06/05/2013, 00.00
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Kamalari, girls and women victims of slavery in Nepal

by Kalpit Parajuli
Sold into slavery by their families in debt. Kathmandu condemns slavery, but in the poorest regions of the country, it remains a common practice. An activist: "victims of continuing violence, but police will not conduct any investigation."

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The increase in rapes, murders and violence against Nepalese female slaves (kamalari) drives many young women in the capital to demand the government for greater recognition of their rights. On June 2, about 70 girls gathered in front of the administrative offices, to protest. The police charged the protesters and about 15 of them suffered beatings and bruises.

The kamalari are often very young girls sold as slaves to landlords by rural families who can not pay rent. The phenomenon is especially prevalent in the mid-western region of the country, in the districts of Dang, Bardia and Kailali. The sale and use of kamalari is still a widespread practice in Nepal, although the law prohibits slavery. The girls are often the victims of violence by their masters and do not enjoy any protection from the courts.

On 27 March, 12-year old Srijana Chaudhari suffered severe burns that resulted in her death a few days later. The girl worked for an engineer in Lalitpur district. Last year, Meghi Chaudhari, 16, died in similar circumstances. According to Freed Kamalari Development Forum, an organization supporting young Nepalese slaves, at least 22 kamalari have disappeared over the last five years. Phakala Tharu, coordinator of the Forum, told AsiaNews that "some are found dead, others injured, but no investigation is ever carried out. Unfortunately this is just the tip of the iceberg, what makes the problem visible - added the activist - there are actually dozens of kamalari victims, every day, of sexual and other forms of violence at the hands of their masters. "

Kathmandu adheres to international treaties and conventions against slavery, but the problem is still widespread in the poorest areas of the country. In September 2008, a committee of three Supreme Courts of Justice urged the government to condemn the kamalari tradition  as a system of slavery and to formulate specific laws for the problem. But Kathmandu has yet to accept the proposal.



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