The J&K State Commission for Women has been established to protect women's rights and advance the cause of women in the State. Although the members of the Commission are appointed by the State Government, the Commission itself is independent and functions in a quasi-judicial capacity, having the powers of a civil court in matters relating to evidence. The purpose of having a women's rights commission is to create an independent watchdog and guardian for women, especially in a backward state such as Jammu and Kashmir, where a large number of women may be unaware of their rights and unable to protect them using the usual enforcement mechanisms.
The functions of the Commission are set out in section 10 of the Women's commission Act of 1999. They include to investigate and examining all matters relating to the safeguards provided for women under the Constitution and other laws; present to the Government reports on the working of those safeguards; make recommendations to the Government on improving the condition of women in the State; review existing legislation in the State affecting women and make recommendations for amendments to such legislation; take up cases of violations of women's rights with the appropriate authorities; look into complaints of infringements of women's rights, non-implementation of laws protecting women or non-compliance with policy ensuring welfare or providing relief to women; undertake studies or research and fund litigation involving issues affecting a large body of women.
Besides, investigating complaints of infringements of women's rights, the Commission has all the powers of a civil court, including summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person from any part of India, examining him on oath and requiring the discovery or production of any document.
However, the Commission leaves the actual process of law enforcement to the various agencies such as police and public prosecutors. What the Commission aims to do is to act as a guardian, seeking to intervene where public authorities are not discharging their duties effectively or are neglecting women. To that end, the Commission aims to secure information about infringements of women's rights not being redressed properly through various channels, including the modern channel of social media.
The Commission has very limited resources and accordingly cannot attend to every single case of rights infringement. There is a need to prioritise cases and expend valuable resources only on the most deserving of matters. A key function of the Commission is therefore to operate a filtering mechanism and escalate only those cases which are most deserving and would therefore benefit from the Commission's intervention.
One of the key features of rights enforcement in our State is the lack of resources available to victims of rights violations for fighting their cases in the Courts. Although legal aid is available to a limited degree, for the vast majority of women it is simply impossible to engage in long and costly court litigation to enforce their rights or to secure the proper investigation and prosecution of criminal acts directed at them. This is where the Commission plays a most useful role – by constantly watching the criminal investigation and prosecution agencies and ensuring they do not discriminate against women, that they give more attention to crimes against women and expeditiously and thoroughly investigate such crimes and bring the perpetrators to swift justice.
The Commission is actively engaging with the various authorities in the State to enlist their assistance and cooperation. We intend to establish good working relationships with the Police, public prosecutors, district magistrates, public officers and judiciary to ensure that women's rights are given the priority they merit.
The Commission's role is also to look at the institutional architecture of law enforcement, as well as the legislative provisions protecting women's rights and enshrining various criminal deterrents against infringement of women's rights. By constantly watching whether the institutional architecture is adequately performing its functions of protecting rights and evaluating whether the legal framework is sound, the Commission can identify loopholes and shortcomings and submit draft bills to the Government for legislative amendment.
One of the best ways to safeguard rights is to equip the holder of the rights with the means and knowledge to vindicate those rights. The Commission intends to carry out a campaign of public education and awareness about the rights available to women under the Constitution and the statute book. We are also exploring ideas to make it easier for women to institute civil suits and file criminal complaints. Our ideas will form part of the reform of the criminal justice system in the State, including any future reform of the police and public prosecution systems.
Women's commission has recommended few measures for strengthening of this institution like opening of district level offices of this Commission to provide nearest platform for needy/destitute women approaching for help: acquisition of land and construction of working women hostels, shelter homes for destitute women and 24/7 help lines.
My humble submission to public especially to women of the state is that no matter how strong the institutions we make, no matter how many laws we implement and no matter how many recommendations we suggest for reformation……the important point is unless we change our self, we accept another's opinion, and we give space to women and we respect women as an equal human being…nobody is going to bring reformation in the society or home or office even if we pray, worship or spend time in religious institutions and boost of being the God fearing people…….the change should come within the home, within the family and within the community……only then this institution's fight against crime can succeed. What I have observed recently is beyond my imagination n comprehension. The situation at family or home or society level is deteriorating and a growing trend of breaking homes has really alarmed me. If we cannot find peace at home, we will soon be finished as a society.
My commitment to you is that the Commission will continue to work within the existing legal framework and institutional machinery to secure justice for women and ensure all crimes against women are punished properly and swiftly. I need people's support to accept woman simply as "human" as man.