Nepali girls seek rehabilitation for being sold off


KATHMANDU - Hundreds of Nepali girls, rescued after being sold off by their poor parents as domestic help, marched in Kathmandu yesterday demanding rehabilitation, including jobs and an education.

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 (€15).

The girls, known as kamlaris or indentured labourers, 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 the 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, head of the Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation engaged in freeing indentured labourers, said the girls also suffered from sexual abuse, torture and rape, and had no access to education.

"Give us compensation for sexual and labour 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.

"I want to become a journalist and write against the practice to educate people," said Ms Choudhury, who now attends high school.

Ms Choudhury said she knew of women who got pregnant after being raped and were thrown out of the house.

Another girl, Manjita Choudhury, who is not related to Urmila Choudhury, said she was only given leftovers to eat by the family she worked for in the western town of Tulsipur. "That life was worse than that of a dog," she said. - (Reuters)