Kathmandu, October 10:

The Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW) is all set to table a bill on the National Women’s Commission (NWC) in the House of Representatives to make the commission independent and autonomous statutory body after approval from the cabinet.

The proposed bill on NWC Act has responded to the Optional Protocol of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 2000.

According to an official at MoWCSW, Nepal is a signatory to the Optional Protocol. “Hence, it permits individual woman or groups of women from Nepal who have exhausted all national remedies to bring petitions directly to the Committee. Previously, only state parties could officially lodge petitions with the Committee,” said Ritu Raj Bhandari, under secretary at MoWCSW, adding that the Optional Protocol also entitles the Committee to conduct inquiries into grave or systematic violations of the Convention. The NWC will be accountable to the Prime Minister instead of the Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare.

“The bill also widens the responsibility of NWC, allowing the commission to conduct inquiries and investigations on its own or upon a petition or complaint filed to it on violation of women’s rights. It can also probe into matters with the permission of the court in respect of any claim on violations of women’s rights,” said Bhandari. The Commission can visit and observe any authority, jail or any organisation under the government and submit necessary recommendations to it on the reform to be made on its functions, procedures and physical facilities.

Earlier, the NWC’s responsibilities were confined to work for the welfare of women, bring women’s empowerment through the protection and promotion of women’s rights, gender equality, social justice and create an environment for women’s representation in the mainstream national development.