Critically comment on the composition, objectives and functioning of the National Commission for Women (NCW). (200 Words)
The national commission for women consists of:
- a chairperson,
- five members and
- a member secretary.
While qualifications have been mentioned for the members and the member secretary, no such guidelines have been provided for the chairperson. This has seen this position being gradually reduced to a position of political sinecure. In the past, the commission has been seen to make patriarchal statements which reflects that levels and knowledge of women’s’ rights and gender sensitivity are often neglected in its selection.
The commission has been entrusted with many objectives such as:
- reviewing legal and constitutional safeguards for women,
- making suggestions on legislations to protect their rights,
- redressal of grievances and advising the government on policy matters related to women.
The commission has seldom functioned to attain the full range of its mandate as it has failed to illicit participation of civil society and women’s rights groups in the wider ambit of its functioning.
The commission has taken steps to formulate the gender profile for various states, reviewed various laws such as dowry, prevention of prenatal sex determination etc. to strengthen them, taken Suo Motu cognizance on various issues of women’s rights etc. However it has not been able to evolve into an effective guarantor and protector of these rights due to various shortcomings. It lacks the powers to summon, question, search or seize documents. The financial powers are curtailed and it is not able to provide relief to victims in need. it lacks skilled manpower and other resources. Members belonging more often to the political and bureaucratic class makes it amenable to political interference.
The commission needs to be given more teeth by giving higher autonomy, more funding, powers of a civil court and most importantly selection of politically neutral members who have contributed to or have a deep understanding of issues related to women’s rights.