The National Commission for Women (NCW) is likely to pin down Himachal government on the ‘disturbing phenomenon’ of ‘child marriages’ and ‘unregistered marriages’ allegedly going unnoticed in interior Shillai area in Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh.
A three member team led by NCW member, Rekha Sharma had visited Shillai, one of the most backward sub-division in the country, last week to probe reports of alleged ‘trafficking of poor girls under the garb of marriages’ and may come out with a report shortly.
"I have met so many people in the area. Prima facie, I can’t say or prove that trafficking of girls is being done. But it is certainly a matter of concern as to how the men from Haryana are able to get information on girls for marriage from this area, which is backward with poor road connectivity. It indicates the presence of some middlemen in the process in an organised manner,” NCW member, Rekha Sharma told The Statesman over phone.
She talked of worrying phenomenon of alleged child marriages and unregistered marriages in the area.
“We got records in the hospital as per which the girls, who have not attained the age of 18 years, have delivered babies. Many marriages are unregistered, which is a disturbing trend,” she said.
The media had recently brought to light that the poor and illiterate girls from Shillai were being married to men from Haryana allegedly over ‘monetary benefits’ due to economic stress. Haryana, the reports said, had skewed sex ratio so men from there come to this interior belt of Himachal, looking for brides.
The Himachal government had, however, rubbished such reports of marriages in lieu of monetary benefits, which were, although, based on the survey by then Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) on the marriages of girls from Shillai in Haryana.
Even Chairman of Himachal Pradesh State Commission for Women, Jenab Chandel, who went to Shillai to look into the issue, had denied any such phenomenon.
However, dissatisfied with the replies of the state functionaries, including the police, the NCW member, who visited Shimla in December last year for public hearing, had decided to look into the matter herself.
Sources said the NCW team, which included legal expert also, talked to a number of families in Shillai area.
The team visited Demana village in Manal Panchayat near Shillai, where out of around 30 families, nine girls were married in Haryana and some parents were reportedly unable to tell where their daughters were living.
The NCW member said the team would make a report based on observations and recommendations and shortly submit it to the Commission, the Central government and the state government.
“The Himachal government should investigate into the whole issue, go deeper into the socio-economic reasons in the area and have a development plan to uplift people,” she said.