National Commission for Women

Women, in India, constitute about 50 crores of our population. And yet their social and economic status is far from being any measure of satisfaction. In fact, they are an exploited lot. They lead an unequal life in the society, they are not part of the mainstream which, in reality, has become a male stream. Women�s share in non-agricultural wage employment is about 15ft while in work force, they constitute 13.9ft in urban sector and 29.9ft in rural sector. Adult literacy of women is only 46ft. The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) has predicted that the growth rate of crimes against women is higher than the population growth rate.

The NCRB recorded (2002) 16,373 rape cases during 1999-2000, one woman being raped every 32 minutes, sexually harassed every 12 minutes, trafficked every 46 minutes, kidnapped every 35 minutes, dowry death every 66 minutes. "Tough the Constitution provides numerous facilities to women and safeguards have been guaranteed, yet the situation has not improved for them. The Supreme Court, through numerous decisions, has extended some safeguards to women, like in Bodhisattwa Gautam v. Subra Chakraborty (1996) case, and the Chairman Rly Board v. Chandrima Das (2000) case, where rape was declared a heinous crime, as well as in a landmark judgment in Visakha v. State of Rajasthan (1997), sought to improve the social conditions of Indian women. The Committee on the Status of Women (India) has recommended the establishment of an apex body for women. The National Commission for Women Act, 1990 (Act No. 20 of 1990 of Parliament) constituted the National Commission for Women as a statutory body. The commission was constituted on 31st January 1992 with Mrs. Jayanti Patnaik as its first Chairperson, while Lalitha Kumaramanglam is the current chairperson (2014). The Act of 1990 under Section 3 provides for the Constitution of the Commission. It lays down that the Commission would consist of one chairperson, and five members from various fields and a member-secretary usually, a member of the civil service. All the members of the Commission are nominated by the Central Government. Each person holds office for a period not exceeding three years.

At least one member each of the Commission must belong to the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes. Section 10(1) of the Act of 1990 provides for a fourteen point mandate i.e. functions for the National Commission for Women (NCW):

  1. investigate and examine all matters relating to the safeguards provided for women under the Constitution and other laws;
  2. present to the Central Government, annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards;
  3. make recommendations for the effective implementation of those safeguards for improving the conditions of women;
  4. review, from time to time, the existing provisions of the Constitution and other laws affecting women and recommend amendments thereto so as to suggest remedial legislative measures to meet any lacunae, inadequacies or shortcomings in such legislations;
  5. take up the cases of violation of the provisions of the Constitution and of other laws relating to women with the appropriate authorities;
  6. look into complaints and take suo moto notice of matters relating to: (a) Deprivation of women�s rights; (b) Non-implementation of laws enacted to provide protection to women and also to achieve the objectives of equality and development; (c) Non-compliance of policy decisions, guidelines or instructions aimed at mitigating hardships and ensuring welfare and providing relief to women, and take up the issues arising out of such matters with appropriate authorities;
  7. call for special studies or investigations into specific problems or situations arising out of discrimination and atrocities against women and identify the constraints so as to recommend strategies for their removal;
  8. undertake promotional and educational research so as to suggest ways of ensuring due representation of women in all spheres and identify factors responsible for impeding their advancement, such as lack of access to housing and basic services, inadequate support services and technologies for reducing drudgery and occupational health hazards and for increasing their productivity;
  9. participate and advise on the planning process of socioeconomic development of women;
  10. evaluate the progress of the development of women under the Union and any State;
  11. inspect or cause to be inspected any jail, remand home, women�s institution or other place of custody where women are kept as prisoners or otherwise, and take up with the concerned authorities for remedial action, if found necessary;
  12. fund litigation involving issues affecting a large number of women or
  13. make periodical reports to the Government on any matter pertaining to women and in particular various difficulties under which women toil; and
  14. any other matter which may be referred to it by Central Government. The Union Government consults the NCW on all matters relating to women.

The National Policy for the Empowerment of Women, declared in 2001, specifies the goals, and objectives such as:

(i) Creating an environment though positive economic and social policies for full development of women to enable them to realize their full potential;

(ii) The de-jure and de-facto enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedom by women on equal basis with men in all spheres�political, economic, social, cultural and civil;

(iii) Equal access to participation and decision making of women in social, political and economic life of the nation;

(iv) Equal access to women to health care, quality education at all levels, career and vocational guidance, employment, equal remuneration, occupational health and safety, social security and public office etc.;

(v) Strengthening legal systems aimed at elimination of all forms of discrimination against women; (vi) Changing societal attitudes and community practices by active participation and involvement of both men and women;

(vii) Mainstreaming a gender perspective in the development process;

(viii) Elimination of discrimination and all forms of violence against women and the girl and child; and

(ix) Building and strengthening partnerships with civil society, particularly women�s organizations The NCW has proposed amendments to a number of Acts such as the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, It is because of the efforts of the NCW that certain bills got passed relating to the Marriage Bill of 1994, the Domestic Violence to Women (Prevention) Bill 1994, bill with regard to the cruelty against women in 1995. It may well be stated that around 97ft of the sanctioned grant of ` 16,100 cores had been spent on programme and schemes for the development of women and children during 2011-12 benefiting around 10 crore beneficiaries, mostly women. Besides, more than 105 lakh girls have benefitted from SABLA scheme while the Rashtriya Mahila Kosh have reached 6,94,415 needy women�all during 2011-2012.

Written by princy

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