Nepal protesters demand end to child labour practice
June 04 2013 08:21 PM
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Nepalese formerly indentured child labourers, or kamlaris, protest against the government in Kathmandu yesterday.

AFP/Kathmandu

Former indentured child labourers marched through the Nepal capital yesterday, demanding an end to the enslavement of children, a traditional practice in the Himalayan nation.

About 100 people marched in heavy monsoon rains, calling on the government to crack down on the “kamlari tradition” in the latest protest sparked by the death of a 12-year-old girl in her employer’s home.

During an annual winter festival in western Nepal, impoverished parents make verbal contracts with middlemen, and sell their daughters for Rs4,000-6,000 ($50-75) into a lifetime of bonded labour.

“The government doesn’t regard us as people,” Kumati Chaudhary, 50, said, taking part in the march in Kathmandu.

“I was sold to be a kamlari when I was 10 years old and only escaped when an NGO saved me a few years ago,” she said.

The latest protest comes following the death of 12-year-old Srijana Chaudhary in Kathmandu in late March.

According to local media reports, protesters on Sunday were threatened with batons by police in Kathmandu and in Dang district, some 280km (174 miles) west of the capital.

“Srijana Chaudhary’s death has gone uninvestigated. The government has never taken any action to protect girls and end the kamlari trade,” Man Bahadur Chhetri, co-ordinator of the kamlari movement for Nepal Youth Opportunity Foundation, said.

Police say they investigated the case thoroughly and found it to be a suicide.

“No links suggested that she was murdered,” Rajendra Man Shrestha, a chief of the Metropolitan Police, said.

“We have collected testimony from the eyewitness and gathered evidence which all indicate that she burnt herself,” he said.

Activists, however, say that the protest is part of a bigger battle for justice and rights.

“We have tried for more than a decade to end this, but powerful people in Nepal with political connections use kamlaris so it’s a big fight,” Chhetri said, adding that his organisation has rescued more than 12,000 girls from
servitude in the last 13 years.

Nepal’s Supreme Court banned the kamlari system in 2006, but according to Unicef, the practice remains common.

 

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