Headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Union Cabinet passed an executive order to amend the criminal code during an emergency meeting on Saturday. Those convicted of molesting children under 12 will face the death penalty, and offenders who rape children under the age of 16 will also face stricter punishment.
The minimum sentence will be doubled, from 10 years to 20, according to the Times of India.The amendment also seeks to introduce longer prison sentences for raping women, increasing the minimum from seven years to 10 years up to life in prison.
The move follows a wave of nationwide demonstrations after the horrific details of child sexual abuse emerged recently. In one crime, an eight-year-old Muslim girl from Jammu and Kashmir state was kidnapped and gang raped for several days before being killed at a Hindu temple. Eight men, including four policemen, have been charged in the case.
Another incident that triggered outrage across the country involves a state lawmaker from Modi’s BJP party, who was accused of raping a teenage girl last year. The victim tried to set herself on fire after claiming that police refused to register her case.
Protesters have been demanding justice for rape victims, and some of the protests have turned violent. Clashes broke out between demonstrators and security forces in the city of Sopore, where dozens of students came out to protest this week.
Following the protests, Modi said that “no offender will be spared,” promising justice to the victims.
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