Downsizing seems to be the order of the day with the Narendra Modi government. And among those in the cross hairs are bulky outfits like the Planning Commission. Another one that should be added to the list is the National Commission for Women (NCW), which has been around for decades but has produced little of consequence for the greater good of women.
The minister for women and child development has said that the NCW ought to have the same sort of powers like the National Human Rights Commission. A laudable objective, but one that will not be realised unless the very nature of choosing its members changes. So far, it has been a comfortable sinecure for politicians or those on the margins of the ruling party of the day. That is why we have had very few women of note heading the NCW.
The current head, Mamta Sharma, has made little contribution to the cause of women, barring odd remarks like how women should treat being called sexy by strange men as a compliment. But we heard and still hear nothing much about the horrendous atrocities like honour killings, rape and dowry murders, which happen almost every day without fail. The NCW should be dissolved as there are enough ministries and NGOs dealing with women’s rights. There are indeed more than enough laws supporting women’s rights. The problem is in the lack of awareness among women of their rights, their inability to secure protection or legal help and the lax implementation of the laws.
It has always been seen as a great concession made to women’s rights that they have a body in the form of the NCW devoted to them. To give credit, where it is due, various NCWs have made recommendations to governments. But none of them have been taken seriously. The government must consult experts on women’s rights but there is no justification for a commission. The government can certainly lead the way and make sure that cases of atrocities against women don’t fall through the cracks for want of official support. This plus the advice of experts and an active judiciary will yield far more benefits for women than toothless commissions.