National Commission for Women
The National Commission for Women is a statutory body established in January 1992 under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990. This commission was for the first time recommended by Committee on Status of Women in India in 1974 and then successive commissions and committees.
The mandate of this body includes:
- To review the Constitutional and Legal safeguards for women
- Recommend remedial legislative measures
- Facilitate redressal of grievances
- Advise the Government on all policy matters affecting women
The NCW is made up of a chairperson, five members and a member secretary. A person ‘committed to the cause of women” is nominated and appointed as Chairperson by the Central Government. The Five members are also nominated by the central Government. They are “persons of ability, integrity and standing who have had experience in law or legislation, trade unionism, management of an industry or organisation committed to increasing the employment potential of women, women’s voluntary organizations (including women activists), administration, economic development, health, education or social welfare. One member must be from SC / ST. Chairperson and members are removed by Central Government.
The major functions of the NCW Include:
- Investigate and examine all matters relating to the safeguards provided for women under the Constitution and other laws
- Present reports to central government on work done towards these safeguards
- Make recommendations for effective implementation of such safeguards to Union or state governments
- Review women related to legislations and bring out inadequacies and shortcomings
- Take up cases of violation of law against women to appropriate authorities
- Look into complaints and take suo moto action over them.
- Work towards women’s rights
- Mitigating hardships of women and ensure welfare and relief
- Call for special studies or investigations into specific problems or situations
- Participate in planning process of socio-economic development of women
Report of the Commission
The Commission presents an annual report to the Central Government. It can also submit a report as and when it thinks necessary. The Central Government places all such reports before each House of Parliament, along with a memorandum explaining the action taken on the recommendations made by the Commission. The memorandum should also contain the reasons for the non-acceptance of any of such recommendations. If any such report is related to any matter with which any state government is concerned, the Commission forwards a copy of such report to such state government. The state government places it before the state legislature, along with a memorandum explaining the action taken on the recommendations of the commission.
The memorandum should also contain the reasons for the non-acceptance of any of such recommendations.
Powers of the Commission
The Commission can appoint the committees necessary for dealing with the special issues taken up by it from time to time. It is also empowered to co-opt as members of any such committee the persons from outside the Commission (i.e., those who are not members of the Commission). The co-opted persons can attend the meetings of the committee and take part in its proceedings but without the right to vote. The Commission shall regulate its own procedure and also the procedure of its committees. The Commission, while investigating any matter or inquiring into any complaint, has all the powers of a civil court trying a suit and in particular in respect of the following matters:
- summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person from any part of India and examining him on oath
- requiring the discovery and production of any document
- receiving evidence on affidavits
- requisitioning any public record from any court or office
- issuing summons for the examination of witnesses and documents and
- any other matter which may be prescribed by the Central Government.
- The Central Government should consult the Commission on all major policy matters affecting women.
Working of the Commission
The Commission processes the complaints received verbally or in writing. It also takes into account suo moto notice of cases related to women. The complaints received relate to various categories of crimes against women such as domestic violence, harassment, dowry, torture, murder, kidnapping/abduction, complaints against NRI marriages, desertion, bigamy, rape, police harassment, brutality, cruelty by husband, deprivation of rights, gender discrimination, sexual harassment at workplace and so on.
The complaints are acted upon in the following manner:
- Specific cases of police apathy are sent to the police authorities for investigation and cases are monitored.
- Family disputes are resolved or compromises struck through counseling.
- Disaggregated data are made available to various state authorities to facilitate action.
- In sexual harassment complaints, the concerned organizations are urged to expedite cases and the disposal is monitored.
- For serious crimes, the Commission constitutes an Inquiry Committee to provide immediate relief and justice to the victims of violence and atrocities.
Strategies of the Commission
In keeping with its mandate, the Commission evolved the following strategies to improve upon the status of women and women’s development:
- Economic empowerment through building up skills and securing access to gainful employment
- Political empowerment through awareness, training and mobilization for equitable representation in all fora
- Prevention of violence and discrimination against women inside and outside the home through legal reform and sensitive enforcement
- Amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged women, such as
- Physically challenged women including those who are visually disabled or mentally affected.
- Socially challenged women including Muslim women, women from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, widows and prostitutes.
- Prevention of indecent representation of women in the media through legal and social sanctions.
Some of the key achievements of NCW are as follows:
- Prepared Gender Profiles of all states and UTs except Lakshadweep
- Took up women related issues and was proactive in Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalats
- Reviewed laws such as Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, PNDT Act 1994, Indian Penal Code 1860 and the National Commission for Women Act, 1990 to make them more stringent and effective.
- Organized workshops/consultations etc.
Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalats
The National Commission of Women has evolved an innovative concept of Parivarik Mahila LokAdalat (PMLA), which supplements the efforts of the District Legal Service Authority (DLSA) for redressal and speedy disposal of the matters related to marriage and family affairs pending in various courts. The Parivarik Mahila LokAdalat functions on the model of the Lok Adalat. The Commission provides financial assistance to NGOs or State Women Commissions or State Legal Service Authority to organize the Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalat.
The objectives of Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalat are as follows:
- To provide speedy and cost free dispensation of justice to women.
- To generate awareness among the public regarding conciliatory mode of dispute settlement.
- To gear up the process of organizing the Lok Adalats and to encourage the public to settle their disputes outside the formal set-up.
- To empower public especially women to participate in justice delivery mechanism.
Issues around working of NCW
The Major Issues around working of the National Commission for Women are as follows:
- NCW’s functions are dependent on the grants offered by the central government. Financial assistance provided to the Commission is very less to cater to its needs.
- NCW’s members are appointed by the government and the commission does not have power to select its own members.
- NCW lacks concrete legislative power. It enjoys power only to recommend amendments and submit reports.
- The recommendations of the NCW are not binding on the Union or state governments.
- Often it takes action only of the issues are brought to light. Unreported cases of suppression and oppression are generally ignored by the Commission.
- NCW’s jurisdiction is not operative in Jammu and Kashmir.
Suggestions & Way forward
The Commission must be granted the power of selecting its own members. The members should be chosen without any prejudice and should have fair knowledge of law and understands the society and human behaviour. The jurisdiction of the commission should be extended to include the state of Jammu and Kashmir. More awareness has to be created especially among the rural women about the existence of the Commission. The Commission can employ a person at the district level to bring into light the atrocities occurring at the district level.
Though the NCW is doing good work for the women in India, the commission address the above mentioned shortcomings and must increase the awareness by conducting country wide campaigns, workshops and consultations.