National Commission for Women

The National Commission for Women was set up as a statutory body in January 1992 under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990 (Act No. 20 of 1990) of Govt. of India, to review the Constitutional and legal safeguards for women; recommend remedial legislative measures, facilitate redressal of grievances and advise the Government on all policy matters affecting women.

THE MANDATE OF THE COMMISSION: SECTION 10 OF THE ACT

  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 items as the Commission may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards;
  3. make in such reports recommendations for the effective implementation of those safeguards for improving the conditions of women by the Union of any State;
  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 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 :-
    1. deprivation of women's rights;
    2. non-implementation of laws enacted to provide protection to women and also to achieve the objective of equality and development;
    3. 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 impending 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 socio-economic 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 a 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 legislation involving issues affecting a large body of women;
  13. make periodical reports to the Government on any matter pertaining to women and in particular various difficulties under which women toil;
  14. any other matter which may be referred to it by Central Government;
     
  • the Central Government shall cause all the reports referred to in clause (b) of sub-section (1) to be laid before each House of Parliament along with a memorandum explaining the action taken or proposed to be taken on the recommendations relating to the Union and the reasons for the non-acceptance, if any, of any of such recommendations.
     
  • Where any such report or any part thereof relates to any matter with which any State Government is concerned, the Commission shall forward a copy of such report or part to such State Government who shall cause it to be laid before the Legislature of the State along with a memorandum explaining the action taken or proposed to be taken on the recommendations relating to the State and the reasons for the non-acceptance, if any, of any of such recommendations.
     
  • The Commission shall, while investigating any matter referred to in clause (a) or sub-clause(I) of clause (f) of sub-section (1), have all the powers of a civil court trying a suit and, in particular in respect of the following matters, namely:-
    1. summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person room any part of India and examining him on oath;
    2. requiring the discovery and production of any document;
    3. receiving evidence on affidavits;
    4. requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office;
    5. issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses and documents; and
    6. any other matter which may be prescribed.

    REACHING OUT

    COMPLAINTS AND COUNSELLING UNIT

    This cell is the " Core" unit of the commission and processes the complaints received oral, written or suo moto under Section 10 of the NCW Act.

    The complaints received relate to domestic violence, harassment, dowry, torture, desertion, bigamy, rape, refusal to register FIR, cruelty by husband, derivation, gender discrimination and sexual harassment at work place. During 1999, the Commission received 4329 complaints related to the above types of crimes against women.

    The complaints are tackled as below:-

    Investigations by the police are expedited and monitored.
    Disaggregated data are made available to various state authorities to facilitate action.
    Family disputes are resolved or compromised through counselling.

    As per the 1997 Supreme Court Judgement on Sexual Harassment at Workplace, (Vishakha Vs. State of Rajasthan) every employer is required to provide for effective complaints procedures and remedies including awarding of compensation to women victims. In sexual harassment complaints, the concerned organisations are urged to expedite cases and the disposal is monitored.
    For serious crimes, the Commission constitutes an Inquiry Committee which makes spot enquiries, examines various witnesses, collects evidence and submits the report with recommendations. The implementation of the report is monitored by the NCW.
    The State Commission, the NGOs and other experts are involved in these efforts.
    Between July to December, 1999, the Commission received the following complaints :- Dowry Death-232, Rape-93, Murder-69, Harassment-591, Property disputes-132, Desertion-66, Kidnapping-36.
    This gives the trend of crimes against women and suggests systemic changes needed for the reduction in crimes.
    The complaints are analysed to understand the gaps in routine functioning of government in tackling violence against women and to suggest correctional measures.
    The complaints are also used as case studies for sensitization programmes for the police, judiciary, prosecutors, forensic scientists, defence lawyers and other administrative functionaries.

    EXPERT COMMITTEES [Section 8(1)]
    The Commission constitutes Expert Committees for dealing with such special issues as may be taken up by the Commission from time to time. The Expert Committees established so far are for :-

    Law and legislation, Political empowerment, Custodial justice for women, Social security, Panchayati Raj, Women and media, Development of Scheduled Tribe Women, Development of women of weaker sections, Development of women of minority communities, Transfer of technology in agriculture for development of women.

    NET-WORKING
    Women's movement in the country was brought to the fore front by the efforts of the   NGOs. The Commission interacts and networks with the NGOs and the State Commissions for ensuring gender equality and empowerment of women. The commission also interacts with the media, social activists and academicians to suggest the ways of ensuring due representation of women in all spheres.

    STATE VISITS
    The Commission undertakes state visits to evaluate the progress of development of women in various states. It has covered the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Tripura and Manipur.
    During the visits, discussions are held with the Chief Minister, the Women and Child Development Minister, the Chief Secretary, the Home Secretary and the Secretaries of other departments.

