Ex-Nepal "slave girls" demand rehabilitation

Tue Jan 6, 2009 5:46am EST
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By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Hundreds of Nepali girls, rescued after being sold off by their poor parents as domestic help, marched in Kathmandu Tuesday demanding rehabilitation like jobs and an education, activists said.

Traditionally girls as young as six or seven from the ethnic Tharu community in five districts of west Nepal were "sold" by their parents for as little as 1,500 Nepali rupees ($20).

The girls, known as kamlaris or indentured laborers, are often taken away by middlemen and made to work for about 20 hours a day as domestic help in cities or towns without any pay.

The government banned the system eight years ago and charities have so far freed 5,000 such girls. About 400 took part in Tuesday's protest in Kathmandu.

"We want rehabilitation, free education and training," read a placard carried by girls dressed in traditional long black and white dresses and with small pitchers balanced on their heads.

Som Paneru, chief of the Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation engaged in freeing indentured labourers, said the girls also suffered from sexual abuse, torture, rape and had no access to education.

"Give us compensation for sexual and labor exploitation," the protesters shouted.

Urmila Choudhury, 19, said she worked for more than 12 years as an indentured labourer with a family in Kathmandu before being rescued two years ago.   Continued...