There is a saying about daughters in Nepal: Raising a girl is like watering your neighbor’s garden.
Nepali girls are less likely than their brothers to get an education or earn an income, and in some families are considered temporary mouths to feed, as they will move in with their husband’s family at marriage.
In the country’s poorest rural villages of southwestern Nepal, there is a specific kind of discarded daughter found only among the ethnic Tharu farming families:
Kamlaris are house slaves, as young as five, who toil away their childhoods cooking, cleaning and babysitting in the homes of higher caste families.
Tharu fathers sell their daughters to work as kamlaris for the equivalent of $50 a year. It’s a fortune for the Tharu, sharecroppers who live on less than $1 a day. In exchange, “employers” make promises to feed, clothe and educate the girl. Trusting, illiterate, and desperate, Tharu parents rationalize the sale by saying their daughter won’t have to beg for food in the village, and her price tag will feed the rest of the family.
But bonded girls report being beaten, raped, starved, and forced to sleep on the floor. Their masters often break the work contracts, paying less or not at all. Few kamlaris go to school. In the worst cases, the girls disappear.
Read more about “Olga’s Girls” and indentured servitude in Nepal on Human Rights Day 2013.