Bangladesh approves death penalty for rape cases following protests

Bangladesh has approved the death penalty for rape cases after a recent spate of sexual assaults triggered protests.

Law minister Anisul Huq said President Abdul Hamid is expected to issue the ordinance, making it law, on Tuesday.

Under the current law, the maximum punishment is life imprisonment. Capital punishment is allowed as an exception in cases in which the sex assault victim dies.

Details of the amendment were not immediately available, but cabinet spokesman Khandker Anwarul Islam said ministers also agreed to a proposal that trials in rape cases be completed quickly.

The move comes after widespread protests across the capital Dhaka and elsewhere in response to a series of violent sexual attacks in recent weeks.

Human rights groups say many more cases remain unreported because of fears of harassment, as well as Bangladesh’s judicial system being painstakingly slow.

They also claim rapes are on the rise in the country.

Women’s rights group Ain-o-Salish Kendra said 889 rapes – including many gang rapes – took place between January and August. At least 41 victims died, it added.

Protests erupted recently after a video of a group of men stripping and attacking a woman in a southern district was shared on Facebook.

In another case, a woman who was travelling in a car with her husband was dragged into a college dormitory and gang-raped.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she would bring those responsible to justice.

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