While a slave is commonly known as a person who is the legal property of another, whom they must obey, slavery is more than that. Slavery is the stripping away of a person’s humanity, their rights, their life.
These ideas and concepts have passed over many, many people’s heads around the world, throughout history. From ancient Mesopotamia (if not before) to today, slaves are being used around the world. The reason so many societies used slavery is because it is a cheap source of manual labor (servitude, prostitution, marriage, etc.
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), meaning with slaves, someone could increase their work efficiency multiple times over. Modern slavery, also known as “contemporary slavery,” includes domestic servitude, prostitution, forced, bonded or child labor, forced marriage, so on and so forth.The country of Mauritania holds one of the higher proportions of people living in slavery globally. For instance, India, being the second most populated country in the world with about 1.35 billion people living there, has more than 18 million people living in modern slavery, or 1.
4% of its population. Mauritania, as of 2017, had a population of around 4.45 million, with about 4 to 20 percent of the population in slavery (there are not many reliable data sources so a more precise number isn’t clear). Slave status is passed down from generation to generation with the whole system being completely integrated into the social system.
The UNFP (United Nations Population Fund) estimates that as many as 35% of marriages in Mauritania are either forced or early. Maslaha marriages (kinship marriages) continue to be common with many girls marrying young. Ironically, this is done in an attempt to keep the girls safe from rape and sexual violence. Another practice that continues is siriya (temporary marriages). For example, a young girl is married off to a Saudia Arabian man then sent back when he is satisfied. Mauritanian girls/women are also at risk of being sold/forced into prostitution by their “husbands”.
As of 2016, there are an estimated 20,000 people in forced labor. In the domestic sector, women have the difficult tasks of fetching water, gathering firewood, preparing food, and caring for their master’s children. The men herd animals and work in the fields. In the Middle East, Mauritanian domestic workers are in high demand. For example, in September 2015, Mauritanian trade unions reported over 900 Mauritanian women being trafficked to Saudi Arabia. All people in Mauritania are vulnerable to multiple risk factors that could put and keep them in slavery.
The society of Mauritania is greatly divided by ethnicity, descent, castes and class. Mauritania’s average vulnerability score (as of 2016) is 46.77/100. The Black Moors (Haratines), were historically enslaved by Arab Moors, the minority rulers. Today, many Black Moors are still under the control, either direct or indirect, of Arab Moor masters.
Some AfroMauritanians, including the Peuhl, Soninke, Wolof and Bambara, are persistently vulnerable to modern slavery due to their discriminatory societal status. AfroMauritanians and Black Moors are excluded from political and economic life resulting in negative economic disparity compared to other groups. It is estimated that about 42% of Mauritanians are living in poverty.
There is a persistent severe food crisis due to the harsh climatic conditions to which the Mauritania people are subjugated. Many children in Mauritania do not attend school, regardless of a “constitutional guarantee of free compulsory primary education”. In 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism reported that as many as 80% of children in Harintine communities in Nouakchott do not attend school. As many children do not even have birth registration certificates, they are denied access to essential health and education services, have limited ability to assert property rights, and have reduced legal work options. The flow of Malian refugees into Mauritania led to the creation of the M’bera refugee camp with new refugees continued to arrive throughout 2015. The traditional caste system is even seen in the refugee camp with many impacts, including equitable aid distribution. Mauritanians and other Sub-Saharan African migrants are vulnerable to human trafficking as they travel not only within the country but also into North Africa.
With large and poorly-patrolled borders, there is traffickers are able to exploit victims with impunity. Matalla, a former slave who escaped in 2005 from his nomadic Arab masters in the deserts of northeast Mauritania, knows neither his last name nor his age. He seems to be in his 30’s or 40’s.”I was born a slave.”His masters were a warrior group of Arabs called the Reguibat, who required him to workas a camel shepherd, look after goats, and make charcoal.
“As far as I know … all my family, all my ancestors were slaves of that group … My aunt, my brothers are still slaves with them.
I’ve had no contact with them (since I escaped).””The life was difficult and the fact that I was a slave made it even more so.”He shares that he never received breakfast or lunch and was only allowed to eat leftovers of the evening meal. They were often tied up when they lost track of an animal(s). He states he has a scar (pointing to his right cheekbone) from when the masters’ children had hit him with a stick for losing an animal.”When I became conscious of what my situation was, I thought of the best way to escape without being caught. I knew that if I didn’t find that way, I could be killed.
“One day, two years prior to telling his story (2005), he was out herding the masters’ camels when he came across a group of Mauritanian soldiers in a vehicle who were looking for milk to drink. The leader of the soldiers was a Haratine, a descendant of slaves.”The head of the group asked me about my situation. He asked ‘Do you want to stay with your masters or not? I will help you if you want to leave.’ ””I said, ‘Yes, I want to go,’ as long as they could guarantee my safety.
“”We went to get the milk. Then we left in the car. My masters were very angry.”He said he told the soldiers that his masters had tortured him, that they beat his brothers and sisters. He said, “I’d rather you shoot me, than be left here.
“Matalla states that his masters had more slaves than could be counted.Question: “How do you feel about being free?”Matalla’s Answer: “The difference is that I am responsible for myself and don’t have to put up with insults. I feel completely free.
I do odd jobs. I want to work.”Question: “Do you forgive your former masters?”Matalla’s Answer: “No .
.. they are bad people. I wouldn’t go back. I think of the members of my family who are still there.
“The CNN Freedom Project is a year-long humanitarian news media campaign launched by CNN and CNN International in 2011 to “end modern-day slavery” and related illegal practices, including human trafficking all around the world. The project outlines 5 ways that Mauritania could end slavery.Implement the law against slavery: While Mauritania abolished slavery in 1981, it took until 2007 to make it a crime. And even with that, only a single slave owner has been successfully prosecuted. If it is serious about changing, the country must enforce the law it already has on the books.
“People are conspiring to make sure these cases get buried,” said Sarah Mathewson, Africa program coordinator for Anti-Slavery International.Teach people slavery is a crime: There are many Mauritanians who live in isolated parts of the Sahara Desert. They do not even know that slavery is a crime. It is incumbent upon both Government and non-governmental organizations to travel to these areas and educate people about the existing anti-slavery law and ensure the rights are understood.Support slaves after they escape: Even now, , there are only two centers designed to aid those who escape from slavery. Both of these are in Mauritania’s capital, Nouakchott.
These centers only help a a few dozen people and need to be prepared for significantly more if slavery is to be eradicated. There also need to be centers in rural areas. Ex-slaves will need eeducation if they are to become productive members of the economy.Compensate slavery’s victims: Recently escaped slaves should be paid reparations for the time they spent in slavery.
There should be a governmental fund that controls compensation with slave owners bearing responsiblity for payment.. The escapted slaves could use that money to get housing and become part of the workforce.Investigate the Extent Slavery: With an unsupportive government, researchers have not been able to conduct a full survey of Mauritania slavery . With the lack of data, activists and researchers are uncertain about how many people in Mauritania are enslaved and what types of slavery exist there.
Traditional slavery, in which families are enslaved and work without pay, is thought to be the most common form of slavery there, but human trafficking and other modern forms of slavery may exist too.(There is another organization called SOS-Esclaves that appears to assist in these same matters but there was very little information that I could find)