The United Nations human rights agency has urged Nepal's government to search for girls who went missing after their parents sold them into domestic service, and urged an end to the practice.
Traditionally girls as young as six or seven from the ethnic Tharu community in five districts of west Nepal have been sent to work with families in towns and cities for as little as 1,500 Nepali rupees ($20).
The girls, known as "kamalaris" or indentured labourers, are often taken away by middlemen and made to work for about 20 hours a day without pay.
Although the government abolished the practice eight years ago and charities have rescued about 5,000 girls, activists say thousands of girls are still illegally employed.
"Parents send their daughters to be kamalaris as a last resort when they are under extreme pressure to settle debts; many of them end up being trafficked," Richard Bennett, from the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights in Nepal, said late on Wednesday.
"I urge the government to take concrete steps to prohibit this practice, search for the missing kamalaris, and provide for rehabilitation to those who have been victims of this practice."
Hundreds of girls, rescued after working as indentured labourers for years, began protests in Kathmandu this week demanding education, training and jobs.
They want the government to determine the fate of the missing girls, and seek justice for those who suffered sexual exploitation, torture, rape and other abuses.
Last Mod: 08 Ocak 2009, 16:34