History And Background
The establishment of the National Commission for Women (NCW) in 1992 was a watershed moment in the drive to provide a more just and equal life and status for women in society by establishing institutional structures to preserve and promote women's exclusive rights on an ongoing basis.
The Women's Movement, which began in the pre-Independence days, focused on freeing women from the multiple shackles put on them by virtue of confining their lives within the four walls of the home, primarily through the way of giving education to them.
The real breakthrough came in the post-independence period when the Indian Constitution made significant provisions for women's rights, not only to ensure a respectable place for them in Indian society but also to make them an equal partner in the country's socio-economic and political developments.
Currently, Jayanti Patnaik is the first executive of the National Commission For Women.
While the Preamble and the Fundamental Rights give for a general viewpoint on ensuring an equal and just status for women, the Directive Principles of State Policy provide for particular requirements to improve women's conditions.
Article 39(a): As a result, in addition to ensuring equality between men and women in terms of adequate means of livelihood.
Article 39(d): and equal pay for equal work for both men and women. , specific provisions have been made to ensure just and humane working conditions and maternity relief (Article 42), so that women are not left to suffer from misery during their pregnancies.
Article 42: Humane Condition of work and maternity relief
Article 51(a): It imposes a constitutional duty on citizens to renounce practices that are derogatory to women's dignity, which appears to have a revolutionary bent given the prevalence of numerous inhumane and cruel practices in Indian society that have an impact on women's health and social status.
Need For The Institutional Mechanism
The cumulative effect of these constitutional provisions has been to establish a legal-constitutional framework within which initiatives to improve women's socioeconomic and political conditions can be contextualised.
However, the execution of legal constitutional provisions to protect women's interests did not provide the anticipated outcome, ostensibly due to the lack of an institutional structure to oversee the application of these rules and take corrective action in the event of violations.
The commission has a broad scope in terms of issues affecting women's development.
It seeks to improve women's socio-economic state by addressing issues like female foeticide/infanticide, women's trafficking; the plight of women from marginalised sections, widows and victims of domestic violence; economic empowerment by vocational training, wage equality and transfer of technology; political empowerment by seat reservation from grassroots to national legislature level; repeal of anachronistic anti-women laws, sensitisation of police and judiciary on the special treatment women need and enactment of progressive laws for women's development.
On October 30th, 2021. The National Commission for Women (NCW) and the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) have launched a pan-India legal awareness campaign to educate people about their legal rights and remedies under various women's laws.
Structure And Functions
The commission was established under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990. The NCW is comprised of a chairperson and five other members nominated by the Central Government, as well as a member secretary.
The commission was enacted under the persuasions of the United Nations covenants and protocols dealing with the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
The commission's responsibilities are divided into four categories.
First and foremost, the NCW was founded as a watchdog group to monitor the implementation of the numerous provisions provided in the Constitution and other legislation approved by Parliament involving women's safety and security, as well as the protection and promotion of their rights.
Distinction Between the Two
In actuality, there is a subtle distinction between the nature and scope of the powers and functions of the two most notable institutional dispensations dealing with matters concerning women's welfare, namely, the Department of Women and Child Welfare and the National Commission for Women.
While the former is responsible for the formulation and implementation of various welfare and protective measures for women in the form of Positive Policy formulations, the latter is charged with acting as a watchdog to ensure that the safeguards provided for women in the Constitution and other laws of the land are effective.
Thus, the NCW is in charge of monitoring the functional dynamics of the measures put in place to safeguard and promote the welfare of women, while the ministry is in charge of normal governmental matters relating to women's issues.
As the supervisory body, the NCW begins by analysing the factors and issues that contribute to the effective functioning of the safeguards enshrined in the country's various legal documents.
The Commission presents a report to the Central Government after becoming fully aware of the functional dynamics of the safeguards, including their efficacy and effectiveness, in order to make a case for its findings on the working of these safeguards for the protection and promotion of women's interests.
However, if the commission is dissatisfied with the state of such safeguards, it may investigate the reasons for their failure and recommend corrective actions to close loopholes in the structure and operation of these safeguards and make their execution effective in both letter and spirit.
Second, in its role as a monitoring organisation for the effective implementation of women's safeguards, the NCW not only keeps an eye on violations of those safeguards, but also takes effective corrective action to right the wrongs that have been done to women.
While implementing these measures it usually employs two broad strategies: bringing the issue of such wrongs or violations of women's safeguards before the appropriate authorities with a request to take appropriate remedial measures, so that the wrong is made right as soon as possible; and if the authorities petitioned to right the wrong fail to do so, the commission retains the right to do so.
Also, while the commission is quick to bring cases of violations of the constitution and other laws relating to women to the attention of competent authorities, it appears to be hesitant to use the second strategy, which is to go to court, unless the case in question is of paramount importance for the cause of women's welfare or affects the lives and dignity of a large number of women.