iv. It is vested with power of civil court.

1. Functions:

1. To investigate and examine all matters relating to safeguards for women.

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2. Make recommendation for effective implementation of safeguards.

3. Review the existing provision of the Constitution.

4. Call for special studies or investigations into specific problems.

2. Critical Evaluation:

It can be observed that legally and constitutionally women in India are more powerful than anywhere in the world. But reality presents a pessimistic case.

Majority of women continue to be submerged under patriarchal ethos. Only a handful of urban educated women have benefited from the claimed constitutional as well as other provisions.

If contemporary figures are taken into account, violence and crimes against women have risen, even, in metropolitan cities.

Crime against women include rape, dowry atrocities, molestation, sexual harassment, kidnapping, abduction, immoral trafficking in women and girl, female infanticide and feticide.

Violence is the most concrete manifestation of gender inequality. Of the total crime, 7% are directed at women in India. It constitutes a black spot on a civilized polity.

So it is not surprising when one finds growing number of campaigns against all forms of violence—rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, death of women even before birth, violence during riots and communal unrest.

Similarly, the socio-economic indicators do not show a optimistic picture of women’s situation. According to National Convergence Plan for Women there are several social and economic factors that are responsive for the low participation rate for women.

Similar observation has been made by the International labour organization, “Women represent 50% of the population, make up 30% of the labour force, perform 60% at all working hours, receive 10% of the world’s income and own even less than 1% of the world property”.

As regards the process of globalization a WHO report observes that the “process has impacted the poor badly especially women, in terms of increased trafficking, greater spread of feticide and infanticide, dowry demands and dowry death”.

The need of the hour is to empower women so that they can effectively take decisions on matters affecting them.

A programme of self-conscious, self assertiveness can only help in transcending the psychological and sociological barriers. It demands a more focused and channelized involvement of their creativity, their initiative and their potential in the economy.

They must not be decried from the privilege of participation into any area, which is freely open for men. They must be definitely equally compensated and made aware of macroeconomic policies which provide opportunities for self- employment and other incentives.

Several Governmental and Non-governmental agencies are doing a lot. The experience of Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in Ahmadabad is known, the world over. The working women’s forum in South India is also doing a major work in this line.

Empowerment could be done by:

1. Widening the ambit of women’s participation in public institutions and bringing them directly into the mainstream to enjoy the benefits of society.

2. Universalizing existing developmental programmes to include women.

3. To promote gender sensitiveness by proactive measures like one child norm (providing free education to the lone girl child).

4. To invest in sectors where women could be a better performer.

5. Skilling women through training and workshops.

6. Insuring credit facilities.

7. Creating legal awareness through producing book, pamphlets and media campaign.

Perhaps, the most striking issue in recent times towards the empowerment of women in the talk for 33% reservation of seats in the legislature the debate started in 1996 but has failed to reach logical conclusion. Main provisions are

i. 33% reservation in Legislative Assemblies and Lok Sabha.

ii. Implementing this provision for 15 years.

iii. Readjustment of reserved seats

However, there is lack of commitment among various political parties and it has become a dilemma. There is demand for reservation within reservation.

Political parties like Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janta Dal etc. are in favour of separate reservation provision for women belonging to backward and minority community. In this regard, the Election Commission has suggested that every political party should itself reserve 33% names in its candidates list. But, there is no response to it.

As Brinda Karat observed “there can be no parliament for discussion. The Prime Minister’s argument of postponement till consensus is reached, as justification for the Bill not being listed in the house. He does not want the Bill to be defeated on the floor of the house, does not ring true.

The support offered by major parties to the Bill provides the two-thirds majority required for constitutional amendment. Yet the government allows itself to be blackmailed by a handful of MP’s putting question mark on its own intentions.”

Under this background charges have been leveled that the political leadership is an embodiment of patriarchal values. They have shown reluctance to yield to egalitarian demands.

This will promote both the ideal of social justice and gender equality as well as participation and sharing of responsibility. Though this seems to be farfetched goal a change has occurred.

As Gail Omvedt observes “women are starting to make an impact in politics. They are not always women whose politics we agree with.

They are women as diverse in style and political ideology as Ms. Mayawati, Ms. Mamta Banerjee, Ms. Sushma Swaraj and Ms. Uma Bharti. But they are women who are gaining power on their own though, of course, with male support and in this sense they represent what we would like to see as the main future trend”.

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