Gang-rape already carried the death sentence, but rape by a single offender had previously been punishable only by life imprisonment.
Last week demonstrations broke out across the country after harrowing footage of a group of men stripping and attacking a woman went viral on social media.
National anger over the issue has been simmering since last month, when members of the ruling party’s student wing were arrested and charged in a separate gang rape case.
Protesters in the capital, Dhaka, and elsewhere have demanded stiffer punishments, faster trials and an end to what they see as a culture of impunity for sex crimes.
In response, the country’s cabinet this week approved an increase in the maximum punishment in rape cases to death from life imprisonment.
A series of violent sexual attacks in recent weeks has triggered protests in the capital, Dhaka, and elsewhere. Above, a student takes part in a protest demanding justice for women the capital city on October 8
In Bangladesh, only around three percent of rape cases end in convictions.
Local human rights groups say rapes have surged in the country.
Ain-o-Salish Kendra, a women’s rights group, said 889 rapes, including hundreds of gang rapes, occurred between January and August this year. At least 41 victims died, it said.
Bangladesh has hanged 23 people since 2013, while at least another 1,718 are on death row.
Rights activists have criticised the introduction of the death sentence for rape saying it will not reduce violence against women.
‘This regressive step is a fig leaf that deflects attention from the lack of real action to address the appalling brutality faced by so many Bangladeshi women,” Amnesty International said.
‘Executions perpetuate violence, they don’t prevent it.’