New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah on Saturday described the Union Cabinet’s ordinance proposing death penalty for those convicted of raping girls below 12 years as “historic" and asserted that the law underlines the government’s commitment to safety of women.

Shah said such a law will act as a deterrent to crimes against girls. “I thank and congratulate PM Narendra Modi as well as the Cabinet for the historic ordinance on women’s safety. I welcome the provision of death penalty for rape of any girl below 12 years and increasing punishment from 10 to 20 years if a girl below 16 years is violated," Shah said on Twitter.

The BJP chief said, “The Cabinet has also made provisions for speedy investigation and trial of rape cases. This decision will act as a tough deterrent for such crimes and reflects the Modi government’s strong commitment towards the safety and wellbeing of women," he said.

A meeting of the cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, earlier on Saturday approved an ordinance to provide stringent punishment, including death penalty, for those convicted of rape of girls below 12 years, amid a nationwide outrage over cases of sexual assault and murder of minors in Kathua and Surat and the rape of a girl in Unnao.

New fast-track courts will be set up to deal with such cases and special forensic kits for rape cases will be given to all police stations and hospitals in the long term, according to the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance, officials said. It stipulates stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape, particularly of girls below 16 and 12 years.

Death sentence has been provided for rapists of girls under 12 years, officials said quoting the ordinance. The minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of seven years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment, they said. In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, the minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for rest of life, which means jail term till the convict’s “natural life".

The punishment for gang rape of a girl below 16 years will invariably be imprisonment for the rest of life of the convict, the officials said.