Reviewing the child labour debates through Kamlahari system in Nepal

The Kamaiya (debt-bondage) system affecting a section of the Tharu ethnic group in Nepal was outlawed in 2000 but it has found its way as Kamalahari, Kamaiya child bonded labour. This Kamalahari (Kamaiya child bonded labour) system in Nepal has been labelled as modern forms of
slavery by international and national human rights organizations and policy makers. This study presents two perspectives on children at work. The first perspective theorizes children at work as child labour. It uses Gillian’s (2003) supply-push, demand/pull and meso/micro/macro factors to explore
the various determinants that are supporting the continuation of child labour. Like in the case of Kamalaharis, even after the declaration of the Kamaiya Prohibition Act 2000 and enormous efforts made by the ILO/IPEC and the Government of Nepal to eradicate the system, the practice still
prevails. It also explores the various laws and policy interventions against child-debt bondage in Nepal. The second perspective then applies Hobbs and McKechnie’s (1998) ‘balance model’ to the extensive literature on child labour debates. It explores the various determinants of banning child
labour and its consequences on children. The paper highlights the pros and cons on the debates between working children and child labour eradication and pins the gaps and overlaps. It looks at the why the state and organisations concerned about child labour should not simply focus on eradicating child labour but also need to consider the basic needs of the children and their families including protection from exploitation at work.