Italy passes emergency rape law
Italy's government has rushed through a decree law to crack down on sexual violence and illegal immigration after a spate of rapes blamed on foreigners.
The decree sets a mandatory life sentence for the rape of minors or attacks where the victim is killed.
It goes into effect immediately but must be approved by both houses of parliament within 60 days.
The number of sexual assaults fell last year, but three high-profile rapes last weekend sparked national outrage.
The decree, passed by premier Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government, also speeds up trials for sex offenders caught in the act, takes away the possibility of house arrest, and gives free legal assistance to victims.
It also establishes rules for citizen street patrols by unarmed and unpaid volunteers.
The move came after groups of self-styled and unregulated vigilantes began patrolling some towns, alarming law enforcement officials.
A series of rapes has shocked Italy in the last weeks and most have been blamed on foreigners, especially Romanians.
Several violent attacks on immigrants have been reported.