India womens authority needs more power - commission chief

by Nita Bhalla | @nitabhalla | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 26 September 2011 14:44 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

As crimes against women increase, punishments need to be stricter to act as a deterrent, the head of India's National Commission for Women says

India's National Commission for Women (NCW) -- the main authority set up to protect women in the country -- lacks the teeth to ensure justice for women who have "atrocities" committed against them, its new chief said in the Hindustan Times on Monday.

In conservative and largely patriarchal India, women and girls face a barrage of threats -- ranging from female foeticide, forced marriage, dowry murders to human trafficking, domestic violence, "honour killings", abduction, sexual harrassment and rape.

The commission does not have enough power to help women, said Mamata Sharma, the newly appointed chair.

"The 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 (police case) registered," Sharma told the Hindustan Times in an interview. "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."

Sharma said that as crimes against women increase, punishments need to be stricter to act as a deterrent, and more awareness of women's issues should be promoted.

India is the fourth most dangerous country for women after Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan due to high levels of female foeticide, infanticide and human trafficking, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll of 213 gender experts conducted in June.

In 2009, India's then-Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta estimated that 100 million people, mostly women and girls, were involved in trafficking in the country that year.



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