India’s Cabinet has approved the introduction of death penalty for child rapists – especially girls under 12 – amid national outrage over sexual violence in the country.
The order – known as an ordinance – was approved on Saturday at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to India’s Ministry of Women and Child Development.
The change to the country’s penal code applies to those convicted of raping a child under the age of 12.
— Ministry of WCD (@MinistryWCD) April 21, 2018
The change in the law will only become permanent once it is approved by India’s Parliament, which is currently in recess.
It goes into effect once it’s signed by the President, considered a formality, but it will lapse after six months if Parliament doesn’t ratify it.
The executive order also increased the minimum punishment for female rape from seven years in prison to 10 years, extendable up to life imprisonment, and introduced measures to speed up court proceedings in rape cases. Forensic rape kits will be provided to police stations and hospitals, and specialist labs will be set up exclusively to handle rape cases, the ministry said.
There have been nationwide protests in recent weeks over the gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl.
The government has come under fire for not doing enough to prevent sexual-assault cases, many involving children.
A number of serious crimes in India carry the death penalty, but raping a child was not among them until now.