    SEMINARS, WORKSHOPS AND CONFERENCES
    The Commission conducts seminars, workshops and conferences and sponsors such events by providing financial assistance to research organisations and NGOs. The important areas so far covered include violence against women, sexual exploitation of women at work place, educational health and employment aspects, women in agriculture sector, women in Panchayati Raj, custodial justice, mental health institutions etc.

    PUBLIC HEARINGS
    The NCW holds public hearings on issues affecting large sections of women such as crime against women, women in unorganised labour sector, women in agriculture and women of minority groups. The deposition at these enquiries helps in appreciating and initiating remedial action.

    LEGAL AMENDMENTS/BILLS PROPOSED
    Amendment to:

    • Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.
    • Indian Penal Code, 1860.
    • Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
    • Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
    • Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987.
    • Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
    • Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929.
    • Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986.
    • Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (for elimination of child prostitution and devising a comprehensive package for rehabilitation).
    • Medial Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
    • Family Courts Act, 1984.
    • Foreign Marriage Act, 1969.
    • Guardians and Wards Act, 1890.
    • Indian Succession Act, 1925.
    • Representation of the People Act, 1951.

    Bills

    • The Marriage Bill, 1994.
    • The Domestic Violence to Women (Prevention) bill, 1994.
    • The Orphan & Destitute Children (Adoption) Bill, 1994.
    • The Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 1994 (with reference to child rape).
    • The Criminal Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 1996.
    • The Prevention of Barbarous and Beastly cruelty against Women Bill, 1995.
    • The Constitution 81st Amendment Bill, 1996.

    Important Court Interventions
    The National Commission for Women can and it has intervened in some important court matters.

    1. Bhateri gang rape case (Rajasthan):- The Commission suo- moto took up the case of M. Bhanwari Devi and extended its full support in going for appeal and also providing security to the victim and appointment of a special public prosecutor to argue her case.
    2. Capital Punishment / Death Penalty (Ramshree's case) : Due to the timely intervention of the National Commission for Women in the Supreme Court, the order of the death sentence was temporarily stayed and the Hon'ble Court, later on commuted the death sentence into life imprisonment.
    3. Obscenity cases:-
      1. The Hon'ble High Court of Delhi put an injection on the launching of +21 adult channel by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Govt. of India.
      2. The NCW had moved the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi against Star TV, Zee TV, etc. for showing obscene pictures on television  and other media.
    4. Against out dated customs & traditions : Maimon Baskari's Nuh (Haryana) case:
      The NCW took up the case of Ms. Maimon Baskari who was allegedly a victim of torture and rape for marrying a person of her choice. The Supreme Court has united the couple.
    5. Divorced Muslim Women's Entitlement to Maintenance beyond the lddat period: In the matter of Fakhruddin Mubarak Shaik Vs. Jaitunbi Mubarak Shaik, the NCW has intervened in the Supreme Court of India to support the stand of Jaitunbi. The case is pending.

    PARIVARIK MAHILA LOK ADALAT (PMLA); An Alternative Justice Delivery System
    The National Commission for women has evolved an innovative concept of PMLA for redressal and speedy disposal of cases under Legal Service Authority Act, 1987, which has its roots in the traditional Nyaya Panchayats. The essential features of PMLA are amicable mutual settlement and flexibility in functioning. The NGOs in association with District Legal Aid and Advisory Boards, activists, advocates and others, organise Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalats with the Commission's financial assistance. So far, 130 PLMAs have been held in which about 7500 cases were taken up.

    NCW VIDEOCASSETTES

    • Conference on "Women and Panchayati Raj " New Delhi-October, 1993.
    • Workshop of Infant Feeding practices and the law-New Delhi, 1994.
    • Public Enquiry on Crime Against Women- New Delhi, 1995.
    • Mangalam Project Pondicherry -1995; Justice Delivery by Women for Women.
    • Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalat (PMLA) at Billur-Karnataka, 1997.
    • Daughters of Darkness - No Child Prostitution, 1997.
    • Silver Lining - a documentary on Mental Health of Women - 1998.
    • "Tomorrow is ours " on-mandate, functions & work of NCW.
    • Making of a leader -Political empowerment of Women.

    HIGHLIGHTS-1999

    • Organised mass rally in association with the Indian Medical Association and UNICEF to generate awareness against the practice of Female Feticide.
    • Surveyed and assessed the disaster of super cyclone  in Orissa. Collected and distributed about ten truck loads of useful relief material such as clothes, blankets, utensils, medicines and non-perishable items. Initiated follow up  programme with the NGOs.
    • Collaborated with the Guild of Service, New Delhi to mobilise a nationwide millennium campaign for women called PEACE, i.e. Peace for empowerment and Call for Equity.
    • Intensified lobbying to expedite the passage of the Women's Reservation Bill pending in Parliament.
    • The commission's teams visited different parts of the country and enquired into specific incidents e.g. sexual harassment compliant at DPS, Faridabad, incest case at Karvi (UP), Anjana Misra rape case (Orissa), alleged act of glorification of "Sati" at Mohaba (UP), Lalita Oraon case (Ranchi) concerning alleged sexual assault on

    LEGAL AWARENESS PROGRAMME

    The National Commission for Women regularly extends financial support to NGOs and educational institutions to conduct Legal Awareness Programmes to enable women and girls to know their legal rights, to understand the procedure and method of access to the legal systems. So far 55 Legal Awareness Programmes have been conducted.

