National Commission of Women (NCW) chairperson Mamata Sharma on Friday called for a strengthening of the commission, welcoming the amendments proposed to the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 and the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
"The JJ Act must be amended, because a child of 14 years is much more aware of his or her surrounds today; there is a lot to absorb from the internet or the TV. The age should be lowered to 16 years," said Sharma, adding that the amendments to the Dowry Prohibition Act is also welcome as it deals with domestic violence. "There are two aspects to the debate, legal and sociological, and there must be proper debates with experts," she said.
Sharma’s comments came on the sidelines of a press conference announcing the end of her three year old tenure at the Commission. There has been no official word on who might succeed her.
Sharma said that even though she welcomed the changes to the NCW Act, she was not supportive of the idea of a retired judge heading the commission.
"The commission must be headed by someone who has a background of work with women, and knows the problems women face. A retired judge is not recommended simply because of the atmosphere they have functioned in, which is not conducive for a position like this," she said. On asked whether she thought if the tenure in the commission should be extended from the existing three years, she said that it was important to do so. "I think the tenure must be extended to five years, just so that projects can be implemented," she said.
Sharma also said that a lack of funds have also affected the functioning of the commission over the years. "If the government cares for women’s issues, there must be more funds for the commission to function," said Sharma. "We are vested with the power of simply summoning. Unlike the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), we have no actual powers. The proposed changes are important."