Tick Mark The Correct Answer

I recently came across the blog post ‘Madam Justice, Here’s My Character Certificate’ on Women’s Web. It is about the insensitivity shown by the then Chairperson of the Kerala Women’s Commission (Justice Sreedevi) – she is quoted as saying that if a woman wears revealing clothes, men are bound to be tempted to touch her.

I had occasion to visit the mother of women’s commissions in the country- the National Commission for Women- a few years ago, and thankfully I had gone there in my official capacity to meet someone.

To begin with, the place is difficult to find- it was easy enough to locate the building, but once inside, I realized that the NCW is housed towards the back on two upper floors and a mezzanine floor and I wondered how people seeking succor from the NCW manage to find it as there is hardly any signage and there is no one to guide visitors.

I trudged up the stairs, crossed the mezzanine floor and was walking up the rest of the stairs when I sensed that there was a woman sitting towards a corner filing her bright red nails. She summoned me disdainfully and asked me with the full authority of the Government of India as to where I was going. Before I could answer, she thrust what looked like a form towards me- it actually was a form to be tick-marked and signed by anyone desiring audience with the high and mighty at the NCW.

I peered at the form as I had forgotten my spectacles, and she helpfully told me to tick-mark the reason why I was in her presence. I looked carefully, and figured out that I was to inform the NCW by just one tick-mark or two the reason of my visit. The choices were: Whether I was there as a victim or on behalf of a victim of a) rape; b) domestic violence c) dowry harassment; d) etc; e) etc; etc…

I was furious and wanted to thrust that form down her throat, till I calmed myself down that she was just a receptionist; and then I was furious again- she herself was a woman, how could she dole out such insensitive forms to victims of unspeakable crimes day after day; and how could she do it with such disdain?

I then told her that I was so and so wanting to meet a so and so from NCW. That got action- she stood up, hiding the nail-file under the table and began to escort me up the stairs. I finally entered the office of the lady I had to see- she stood up too, shook hands with me and offered me tea/coffee/water/soft drink. By then, I had lost my appetite for anything, including for the discussion I had gone there for.

I learnt so much more that day- that the NCW understands only English and Hindi, never mind that half the country knows neither; that not many people approach the NCW in person (how can they??); that people manning the NCW are bureaucrats who know as much about women’s issues as I know about rocket science; that sensitivity is the rarest commodity one can find there; and that the place is infested with people who just don’t care.

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How is Justice Sreedevi any different?

PS: I propose to visit the NCW again shortly to steal a copy of that form and send it across to Women’s Web.


About the Author


I am a former bureaucrat, and have worked a lot on gender issues, disaster management and good governance. I am also the proud father of two lovely daughters. read more...

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