The Bangladesh Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday approved a legal amendment to elevate the maximum punishment in rape cases to death from life imprisonment.

Following the Cabinet’s approval of the proposed amendment, titled the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, President Abdul Hamid is likely to issue an ordinance as Parliament is not in session, bdnews24 quoted Cabinet Secretary Khandaker Anwarul Islam as saying to the media.

“The ordinance will be issued tomorrow,” Law Minister Anisul Huq later told bdnews24.

The approval comes in the wake of protests staged by different organisations at Dhaka’s Shahbagh square and other parts of the country against sexual assaults on a woman in Noakhali and the rape of another woman in Sylhet’s MC College.

As many as 4,541 rape cases have been reported Bangladesh in the past 16 years and the accused were punished in only 60 of these incidents, according to data from the tribunals.

At least 889 women have been raped in Bangladesh between January and August 2020, rights group Ain O Salish Kendra said.

As many as 192 others faced attempted rapes and sexual harassment in this period, while nine of the victims took their own lives, bdnews24 reported.

Rights activists believe the numbers are much higher because many of the victims do not complain to the police.