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President of India Approves Stricter Rape Laws, Including the Death Penalty

President Pranab Mukherjee of India approved harsher punishments for rapists on Sunday after a deadly gang-rape in New Delhi sparked outrage and demand for stricter laws. 

Mukherjee approved of the new rape law two days after cabinet ministers recommended the change. 

"The Indian president has given his assent to the ordinance on crime against women. It comes into effect immediately but it will also be tabled before the parliament," a senior officer in Mukherjee's office said. 

The law was recommended after a 23-year-old woman was brutally raped and attacked on a bus in December. She died two weeks later. 

Changes in the law include an increase in the minimum sentence for gang-rape, rape of a minor, rape by policemen or a person in authority to 20 years in jail. Prior to this change, the minimum sentence for rape was 10 years. 

There are also new offenses the law acknowledges, like voyeurism and stalking. 

Women's rights activists are slamming the changes, however, saying that it doesn't help fight sexual crimes and that they should have held a debate or discussion on it. 

Trial is currently in progress for five men who were involved in the deadly gang-rape. They are being charged with murder, gang-rape and kidnapping. 

The five men, ages 19 to 35, plead not guilty. 

On Tuesday, the court will begin hearing evidence in the case from witnesses and the verdicts will be determined "very soon."

There was a sixth person involved in the rape but he is being tried in juvenile court. 

The woman was a physiotherapy student and was assaulted on a bus when she was returning home from watching a film. 

India rarely gives the death penalty. Three months ago the country implemented the death penalty on one man, making him the first to be executed in eight years. The executed was a surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.



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