Mamata Sharma recently took over as chairperson, National Commission for Women, the statutory body formed to protect and promote the interest of women. In an interview given to Moushumi Das Gupta, she talks about her priorities as NCW chief and how she plans to make the body more effective. Earlier Sharma was a member of the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly and also president, Rajasthan State Women Congress Committee. Excerpts:
Crime against women, especially rape cases, is on the rise. Do you think there is a need to strengthen the law and review the existing provision in the Indian Penal Code?
Yes, the law needs to be strengthened so that it acts as a deterrent. We will soon be sending our representation to the women and child development ministry in this regard. In majority of such cases, it’s difficult to get an FIR lodged, and we step in when we are informed. We will soon move the court to get an FIR registered against the policemen, who allegedly raped women during the farmer’s rally in May in Bhatta-Parsaul village in Greater Noida.
As the NCW chairperson, what will be your priorities?
Our main focus will be on empowering more and more women by making them aware of their rights. Today, everybody talks of women empowerment but nothing much is being done. Lack of awareness is one the reasons responsible for this. We have asked the states to advertise about various womens’ issues in local language to reach out to more people. Besides, we are also asking the state government to implement properly the various government schemes targeting women. Empowerment in true sense can be brought about through good governance. We are engaging more NGOs to strengthen the system.
Despite the Congress government in power, the crucial women’s reservation bill which will ensure 30% reservation for women in Parliament has failed to see the light of the day.
What is the reason behind this?
The opposition to the bill is mainly political. Our party is working towards sorting out the difference. We still have three years in power and I am sure the bill will
be passed before UPA-II’s term ends.
What according to you are the main limitations of NCW?
NCW is a statutory body. When cases of atrocities come to us, the most we can do is counsel the victim and assist in getting an FIR registered. There is a need to give the commission more power. Also, there is a shortage of manpower at all levels which needs to be filled up. Shortage of staff affects the hearing of cases as well as counselling sessions. We have written to the WCD ministry requesting to expedite the appointment of NCW members. Currently, out of the five posts for members only two are occupied.