    MANGLAM: A successful example of NCWs legal awareness programme on the home of " justice delivery by women for women " in Pondicherry.

    RESEARCH STUDIES SPONSORED: Social mobilisation, maintenance and divorcee women, panchayat raj in action, women labour under contract, gender bias in judicial decisions, family courts, gender-component in the various Commissions' reports for women, violence against women, women access to health and education in slums etc. to help in formulation of NCWs policies for recommendations.

    LIBRARY AND PUBLICATIONS

    The commission's library has now become a resource centre for research scholars/ activists. There are about 2250 books in the library. It subscribes 25 daily newspapers in different languages and 35 periodicals/ professional journals. The Library has a regular system of documenting newspaper clippings on women's issues.

    The Commission regularly brings out a monthly newsletter "Rashtra Mahila " in Hindi and English.

    KEY PUBLICATIONS

    Impact of Maintenance Laws with special reference to Kerala state.
    The Role of Women Members in Panchayati Raj -experience in West Bengal.
    Gender Component in various commissions, Report by, NLSU Bangalore.
    Women Prisoners in Indian Jails.
    Development of Health facilities among Scheduled Tribe Women.
    Report on National Debate on codification of Criminal Laws Pertaining to women.
    Justice Delivery through Family Courts.
    The Gender Issues and Books in India.
    Reaching Out - Proceedings of conferences and seminars July, 1996.
    The Velvet Blouse : Sexual Exploitation of Children.
    Knocking at the male bastion -women in politics.
    NCW's Review of Laws : Amendments and New Bills.
    For Women to lead ... Ideas and Experiences from Asia.
    Report on Tribal Women & Employment.
    Code of conduct on Sexual Harassment.
    Manual of Mental Health Care for women in Custody.
    A Study of mentally Disabled Women.
    Project Mangalam - Justice Delivery by Women for Women.

    • a 19 year old maid by an Indian diplomat in Paris, Chitra rape case (chennai)
      and brutal atorcities against harijan women at Sanhauli (Bihar).
    • Organised nationwide workshops on Amendment to Rape Laws.
      Held Public Hearings on Minority women at Tezpur, Bangalore, Indore, Ahmedabad, Panipat and Bhadrak, on Women Sarpanches at Ajmer and women in Agriculture at Dharwad (Karnataka).
    • Organised conference or Tribal Women's Development.
    • Sponsored Research / studies on Dayin Pratha (Bihar), Women prisoners (U.P., M.P., Rajasthan, Orissa), Nutrition and Health Care of Adolescent Girls (Orissa), Impact of Mining on Health of Women (Orissa), Women of weaker sections in hill areas (U.P.)
    • Interaction with women Parliamentarians was organised.
    • Organised training programme for counsellors from various states in collaboration with the British Council.
    • Conducted Workshops on Penal reform in association with PRI & PRAJA and Crime Against Women in India with CBI.
    • Organised a programme in Eluru (A.P.) and Gadhinglaj (Maharahstra) for rehabilitation of Devadasis and women prone to trafficking.
    • conducted assessment on the condition of Vrindavan widows and made recommendations.
    • Held a series of Workshops on the condition of women in agriculture.

    PROGRAMMES FOR 2000

    • The National Commission for Women has initiated an ambitious programme entitled "Preparing the Women for Tomorrow " -with awareness campaigns on laws and legality, media, nutrition and health, consumerism, human rights, sex and sexuality and programmes to build capacity for management of time, interpersonal relationships, emotions and develop skill for communication, thinking, negotiations and problem solving.
    • Regional meets with State Commission for Women and NGOs.
    • Seminar on "Empowering Women for Sustained Development Forging Partnership Urban Local Bodies and Corporates".
    • Workshop on gender justice - Forging Partnership with Law Enforcing Agencies.
    • A study on systematic change in custody with mentally ill people-West Bengal.
    • District wise Socio Economic Gender Disaggregated Data Analysis and district mapping Maharashtra.
    • Campaign against sexual harassment at work place -West Bengal.
    • Nation wide workshops on Amendment to Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 and Immoral Traffic (prevention) Act 1956.
    • Follow up action on India First Report on implementation of CEDAW (UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women)
    • Voice of the Voiceless-status of Muslim Women in India (a report).
    • Rape: A legal study (a report).