Niger’s Failure to Protect Citizen from Enslavement Condemned by African Regional Court

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As reported at IntLawGrrls, the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice) on Monday, October 27th, condemned member state Niger for its failure to protect its citizen Hadijatou Mani from enslavement.  Hadijatou Mani’s story is incredible, though unfortunately, probably not unusual.  At the age of 12, she was sold, for $500, to a master who exploited not only as a physical laborer but as a sexual slave, selling her into a “marriage” with a friend of his, the very man who had put Hadijatou’s mother into slavery years earlier.  Hadijatou sought to marry a different man, but when she sought legal protection, she was instead convicted of bigamy and sentenced to six months in prison.  

When it ruled in favor of Hadijatou Mani on Monday, the ECOWAS court awarded her 15,000 euros (about $19,000, according to IntLawGrrls).  An attorney for Anti-Slavery International, one of the organizations supporting Mani in her fight, observed that the victory demonstrates “that a women of the most disfavored class can make her rights recognized.  It is also a message addressed, notably, to the countries of this region.”  An important message and one that cannot be repeated often enough, given that, as the same LeMonde article reports, approximately 43,000 of Niger’s 12 million inhabitants, and 18 percent of Mauritania’s population, are enslaved.  

–Jessica Slavin

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