Freedom from violence is the ultimate goal

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Street heat Protestors confront law enforcers during a protest against gender violence. Photo: AFP
Street heat Protestors confront law enforcers during a protest against gender violence. Photo: AFP

We have a vision, that the Indian woman — culturally rooted, globally oriented, healthy, self-reliant, secure in her home and safe outside — with access to all the rights of a citizen will have opportunities to contribute in all walks of life.

OVERVIEW

The equal rights enshrined in the Constitution have empowered women to assert their rights and freedom. At the same time, we find reported crime against women has increased manifold. The glaring reports of horrific violence directed at women and girls reflect moral and social degeneration in the society. The nature, range and gravity of crimes directed at young children and women are appalling and perturb us.

According to NCRB, a total of 3,09,546 cases of crime against women (both under various sections of IPC and SLL) were reported in the country during the year 2013 as compared to 2,44,270 in the year 2012, thus showing an increase of 26.7 percent in 2013. Delhi has witnessed an 18.3 percent rise in crime against women in 2014 as compared to 2013, with a whopping 31.6 percent rise in rape cases. According to NCRB data, out of the 2,069 cases of rape registered in 2014, only 84 were committed by strangers. The rest were people known to the victims — neighbours, relatives, family friends, employers, co-workers. Dangers to women lurk in every form.

The National Commission for Women (NCW) is an apex statutory body constituted under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990 to safeguard the interests of women, take up cases of violation of rights, investigate specific problems or situations arising out of discrimination, suggest ways to ensure due representation of women in all spheres. NCW is also mandated to participate and advise on the planning process of socio-economic development of women and is committed to development and empowerment of Indian women. Since its inception in 1992, NCW has been in the forefront of the national endeavour to improve the status of women and work for their wellbeing. The most prominent among those is review of laws, looking into specific cases of complaints of atrocities, harassment, exploitation, denial of rights to women, taking remedial action to safeguard their legitimate rights and providing relief to the aggrieved persons.

LALITHA KUMARAMANGALAM | Chairperson, National Commission for Women
LALITHA KUMARAMANGALAM | Chairperson, National Commission for Women

NCW functions with the objective of achieving social justice for the women of India. It takes suo motu cognisance of matters relating to deprivation of women’s rights, and takes up the issue with appropriate authorities; it is an active participant and advisor in the planning process for socio-economic developments of women, and also evaluates the progress made thereof. The achievements of the NCW in its field of work have been wide and varied, as we believe that the status quo of women in the country can definitely be improved, and must be improved. The recommendations and guidelines as suggested by the Commission have great political credence and often form the basis for initiating reforms at the legislative level. It is important to highlight that the NCW is primarily only a recommendatory body. Some activities undertaken to prevent and address crimes against women inter alia are:

LAWS AND POLICIES

The Commission has recommended some landmark legislations after wide consultations like Domestic Violence Act, criminalisation of acid attacks and the bill relating to sexual assault. NCW provided comments and suggestions on Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 to the Ministry for Women and Child Development, which inter alia are:

• The bill should also specifically prescribe the procedure/manner to deal with cases where heinous crimes are committed by children (16-18 years of age group) by children’s courts

• The child who is found to be in conflict with law is to be sent to a place of safety till he attains the age of 18 and not 21. Since a child ceases to be a child when he turns 18, keeping him in a safe place till he attains the age of 21 in cases of heinous crimes, is not recommended.

• In cases of heinous crimes committed by children aged 16-18, he can be sentenced to life imprisonment in the rarest of rare cases. Such a sentence will act as deterrence for other child offenders

• Security for keeping the peace and for good behaviour should be taken in case of petty and serious offences committed by children (16-18 age-group).

• The state government should also make rules to carry out awareness and sensitisation programmes in schools, colleges, institutions and children’s homes. Such programmes will be to make the child aware of their legal rights and also their social, moral and legal obligations.

The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 has been passed, incorporating NCW’s major recommendations. The commission drafted a Revised Scheme for Relief and Rehabilitation of Victims of Rape, suggesting extension of the scheme to cover acid attack victims as well as victims of deliberate burning. This also recommended constitution of district boards, state boards and the National Board for Criminal Injuries.

On similar lines, NCW drafted a Scheme for Relief and Rehabilitation of Victims of Rape and Acid Attack under Nirbhaya Fund as well, and recommended that applications under this scheme will be in addition to any application that may be made under Section 357 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). It proposed that district magistrates be authorised to award financial relief up to Rs 2 lakh and also can make provisions for rehabilitation.

The Commission also conducts seminars and research studies on issues of concern and forwards the reports to concerned departments for action.

AWARENESS AND SENSITISATION

Capacity building and sensitisation of police personnel and judicial officers through various police and judicial academies are organised by the commission to sensitise and orient police and judicial officials towards gender and create awareness for prevention of gender based violence and also to provide an opportunity to work together on gender issues. Through media campaigns and advertisements, information is disseminated amongst the general public to ensure gender equality and empowerment of women. The commission also undertakes legal awareness programmes for women across the country.

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