Indian Nobel peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi called Friday on Nepalese lawmakers to do more to protect children in the Himalayan nation, home to more than 1.6 million child labourers. Satyarthi, who is on a three-day visit to Nepal, urged parliamentarians to enshrine child rights in a new national constitution currently being drafted.
"It is your responsibility to constitutionally ensure the protection, freedom, dignity, education and health of the children," he said in an address to parliament. Satyarthi won the Nobel for a 35-year battle to free thousands of children from slave labour, splitting the award with the Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai.
His Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Movement to Save Childhood) says it has liberated more than 80,000 children from bonded labour in factories and workshops across India and has networks of activists in more than 100 countries, including Nepal. A 2012 International Labour Organisation report found that more than 1.6 million minors in Nepal work as child labourers.
Trafficking is also a major issue in Nepal, where thousands of children are smuggled to India, Bangladesh and the UAE every year to work. "How can we say we are civilised when our sons and daughters are priced less than animals and sold in the markets?" said Satyarthi. Nepal's parliament is currently drafting a new national constitution after a decade-long Maoist insurgency that brought down the monarchy.