The Bangladeshi government has approved an amendment that would allow for the death penalty in rape cases, as anger grows in the South Asian country over incidents of sexual assault.
The go-ahead came Monday at the weekly meeting of the council of ministers headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, cabinet official Khandker Anwarul Islam said.
The ministers approved a proposal to amend the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act of 2000.
The proposal says that anyone convicted of rape will be punished with death or rigorous imprisonment for life, Islam said.
The existing provision stipulates a maximum of life in prison for rape. Law and Justice Minister Anisul Huq said a presidential declaration is expected on Tuesday to make the new provision go into effect.
Thousands of people joined a nationwide protest that erupted last week after reports that a gang had stripped and sexually assaulted a woman in a remote southern village, and then shared a video of the crime on social media.
Police arrested eight suspects as the footage went viral more than a month after the attack occurred at the victim’s home in Noakhali, nearly 200 kilometers south-east of the capital.
The demonstrators, mainly students and activists who took to the streets in Dhaka and other towns, protested the rising number of incidents of rape and sexual assaults reported in the media. They shouted “Hang the rapists” and “No mercy to rapists.”
Non-governmental organization Ain o Salish Kendra reported that 975 women were raped in the first nine month of the year and 43 were killed after being attacked.