Global Politics

Slavery verdict against Niger

(Who is this woman and what happened to her?) This woman is 24 years old. At the age of 12 she says she was bought for approximately $500 dollars by a man in a remote area of Niger and she was then forced to work on his farm and in his home. Just five years ago, slavery became totally illegal in Niger, and basically this woman decided she would try to get her freedom through the courts. She failed first in a local court but then went to a West African regional court and told the judges there that she was often beaten, raped at the age of 13, and this effectively means she now has her freedom. (Until now, had any laws been enforced against slavery in Niger?) There had been efforts, by a couple of NGOs, but one of these organizations thinks there's as many as 40,000 people living as slaves in Niger. But this court said the Nigerian government had not done enough and told them to pay $20,000 to this woman. (What is this regional court and how much weight does it pull?) it's a court that all of the countries in the West African region have signed up to and therefore any citizen in the region can go to it to seek redress. Many slaves in the region will find it difficult to get access to the kind of legal help and support that this woman has had. But it does offer hope for people across the region in places like Mali and Mauritania where this ancient practice still continues. (Is $20,000 dollars considered a hefty fine in Niger and will this be a deterrent?) the government wouldn't be able to afford it if a lot of these slaves brought their cases forward. As for this woman, this compensation will be of great help. She says she wants custody of her two children who are basically owned by her former slave master.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the audio to hear it.)

++ a very informative interview, WR shares a wealth of info on this topic.

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