High powered Women Commission

A major step has been taken by the UT Government of Jammu and Kashmir towards fulfilling the aspirations of women in respect of protection and promotion of their rights, ensuring gender equality and their empowerment by way of giving approval for constitution of Jammu and Kashmir Commission for Women. No doubt, the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir has more or less been a step forward, as compared to most of the states, in areas of protection and promotion of the rights of the women and in case we turn the pages of the history, it will be seen that the grand initiative was taken by Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Dogra Ruler of the State of Jammu and Kashmir including Ladakh, Gilgit etc by taking various measures in respect of welfare and amelioration of women. It was the first state then to enact a law prohibiting not only child marriage but even incompatible marriages by fixing the minimum marriageable age of 18 and 14 for boys and girls respectively. The Maharaja even had ordered to pass the Hindu Widows Re-Marriages Act so that widows could get remarried. Officials, particularly in rural areas were identified and made responsible to prevent any kidnapping or abduction of women. What is important to see is that Immoral Trafficking in Women Act was passed in the State, perhaps being the first among the ruling states to take such a pragmatic and reformist measure. Primary education was made compulsory even in rural and far flung places and a School made a compulsory requirement for every village with a population of 500, girls were motivated into going to schools.
With this background of a reformist structure having been erected by the educated and far sighted Late Maharaja, much more should have progressively been done towards empowerment of women in the erstwhile State by the successive State Governments but, perhaps, the same was not thought to be on the list of priorities. There are, however, basic rights and safeguards guaranteed under the constitution which must have a mechanism to protect the interests of women in that respect and examine exclusively any of the ”breaches” of such rights and safeguards taking place anywhere due to whatever reasons. There is otherwise already a statutory Body – The National Commission for Women – which is set up under the National Commission for Women Act 1990 which has the role of advising the Government on all policy matters pertaining to women. The Commission is committed towards protection and promotion of women’s rights, gender equality and the like but what is more important to know is that it provides advisory, executive and judicial assistance to women who may be requiring it. The Jammu and Kashmir Commission for Women (JKCW), therefore, is mandated to even reviewing the existing provisions of the constitution and take suo-motu notice of various issues related to women’s rights thus giving it wide powers and perhaps verily, therefore, it is tagged with being ”High Powered”.
The Commission shall be headed by a woman Chairperson besides five other members on it including from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as also a member of the IAS cadre with fair exposure in administrative, organisational and managerial fields making it a ”force to reckon with” in that it can very effectively investigate matters related to safeguards as provided for in the constitution regarding women. It is not the question only of providing security, safety and safeguards to women especially in the light of increase in the UT in cases of violence and other crimes against them but how policy implementation and benefits under different schemes reached them. Equally, the area of their empowerment is of no less import in that more steps needed to be taken by the UT Government like the one recently taken last month in giving 15 percent representation to women in JK Police Force.
The Commission will be judged by its effective performance in how much it could do in matters of providing due representation in all spheres and identify such humps and other factors that came in its way. It is pertinent to note that the Commission is mandated to submit its annual report to the Government whereby not only it shall be focussing on its achievements but what targets for the next year had been fixed by it to be achieved in various areas and fields of its jurisdiction including undertaking physical inspections of jails, hospitals, educational institutions, construction sites etc. It must, in coordination with the National Commission for Women, find out various facilities and welfare schemes which it could recommend to be fully implemented in the UT so that perceptible change on the ground could be felt by women of Jammu and Kashmir.