Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The price of a woman? $500

In what will hopefully be a landmark decision, a West African court ruled that the Republic of Niger failed to protect a woman from being sold into slavery when she was 12 years old.

The Community Court of Justice, the judicial body of the West African regional organization ECOWAS, ordered the Niger government to pay close to $20,000 in damages to Hadijatou Mani, who is now 24.

Slavery wasn't officially outlawed in Niger until 2003, but remains a problem there and in nearby West African countries like Mali and Mauritania.

As The New York Times reported:

Ms. Mani’s experience was typical of the practice. She was born into a traditional slave class and sold to Souleymane Naroua when she was 12 for about $500.

Ms. Mani told court officials that Mr. Naroua had forced her to work his fields for a decade. She also claimed that he raped her repeatedly over the years.

"I was beaten so many times I would run back to my family," she told the BBC. "Then after a day or two I would be brought back."

[...]

She had initially sought protection under Niger’s laws. In 2005, Mr. Naroua gave her a certificate freeing her, but when she tried to get married he claimed that she was already married to him.


Some observers have compared Ms. Mani to Rosa Parks. This is probably an understatement. It's difficult to imagine how much courage it took for her to bring the case in an extremely conservative society by challenging traditional practices that have been going on for generations.

The Niger government said it would respect the court's decision.


Also see:
-Anti-Slavery International
-Free the Slaves
-UN information of human trafficking

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