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TIMES OF INDIA, OUTLOOK (India),BBC (UK).

NEW DELHI - Indian President Pranab Mukherjee has approved a new rape law that would provide harsher punishment for rapists, including the death penalty.

The BBC reports the brutal gang rape on a 23-year-old woman in December caused an outrage across the country and sparked a debate about crime against women in India. Six suspects were arrested for the crime; five of the accused are on trial. If convicted, they could now face the death penalty.

The new rape law includes the death penalty for rapes leading to the victim’s death or persistent vegetative state.

Under the new bill, the minimum sentence for gang rape, rape of a minor, rape by policemen or a person in authority will be doubled from 10 to 20 years and can be extended to life without parole.

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Protesters showing their anger against recent gang rape in Delhi. Photo: ramesh_lalwani

According to the Times of India, the law will also treat voyeurism, stalking, disrobing of women and acid attacks as specific offences under the Indian Penal Code.

"The bill will reflect the broadest possible consensus on imperatives and urgent need to have an effective law to protect women and to punish the guilty," Finance Minister P Chidambaram said, according to Outlook.

The Finance Minister rejected criticism that the government had acted in a hurry to pass this bill, saying the measure would act as a deterrent for criminals.

The bill will come into force with immediate effect.

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