In Nepal, UN and Partners Call for Improvement of Former Bonded Laborers' Lives

An Nepalese indentured worker or a Haliya. Photo by: Kedar Badu / Nepal in Pictures

Three years since Nepalese bonded workers were liberated, more than 100,000 of them and their family members still live in deplorable conditions. This has prompted the United Nations and its partners to call for immediate steps to improve their lives.

Nepalese indentured workers — called Haliyas in Nepalese — are landless and worked for landowners to pay off the debt of their ancestors. Because they did not earn cash, their debt was often passed on to the next generation.The Haliya system was practiced in the hill districts of Nepal’s mid- and far-western regions before Haliyas were formally emancipated by the government on Sept. 7, 2008.

But according to the U.N. International Labor Organization and the U.N. Human Rights Office in Nepal, Haliyas still lack access to basic needs such as food, shelter and health services, forcing many of them to return to bonded labor with their former landlords.

The U.N. also noted that important provisions in the 2008 agreement with the Nepalese government have not been realized, such as the enactment of a Haliya Prohibition Bill and the formation of a high-level Haliya Emancipation and Rehabilitation Commission,

In a joint statement, the U.N. agencies, together with the National Human Rights Commission, the National Dalit Commission and the National Women Commission called for the implementation of the 2008 agreement and the passage of the Haliya Act toward comprehensive and sustainable rehabilitation of Haliyas.

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About the author

  • Che de los Reyes

    As a senior staff writer, Che focuses on international development breaking news coverage as well as interviews and features. Prior to joining Devex, Che handled communications for local and international development NGOs and government institutions in the Philippines.