Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Nepal: The End of Bonded Labor

Posted by n3wday on January 29, 2009

slaves-copyThis article was originally published in the Red Star. Many thanks to for making it available.  It was originally titled “The end  of bonded labour custom.”

The end of bonded labour custom
Menka Chaudhary

The Kamlari custom in Nepal has existed for a long time. Under this custom, the daughters of the Tharu community were sent to feudal lords or landlords as a guarantee for a debt. They work in the houses of the landlords until they are married or marriageable age. Most of them are victims of sexual exploitation.

The Kamlari custom is a hang over of slavery. This custom still exists from Dang, Banke, Bardia, Kailali to Kanchanpur districts. It is a tradition. According to the custom, the parents of Tharu indigenous tribe send their daughters to work in the houses of landlords for one year after the celebration of their biggest festival Maghi. Every year the members of the family of Tharu tribe get together and celebrate the Maghi festival. In this festival, the daughters have a formal right whether they want to go to the house of the same landlord or not. However, due to their economic and social status, the daughters are forced to go to the same landlord’s house or to other landlords. They have no other alternative other than to choose the landlords. But they have to go.

A non-government organization, FNC, has taken the initiative to declare one of the five districts Bardia as a ‘no Kamlari Zone’. The manager of the institution (FNC) Man Bahadur Kshetri says, ‘there are 4688 Kamlaris in the 5 districts. 1041 are in the Bardia district.’ The FNC have helped 628 Kamlaris and 552 have been sent to school.
Although the government has declared a civil act to liberate the Kamaiya and Kamlari and to eradicate Kamlari custom, it has not been implemented in practice. The sisters, daughters, the young and even the old men are working in the houses of landlords as cattle grazers, making fences, ploughman, cow-herd, buffalo-herd and Kamlaris.

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