Indian cabinet backs tougher punishment for rapists
India's cabinet has approved harsher punishments for rapists, including the death penalty, after a brutal gang-rape in New Delhi that sparked national outrage.
A government-appointed panel recommended the changes after the death of a 23-year-old woman who was savagely raped and attacked in a bus on December 16 and died nearly two weeks later.
The case ignited nationwide demonstrations demanding better safety for women.
The changes, which must be approved by President Pranab Mukherjee to become law, include doubling the minimum sentence for gang-rape and imposing the death penalty when the victim is killed or left in a vegetative state.
"We have taken swift action and hope these steps will make women feel safer in the country," Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said. "This is a progressive piece of legislation and is consistent with the felt sensitivities of the nation in the aftermath of the outrageous gang-rape."
The victim's brother praised the cabinet's decision, calling it a "positive initiative".
The changes were expected to be approved by Mukherjee as early as this weekend but must be ratified by Parliament.
The minimum sentence for gang-rape, rape of a minor, rape by policemen or a person in authority will be doubled to 20 years from 10 and can be extended to life without parole.
Under existing law, a rapist faces a term of seven to 10 years.
The cabinet has also created a new set of offences such as voyeurism and stalking.