There are an estimated 171,000 people living in modern slavery in Nepal. Within Nepal, bonded labour exists in agriculture, brick kilns, the stone-breaking industry, and domestic work. Sex trafficking of Nepali women and girls increasingly takes place in private apartments, rented rooms, guest houses, and restaurants. Nepali and Indian children are subjected to forced labor in the country, especially in domestic work, brick kilns, and the embroidered textile, or zari, industry. Under false promises of education and work opportunities, Nepali parents give their children to brokers who instead take them to frequently unregistered children’s homes in urban locations, where they are forced to pretend to be orphans to garner donations from tourists and volunteers; some of the children are also forced to beg on the street.
Laboni* was sent to an orphanage after her parents could no longer afford to look after her. At the orphanage Laboni was forced to do all the housework, being subjected to beatings if she did not do the work properly.
I come from a very poor family. We had no regular source of income. We lived in a remote village, and most of the time I didn’t go to school because I had to work in the fields.
When I was seven I broke my arm while playing. There was no hospital nearby, so my parents took me to a witch doctor. His treatment failed and the blood stopped circulating in my arm. My parents sold our land and used the money to take me for treatment in Kathmandu. They had to amputate my arm.
My father sent me to an orphanage in Kathmandu when I was nine… I was confused and heartbroken.
The orphanage owners – a husband and wife – said I could stay there and they would send me to school. At first everyone treated me well, but then they asked me and the other three children there to do all the household works.
We washed the clothes, cleaned the rooms and cooked all the food. We were even taken to their relative’s house and told to do work for them too.
If we did not do the work properly, they would beat us. They pulled my hair, sometimes they slapped me.
That was not really an orphanage, the name was just a cover for them. We were only there to work. It felt like I was in jail. I hope I will never meet them again in my life.
I was there for two years. I stayed because I wanted to study, and my parents could not afford it.
My parents were not allowed to come to the orphanage. I could only meet them at school. The owners were afraid we would expose their behaviour to our parents.
I felt so happy when I left. The owners were very angry. They did not hand over our possessions and they did not pay us anything.
I’m very happy doing this [paralegal] work. When victims come, I feel like I can empathise with them. I understand them more because of what I’ve been through.
*Not their real name
Narrative provided by Anti-Slavery