New Delhi (AFP) – India’s government on Saturday approved the death penalty for child rapists, after the gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl and a series of other horrific sexual assaults caused nationwide outrage.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called a cabinet meeting to pass the measure Saturday on his return from the Commonwealth summit, a government official told AFP.
Protests have erupted across India in recent days over the rape and killing of the young Muslim girl by a group of Hindu men in Jammu and Kashmir state, increasing pressure on Modi to take action.
The attack sent out the sort of shockwaves that shook the country after the equally horrific gang rape of a Delhi student on a bus in 2012, which made headlines around the world.
India’s cabinet Saturday approved the ordinance amending laws on sexual violence to allow for capital punishment for those convicted of raping children below the age of 12, the official said.
Minimum jail sentences for convicted rapists of teenage victims were also toughened.
“The ordinance will be sent to the president for his consent,” the official said on condition of anonymity. The president’s approval is seen as a formality.
India previously introduced tougher laws in 2013 after the brutal New Delhi gang rape.
The incident triggered weeks of street protests and global condemnation.
But sexual violence, including against children, remains unabated in India, with some 11,000 child rape cases reported in 2015.
The recent protests began after police accused eight Hindu men of raping a Muslim girl in a bid to force her nomad community out of a Hindu-dominated area of Jammu and Kashmir.
Public anger boiled over after police last week made public how the girl was drugged, repeatedly raped while captive for five days at a Hindu temple and then beaten to death.
Separately, a senior member of Modi’s party in Uttar Pradesh state has been arrested nearly a year after a teenager alleged that he raped her.
The incident made headlines after the woman tried to set herself on fire outside the state’s chief minister’s residence last weekend.
India has the death penalty for the most brutal murders and terror attacks. But the sentences are rarely carried out and are often struck down on appeal by higher courts.
The new decree requires trials involving child victims to be completed in two months after an arrest.
The order will remain in effect for a period of six months from the president’s approval, or until parliament votes the changes into law.