The Indian government Saturday passed an ordinance to introduce capital punishment for child rape amid nationwide outrage over sexual violence against young girls.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a cabinet meet that decided to bring an amendment in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence (POCSO) Act prescribing the death penalty for those convicted of raping children below the age of 12, state broadcaster Doordarshan News reported.

Currently under Indian law, the maximum punishment for child rape is life imprisonment.

India has been in shock since learning of the gang-rape and murder of an 8-year-old in Kathua in India-administered Kashmir in January. Four more rapes and murders of minor girls were reported this week alone.

Mounting criticism and protests demanding the government ensure stricter and swifter punishment to prevent sexual violence is seen to have contributed to the decision.

The ordinance will have to be signed into force by President Ram Nath Kovind. The ordinance is valid for six months under Indian law in which time it has to be ratified by the Indian parliament.

Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi recently said the government would bring changes in child protection laws, saying she was ‘deeply, deeply disturbed’ by the child rape cases including the Kathua rape case.

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