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National Legislation and Policies Against Child Labour in Nepal


The Constitution of Nepal, 1990, seeks to protect the interests of children by conferring on them certain fundamental rights and imposing for their benefit certain 'directive principles and policies of the State'. The State shall make necessary arrangements to safeguard the rights and interests of children, ensure that they are not exploited, and make gradual arrangements for free education.

Apart from the Constitution, the following four laws contain important provisions for the protection and advancement of the interests of children and child labourers:

  • The Children's Act, 1992: This Act was enacted to protect the rights and interests of Nepalese children and to ensure their physical, mental, and intellectual development. It also contains a number of provisions on child labour, and it has recently been amended to make the Act more abuse-specific, especially in relation to sexual abuse. The Act defines a child as a person below the age of 16 years and states that a child who has not attained the age of 14 shall not be employed in any work as a labourer;
  • The Labour Act, 1992, and Labour Rules, 1993, contain specific provisions for the prohibition of employment of children below the age of 14 years and prohibits admission to hazardous work for minors (aged between 14 and 18 years);
  • The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1999, followed Nepal's ratification of the ILO Minimum Age Convention (No. 138), and has made important amendments in the Labour Act, 1992. The Child Labour Act enlists specific occupations as hazardous work and prohibits the use of children below 16 years of age in such activities. The Act regulates hours of work for children aged 14 - 16 and provides that no child shall be engaged to work during a period from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Further, it prohibits the engagement ofs children below 14 in any kind of employment.
  • Kamaiya Labour Probihition Act, 2001, Prohibits bonded labour; frees bonded labourers and extinguishes debt flowing from such arrangements. As a result of the Kamaiya Act, many bonded girls in domestic servitude have been withdrawn and reintegrated with their families.

Other legal provisions restricting child labour and trafficking in the country include: the Citizen Rights Act, 1955; the Begging Prohibition Act, 1962; the Prison Act, 1962; the Common Law Code, 1963; the Public Offence and Punishment Act, 1970; the Foreign Employment Act, 1985; the Trafficking Control Act, 1986, and the Drug Trafficking (Control) Act.

Finally, the Self-Governance Act, 1997, makes important provisions for decentralised action for children and against child labour. For instance, much of the power for protecting girl children has devolved on the Village Development Committees (VDCs), which are obliged to give priority to development projects that directly benefit children.

Nepal is a signatory to the:

  • ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182);
  • ILO Minimum Age Convention (No. 138);
  • ILO Forced Labour Convention (No. 29);
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Government policies and programmes

There have been major political changes in Nepal since 1990. The country's monarch, King Gyanendra's direct rule came to an end in 2006 following civil war. Following this there was a nation-wide election in April 2008 and the newly formed Constituent Assembly abolished the monarchy and declared Nepal to be a democratic republic.

Some positive steps have however, been taken recently with regard to child labour policy development. Nepal has prepared a core Education For All (EFA) document for the period of 2004/09. The EFA envisages that by 2015, there should be universal access to quality basic education. A key measure to be implemented under the proposed EFA 2002/09 is providing 60 per cent of the education budget directly to schools. This will increase the net enrolment rate from the current 81 per cent to 96 per cent, and the literacy rate of those above 15 years of age from the current 48 per cent to 60 per cent by 2009. Also under the EFA is an initiative for five donors to provide financial assistance that will be spent in bringing 2.6 million new students to pre-primary schools. These various initiatives are expected to improve the access to and quality of schooling and will hopefully also benefit children in the worst forms of child labour. Among other important efforts figures the decision taken in July 2000 to outlaw the Kamaiya system of bonded labour, under which debt-ridden rural farmers and their children work as bonded labourers to pay off debts incurred by their ancestors. From the perspective of child development, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare and its Central Child Welfare Committee assume the responsibility for children and their right to development and protection. The Ministry also leads the efforts to combat trafficking and, with the assistance of IPEC, has revised the National Plan of Action to include combating trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation.

Last update: 18 June 2009 ^ top