UN urges end to Nepalese practice of using young girls as domestic workers

7 January 2009 – The United Nations has urged Nepal to end the practice of sending young girls from indigenous families to work in private homes, where they risk being exploited, and to ensure justice for those who have been abused as well as search for those who have gone missing.

The practice – known as Kamalari – is outlawed in Nepal, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal) noted in a news release issued in the capital, Kathmandu.

However, despite a September 2006 Supreme Court order on the implementation of an existing law that prohibits child exploitation, including the Kamalari system, no concrete steps have been taken to end the practice and adolescent girls from poor Tharu families continue to be subjected to it, the Office added.

“It is clear that parents send their daughters to be Kamalaris as a last resort when they are under extreme pressure to settle debts; many of them end up being trafficked,” said the Representative of OHCHR-Nepal, Richard Bennett.

Yesterday Mr. Bennett met with a 10-member delegation representing 600 Kamalaris from the Mid and Far Western regions of the country, who came to the capital to campaign for the implementation of the Supreme Court decision and for the liberation and rehabilitation of all Kamalaris.

The delegation is also seeking clarification of the fate of Kamalaris who have gone missing and justice for those who have been subject to sexual or other kinds of exploitation. In addition, they are calling for an end to the practice of contracting Kamalaris during the Tharu festival of Maghi, which is celebrated in mid-January.

OHCHR-Nepal’s Mid Western Regional Office has been supporting the Civil Society Network in Dang to end the practice and support former Kamalaris and their families, including by enhancing understanding and knowledge about human rights standards and monitoring violations.

“I urge the Government to take concrete steps to prohibit this practice, search for the missing Kamalaris, and provide for rehabilitation to those who have been victims of this practice,” said Mr. Bennett.