INDIA’S government last Saturday (21) ap­proved the death penalty for child rapists, after the gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl and a series of other horrific sexual assaults caused nationwide outrage.

Prime minister Narendra Modi called a cabinet meeting to pass the measure last Saturday on his return from the Common­wealth summit, a government official said.

The cabinet approved the ordinance amending laws on sexual violence to allow for capital punishment for those convicted of raping children below the age of 12, the official said.

Minimum jail sentences for convicted rapists were also toughened.

“The ordinance will be sent to the presi­dent for his consent,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The president’s approval is seen merely as a formality.

Protests erupted across India in recent days over the rape and killing of the young Muslim girl by a group of Hindu men in Jammu and Kashmir state.

The attack sent out the sort of shock­waves that shook the country after the equally horrific gang rape of a Delhi stu­dent on a bus in 2012, which made head­lines around the world.

The new decree requires trials involving child victims to be completed in two months after an arrest, unusually speedy for India where the wheels of justice turn slowly.

The order will remain in effect for a pe­riod of six months from the president’s ap­proval, or until parliament votes the chang­es into law.

In recent months, four Indian states have already introduced similar legislation in lo­cal parliaments to approve the death pen­alty for child rapists.