevent and curb rapes, in association with multiple stakeholders, including social organisations under Police-Community Partnership Programme.

"We remain watchful to ensure that no rape case is settled through reconciliation between the perpetrators and victims, whether voluntary or under coercion and undue influence. The Government of Nepal will be the plaintiff in a rape case and it can be settled only through judicial proceeding in accordance with the existing law.

Last year, the Office of Attorney General had issued a directive to the relevant agencies stating that the law prohibits reconciliation in criminal offences, which should be exclusively dealt with the government as plaintiff.

The directive follows the settlement of rape cases in different parts of the country through agreement reached between the perpetrators and victims in the presence of local representatives.

SSP Kunwar said any person or group involved in facilitating reconciliation between the perpetrators and victims would be liable to legal action as per the law.

In a June 2020 verdict of a rape case, the Supreme Court had maintained that the heinous crime of rape leads the victim to a state of long-lasting emotional distress.

"Victims usually suffer from Rape Trauma Syndrome and hence a court should consider it seriously while delivering justice. The victim's body itself is the scene of crime in a rape case," reads an excerpt of the verdict.

A version of this article appears in the print on August 11 2021, of The Himalayan Times.