India's government has decided to prescribe the death penalty for people convicted of raping girls under the age of 12 to combat an increase in crimes against women, per the AP. An ordinance was approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Cabinet and was being sent to the president for approval, the Press Trust of India reports. The ordinance will also require the approval of Parliament within six months to become law. In the meantime, suspects can be prosecuted using the ordinance. The move follows widespread outrage over the recent rape and killing of an 8-year-old girl in India's Jammu-Kashmir state, the alleged rape of a girl by a ruling party lawmaker in Uttar Pradesh state, and several other rape cases involving girls in the country.
Violent crime against women has been on the rise in India despite tough laws enacted in 2013. In 2012, the fatal gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi triggered massive protests by hundreds of thousands to demand stricter rape laws. The government enacted laws doubling prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalizing voyeurism, stalking, and the trafficking of women. Indian lawmakers also voted to lower to 16 from 18 the age at which a person can be tried as an adult for heinous crimes. Lawyer Abha Singh says the government's move Saturday will deter men from committing crimes against women, but she urges the government to set a time frame for bringing suspects to justice, as Indian courts are notorious for delays; more than 30 million cases are pending. Singh adds that "the conviction rate in rape cases in India was only 28%."
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