The Guardian makes no mention, of course, of the fact that this girl’s status as a slave and a concubine is sanctioned by Islamic law. “And all married women are forbidden unto you save those captives whom your right hands possess…” (Qur’an 4:24). Until that changes, hardline Muslims will reject rulings like this. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in Niger.
“Niger guilty in landmark slavery case,” from The Guardian, October 27:
A court in west Africa today convicted Niger of failing to protect a young girl sold into slavery in a landmark judgment with potentially far-reaching implications for the tens of thousands of people who remain enslaved in the region.
The justice arm of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) ruled that Niger, where slavery remains common in rural areas despite being officially abolished five years ago, had failed in its obligations to protect Hadijatou Mani.
Mani, who brought the case with the assistance of British-based anti-slavery groups, has said she was sold into slavery at the age of 12 for around Â£325 and regularly beaten and sexually abused.
“I am very happy with this decision,” she told reporters after the ruling was announced, Reuters reported.
The court, sitting in the Niger capital of Niamey, ordered the state to pay her 10 million CFA francs (about Â£12,000) in damages and accumulated interest.
The ruling by the panel of judges from Senegal, Mali and Togo will bring hope to the more than 40,000 people being held as slaves in rural Niger and across the region.
Speaking before the judgment, Mani said: “It was very difficult to challenge my former master and to speak out when people see you as nothing more than a slave. But I knew that this was the only way to protect my child from suffering the same fate. Nobody deserves to be enslaved.”
The life of a sadaka, or sexual slave, was described in detail by Mani during the court case. She explained how she had been born a slave, sold and then transferred as a child against her mother’s wishes to a man named El Hadj Souleymane Naroua. She testified that she had been raped at 13 and constantly forced to have sex with her 63-year-old master, who owned seven other slaves.
In 2005, two years after Niger enacted a law forbidding slavery, Mani was presented with a “liberation certificate”. This proved to be worthless, as she was immediately forced into a “wahiya marriage”, with the status of a concubine….