Women and Justice: Keywords

Legislation

Labour Act (2007)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

The Labour Act (the “Act”) establishes protections for employees and regulates the employer/employee relationship. In particular, this Act prohibits any form of child labor, forced labor, or discrimination and/or sexual harassment in the workplace. The Act also provides for basic conditions of employment to which an employer must adhere, including maternity leave for female employees. An employer may not provide disadvantageous terms in an employment contract or promote unfair labor practices. Violations of this Act expose employers to various penalties. Employees may refer disputes to the Labour Commissioner or the Labour Court to obtain relief.



International Case Law

Somprasad Paneru and Others v. Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers and Others Supreme Court of Nepal (2006)

Trafficking in persons

Citing reports that a traditional custom called Kamlari sends over 10,000 children between the ages of 7 and 8 into servitude for wealthy households or small businesses, a petition called for new controls on this practice which is against both Nepalese constitutional law and the Convention on Rights of the Child, 1989 (CRC). The Court ordered the Government of Nepal to frame laws to abolish Kamlari and ensure protection of affected children. In addition, the Court called on the government to develop comprehensive legislation addressing the underlying issues that perpetuate such harmful practices, such as education and employment, especially amongst girls and women. By rooting out the base causes for harmful traditional practices, the Supreme Court of Nepal showed a crucial willingness to identify and address the societal problems driving harmful practices, providing hope for real change in women’s and human rights.



Pun Devi Maharjan v GoN, Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers and Others Supreme Court of Nepal (2008)

Gender discrimination

A petition claimed that the traditional practice of electing young girls as Kumaris, or “goddesses”, who are expected to follow certain social restrictions and appear at religious festivals violated the rights of the child. After ordering a study the Court found that this practice did not prevent the Kumari from getting an education or qualify as child labor. Rather, the Court found Kumaris to be an important cultural and religious institution and ordered compensation for former Kumaris who had not been socially reintegrated and ordered a study to find recommendations for preserving the rights, interests, and social security of current and ex-Kumaris. This case shows an astute consideration of the balance between cultural preservation and child’s rights in a country with deep cultural and religious traditions. Additionally, it sets the important precedent of considering the practical well-being and rights of the child before implementing human rights reforms.



Domestic Case Law

Bachpan Bachao Andolan v. Union of India & Others Supreme Court of India (2011)

Trafficking in persons

Children’s’ rights, child labor, forced labor, human trafficking, sexual abuse. Bachpan Bachao Andolan, a non-governmental organization in India submitted a petition to the Supreme Court of India to take action against the use of child performers in India’s traveling circuses. A study found that children were being trafficked from Nepal or taken from their homes, exploited as child laborers in these circuses, and subjected to mental, physical, and sexual abuse. In recognition that this practice was in violation of child labor laws and regulations on a child’s right to an education, among other national and international statutes, the Supreme Court gave an order to prohibit the employment of children in circuses, raid circuses to free children, and establish rehabilitation schemes for the child victims. This case is an important victory for children’s rights in India, where parents often sell their children to work at a young age, and also displays the willingness of the Supreme Court of India to hear petitions from NGOs, offering an important avenue for human rights reform.



Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association v. The Cabinet Division Bangladesh Supreme Court (2011)

Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices, Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

In an application under Article 102 of the Constitution, the Bangladesh National Women's Lawyers Association (BNWLA) petitioned the Supreme Court of Bangladesh (High Court Division) to address the exploitation and abuse endured by child domestic laborers in Bangladesh. The BNWLA argued that child domestic workers are subjected to economic exploitation, physical and emotional abuse, and the deprival of an education in violation of their fundamental constitutional rights. In support of these arguments, it presented multiple reports of extreme abuse suffered by child domestic workers. In deciding this case, the Court reviewed the current laws in Bangladesh, including the Labour Act, 2006, which fails to extend labor protections to "domestic workers," including children, and lacks an effective implementation and enforcement system. The Court directed the government of Bangladesh to take immediate steps to increase its protection of the fundamental rights of child domestic workers including prohibiting children under the age of twelve from working in any capacity including domestic settings; supporting the education of adolescents; implementing the National Elimination of Child Labour Policy 2010 and applying the Labour Act, 2006 to domestic workers. Additionally, the Court directed the government to monitor and prosecute incidents of violence against child domestic workers, maintain a registry of domestic workers and their whereabouts to combat trafficking, promulgate mandatory health check-ups and strengthen the legal framework relating to child domestic workers.



Memoranda

Exploitation of Child Workers in Bangladesh (2010)

Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices, Trafficking in persons

This memorandum examines the exploitation of child domestic workers in Bangladesh and the ties between child domestic labor and trafficking.



Public Policy Considerations of Child Domestic Labor and Exploitation of Child Domestic Workers (2010)

Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices

This memorandum examines the public policy considerations raised by child domestic labor and the exploitation of child domestic workers.