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Nepal Must Improve Conditions of Former Indentured Labourers

New York, Sep 6 2011 3:10PM

The United Nations and local partners in Nepal today called for immediate steps to better the lives of over 100,000 bonded labourers and family members, who have seen scant improvement in their often deplorable conditions since the Government abolished the system in 2008.

“Three years after signing of the agreement, freed Haliyas have yet to receive promised relief and rehabilitation, and have yet to be issued with identity cards,” the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UN Human Rights Office in Nepal said in a joint statement with their partners, using the Nepalese term for the labourers.

“Consequently, the freed Haliyas continue to face difficulty in accessing basic needs including food, shelter and health services, thus forcing them to live in often deplorable conditions. This has a particular impact on the families of the Haliyas, including women and children. The lack of access to alternative livelihoods, as promised in the agreement, has also compelled many Haliyas to continue as bonded labourers with their former landlords”

The Haliya system was practiced in the hill districts of Nepal’s mid- and far western regions, affecting more than 100,000 persons, including children. Most of them are Dalits, often considered ‘untouchables’ at the bottom of the Hindu caste system, as well as indigenous peoples who have long been targets of all forms of discrimination.

Most Haliyas are landless and worked for landowners to pay off the principal and interest of loans taken by their ancestors. As they did not earn cash, they were unable to pay the debts, which were then passed on to the next generation.

The agencies noted that the draft Haliya Prohibition Bill had not been passed, and the Government had yet to form the high-level Haliya Emancipation and Rehabilitation Commission as agreed, stressing that tangible outcomes have yet to be achieved since the liberation of Haliyas was formally declared in the agreement of 7 September 2008.

They called for the immediate, effective and timely implementation of the 2008 agreement, including enactment of the Haliya Act in line with international standards and Haliya rehabilitation in a comprehensive and sustainable manner.

The Nepalese partners of the two UN agencies are the National Human Rights Commission, the National Dalit Commission and the National Women Commission.

Sep 6 2011 3:10PM
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