National Commission for Women: An In-Depth Look
The National Commission for Women (NCW) is a statutory body of the Government of India, created to protect and promote the welfare of women. It acts as an umbrella organisation that coordinates the efforts of various governmental and non-governmental entities towards the advancement of women’s rights in India.
Establishment and Legal Framework
The NCW was established in January 1992 under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990. The legislation aimed to redress societal discrimination against women and provide an effective platform for addressing their grievances.
Structure of the National Commission for Women
The National Commission for Women consists of a Chairperson, committed to the cause of women, who is appointed by the Central Government. Five other members, at least two of whom should be among women experienced in law or management, and a Member Secretary, who is either an experienced civil servant, a social worker, or has knowledge of women's issues, also form part of the commission.
Key Responsibilities and Duties
The responsibilities of the National Commission for Women are multi-faceted, ranging from policy recommendation to grievance redressal. They include:
Investigate and examine the legal safeguards provided for women to ensure effective implementation, and suggest remedial legislative measures to improve their efficacy.
Review existing legislation and advise on amendment proposals to meet any lacunae, shortcomings, or loopholes in such legislation.
Participate and advise on planning processes concerning socio-economic development of women.
Take up cases of violation of women’s rights with appropriate authorities, while also looking into complaints and take suo moto notice of matters relating to deprivation of women's rights.
Fund litigation involving issues affecting a large body of women.
Notable Interventions and Case Laws
The NCW has been instrumental in introducing amendments to existing laws and pushing for new legislation on issues affecting women. Some of the key interventions and case laws include:
Vishaka Guidelines: Following the infamous Bhanwari Devi rape case, the NCW played a pivotal role in pushing for the Supreme Court's landmark judgement in Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan. The judgement led to the creation of the Vishaka Guidelines, the precursor to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
Domestic Violence Act, 2005: The NCW was at the forefront of advocacy for the enactment of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women: The NCW works closely with this committee and often provides valuable input on various women's issues.
Critiques and Challenges
While the NCW has been a key player in enhancing women's status in India, it has faced criticism for its limited powers and resources. For instance, it lacks the authority to implement its recommendations and often relies on other governmental agencies. Moreover, the Commission's effectiveness is sometimes hampered due to its limited reach, particularly in rural areas where awareness of women's rights remains low.
Despite the challenges it faces, the National Commission for Women remains a crucial institution for women's welfare and rights protection in India. It has played a significant role in creating a legal and policy framework that empowers women, thereby contributing to their socio-economic development. However, further strengthening of its powers and improving its reach to rural and remote areas could enhance its effectiveness in promoting women's rights.