Bangladesh to allow death penalty for convicted rapists

Women's rights activists and others protest gender-based violence outside Parliament in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Friday, October 9.

(CNN)Bangladesh is set to allow the death penalty for convicted rapists after weeks of protests over sexual violence in the country.

Bangladesh's Cabinet on Monday approved an amendment changing the maximum punishment for convicted rapists from life imprisonment to death, according to state-run news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS).
The new provision will go into effect once it is signed by Bangladeshi President Abdul Hamid. The step is considered a formality.
    "Surely (the law) will be a deterrent to such notorious crimes while we simultaneously will make all-out efforts to expedite the trial process of rape cases in the relevant courts," Law Minister Anisul Huq said, according to BSS.
      Bangladesh's government has faced calls to do more to prevent sexual violence amid national outrage over a viral video of a group of men attacking and sexually assaulting a woman in the country's south.
      "Bangladeshi women have had enough of the government's abject failure to address repeated rapes and sexual assaults," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement last week.
      "The Bangladesh government needs to finally make good on its empty promises and heed activists' calls to take meaningful action to combat sexual violence and to support survivors."
          At least 975 women and girls were raped in the first nine months of 2020 in Bangladesh, according to Ain o Salish Kendra, a Bangladeshi human rights and legal aid organization based in capital city, Dhaka.
          The new punishment is unlikely to be widely applied; according to Human Rights Watch, Bangladesh has an extremely low conviction rate for rape, and victims face myriad difficulties in reporting sexual crimes and pursuing legal cases against alleged attackers.