- The government of Niger has been dragged to the Community Court of Justice of ECOWAS [the Economic Community of West African States] in Nigeria over its failure to implement laws against slavery introduced in 2003.
Backed by anti-slavery activists and human rights lawyers, a former slave, Hadijatou Mani filed the historic case against Niger with the hope of bringing an end to the barbaric culture. A full application of the 2003 laws would have protected Hadijatou from being further enslaved.
Niger government, that claimed to do all it could to avert slavery, was represented at the court by high-ranking officials, including the Prime Minister, Justice Minister and Speaker of Parliament.
But Ms Mani blamed the government for its continuous legitimization of slavery through discriminatory customary laws. She said these laws contradicted the constitution and criminal code.
In 2003, Niger's parliament passed a bill that decriminalized slavery. Under the law, offenders can be sent to jail for up to 30 years.
At 12 years, Hadijatou was sold into slavery for £250. Like other slaves, she was forced to do domestic and agricultural work and lived as a sexual slave or "sadaka" [gift] to her master, who had already had wives and seven other "sadaka."
She served her master and his family for 10 years in complete submission without being paid a dime, although she was subjected to regular beatings and sexual violence.
Her circumstances fall squarely within the longstanding internationally accepted definition of slavery as:
Hadijatou's life became even more complicated in 2005 when she was married to a man of her choice upon release from slavery. Her master insisted that she was still married to him.
She was taken to court and subsequently sentenced to six months in prison after she was found guilty of bigamy.
Activists said about 43,000 are still being enslaved across Niger. These people - who are made to do all labour required by their masters without pay - are born into an established slave class.
Slaves are inherited, given as gifts and can have their children taken away from their mothers at an early age, anti-slavery activists said.
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