Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reacted to criticism that he did not deal with the recent rape and murder of a girl swiftly enough. India is trying to crack down on violence against girls and women.
The Indian government approved a new measure on Saturday that will prescribe capital punishment for anyone convicted of raping children under the age of 12. The move came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called an emergency Cabinet meeting in the wake of a series of cases that sparked outrage and protests across the country.
The recent rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Jammu-Kashmir state brought the matter of sexual violence against minors back into the national spotlight as locals accused the ruling Hindu nationalist party of siding with the perpetrator, as the victim was Muslim.
A similar incident occurred around the same time, when a girl was allegedly raped by a ruling party lawmaker in Uttar Pradesh state.
Nine suspects, including a politician and four police officials have been arrested in connection with the two cases.
New Delhi is trying once again to crack down on rampant violence against girls and women, having already passed stricter laws in 2013. At that time, lawmakers were responding to the gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in the capital, which led to a global outcry.
The new laws included doubling the prison sentence for rape to 2 years and criminalizing voyeurism and stalking.
Lawyer Abha Singh welcomed Saturday's measure, and said it would probably help deter men from attacking girls or women. However, she urged the government to do something about the notoriously backed-up Indian justice system, which currently has 30 million pending cases.
"The conviction rate in rape cases in India was only 28 percent, implying that 72 out of 100 suspects are going unpunished," she was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.