Sunday, July 20, 2014

Slavery In Mauritania

Mauritania has the highest proportion of people in slavery in the world. According to one NGO in Mauritania, up to 20 percent of the Mauritanian population is enslaved.5 While not identical to the Global Slavery Index estimated of prevalence, these two figures, in the absence of more precise measurement, point to a growing consensus of high levels of enslavement in Mauritania.

Slavery in Mauritania primarily takes the form of chattel slavery, meaning that adults and children in slavery are the full property of their masters who exercise total ownership over them and their descendants. Slave status has been passed down through the generations from people originally captured during historical raids by the slave-owning groups.6

People in slavery may be bought and sold, rented out and given away as gifts. Slavery is prevalent in both rural and urban areas. It is reported that women are disproportionately affected by slavery; for example, they usually work within the domestic sphere, and a high level of control is exercised over their movements and social interactions. They are subject to sexual assault by their masters. Women’s roles include childcare and domestic chores, but they may also herd animals and farm, as men in slavery do.7

Beyond the context of private homes, it is reported that some boys, who have been sent to attend Koranic schools to become talibes (students), have been forced into begging. Although the scale of this problem is not known, it is thought to be quite significant; affecting local boys as well as boys trafficked into Mauritania from the surrounding regions.8

It is also reported that women have been subjected to forced marriage and sexual exploitation, both within Mauritania but also in the Middle East.9 Slaves are not permitted to have any possessions, as they are considered to be possessions themselves. As such they are denied inheritance rights and ownership of land and other resources. When an enslaved person marries, the dowry is taken by the ‘master’ and if they die their property can be claimed by the ‘master’.10

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