April 21 (UPI) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved an ordinance Saturday that allows judges to sentence child rapists to death in the wake of national outcry.
The criminal law amendment ordinance applies to children raped under age 12, according to the Union Cabinet headed by Modi, Times of India reported.
Under the ordinance, maximum sentences for the rape of girls under 16 and women will also be extended, the Guardian reported. And police will be forced to finish rape investigations in two months.
The ordinance was issued amidst anger over 8-year-old girl, Asifa Bano, from Kathua, being abducted, brutally raped and murdered back in January in a small Hindu temple. More recently, Kuldeep Singh Senger, a Uttar Pradesh government official, was accused of raping a 15-year-old-girl, adding to rage.
Modi’s reluctance to address the attacks until several days later fueled the public’s anger.
The Cabinet’s approval of the ordinance prompted Delhi Commission for Women Chairwoman Swati Maliwal to say she would end a hunger strike on Sunday that she started nine days ago to protest child rapists not receiving the death penalty, India.com reported.
“The prime minister listened to our demands and the demands of the country. So I have decided to end my fast at 2 p.m. tomorrow,” Maliwal told her supporters Saturday at a fast venue in New Delhi.
“I am thankful to the prime minister for bringing this ordinance. I congratulate the people of this country for this victory,” she added.
Still, some death penalty opponents are critical of the new order.
Amnesty International India Program Director Asmita Basu said the order was “a knee-jerk reaction that diverts attention from the poor implementation of laws on rape and child protection,” in a statement on the organization’s website. “Studies have shown that most perpetrators are known to child victims – introducing the death penalty in such circumstances will only silence and further endanger children.”