Women in general have been subjected to exploitation and repression by all societies. In this regard year 1974-75 was celebrated as the international year of women.
The world conference of the international women’s year happened in Mexico City in 1975. The conference resulted in declaration of Mexico in the ‘equality of women and their contribution to development and peace’. This mandated participating countries to draw a status report on the conditions of women in their country. This led to the release of ‘Towards Equality Report’ by committee on ‘status of women in India’. The 1974 document is said to lay the foundation of women’s movement in independent India highlighting discriminatory socio-cultural, political and economic processes. The findings of report reopened the women’s question for government, academia and women’s organizations. The report proved to be an eye opener on the conditions of women by talking about development and democracy from a gender perspective. It led to women sensitive policy making and stressed on girl child education.
Women is said to suffer from ‘womb to tomb’. The various women issues can be clubbed under following categories.
1] Cognitive – Identity of women.
2] Social – Gender stereotypes.
3] Economic – Economically dependent in most cases.
4] Political – Representation.
5] Psychological problems.
Constitutional Provisions for Women
1] Art 39 – equal pay for work
2] Art 41.
3] Art 47.
Importance/Significance of NCW
Women are regarded as most vulnerable sections of our society. They do not fall in minority group or backward classes and in a patriarchal society they are heavily disadvantaged. In this regard a National Commission for Women was constituted under the ‘National Commission for Women Act 1990’ to aid the legislative and judicial processes to empower women. The section 3 of NCW Act provides for the constitution of this commission. This section lays down that the commission will have one chairperson, 5 members from numerous fields and a member secretary who shall be adept in the field of Management, Organizational Structure, Sociological Movement or a Member of the civil services of the Union. All the members of the commission are nominated by the president of India on the recommendation of Council of Ministers. There needs to be one member each from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe.
Functions of NCW.
1] The commission is expected to review the development of women under the union or the state govt.
2] To study the reasons for the deprived status of women and suggest remedial actions necessary.
3] To take up the cases of violations of these constitutional provisions provided for the protection and development of women.
4] Take part in planning mechanism related to socio-economic development of women.
5] Enjoining the authority of civil court the commission can summon anyone and can also receive evidences, can force anyone to be a witness in a case.
6] Take suo moto action or notice on matters relating to the deprived status of women.
7] Section 10(1) of the NCW Act provides a 14 point directive which can be divided into 4 heads.
i) Safeguarding the rights of women
ii) Study of problems faced by women and make recommendations to eradicate these problems.
iii) Evaluating the status of Indian women.
iv) Funding and Fighting the cases for women with respect to rights violation.
Powers of the commission
The commission while examining any matter has the power of a civil court and can exercise it in particular in the respective matters.
1] Summoning and enforcing the attendance of a person.
2] Requiring the discovery of or production of any document.
3] Receiving evidences on affidavits.
4] Requisitioning any public record from any court or office.
5] Any other matter which may be prescribed.
Lacunas (Shortcomings) of Commission
1] The national policy for women 2001 called for advancement, development and empowerment of women. Also the charter of national commission for women calls for empowerment of women but the commission at best is actually engaged in just the protection of women.
2] NCW deviates from the goals under the NPW 2001 (National Policy for Women) which is ‘to create change in societal attitude, to get support from all for the upliftment of women, Collaborative approach and synergic relationship’. /NCW only has female members
3] NCW gets their funds and functionaries from the govt. which as a watchdog body devoid them of being critical against govt. e.g. NCW has never raised significant voice with regard to grievances related to AFSPA.
1] Politicized nature of NCW is evident when it took a pro-govt stand in Gujarat riots.
2] NCW has become a body to distribute patronage and a body caught in contradiction of different processes.
3] The scope of NCW gets limited to the inclination of its chairperson. e.g. On the one hand there have been calls by NCW for liberal social attitudes while on the other hand, the chairperson has suggested that Indian women should not imitate the west (wearing short dress) in case of public molestation of a young girl in Guwahati.
4] There are two centers of power which often conflict with each other. 1. Chairperson and 2. Member Secretary. And bureaucracy continues to hold greater power.
5] Second conflict is between NCW and Ministry of Women and Child Development. NCW has been often criticized for its stand on sexual violence in Gujarat, the Mangalore Pub case.
6] Declaring of suicides of 3 girls in Rajasthan as a simple case of suicide, and even suggesting that remarks like ‘sexy’ are a complement.
7] According to the critics, commission has failed miserably. Members lack transformational ideology. According to Sadhana Arya commission is limited by design by the govt. but the members have decided to limit themselves further.
Achievements of the Commission
1] The commission was successful in securing the release of female who were allegedly gang raped by BSF personnel in early 2002.
2] The ‘Legal cell’ of the commission has recommended modifications in a number of acts and proposed a number of new bills. It has recommended amendments to Hindu Manage Act, medical termination of pregnancy act and Indian Penal Code on Adultery to make it a civil offence.
3] The commission had also proposed Domestic Violence Against Women bill, which got passed.
1] It should be recognized that it is National Commission for Women and not National commission of women.
2] The composition and funds should be independent from the govt. to allow for real watchdog mechanisms.
3] Its recommendations should be made mandatory.
4] The commission should hold consultative mechanisms with other sections of the society including NGOs and Civil Society.
5] Chairperson should be of high repute and independent of political interference.