Sheep magazine Archive 2: issues 10-17


Lefty online magazine: issue 10, May 2016 to issue 17, November 2016

‘We can now hope that these two boys will finally receive the justice they

deserve, following a complete failure of the justice system in Mauritania

to protect them and to challenge the current system of impunity favouring

slave owners,’ said Ruth Barry, MRG’s legal officer.

Mauritania abolished slavery in 1981, the last country in the world to

do so, and only made it a crime in 2007. Yet rights groups claim slavery

is hugely pervasive, with chattel slavery alone accounting for roughly

800,000 people out of a population of 3.5 million.

Hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of members of one family can be

beholden to another, anti-slavery activists in Mauritania claim, treated as

the property of their masters and forced to work for years without pay or

a single day off.


Slaves tend to be predominantly Haratine – descendants of black ethnic

groups who have historically been enslaved by the Moor and Berber

majority – with male slaves herding cattle or working on farms. Women

usually carry out domestic tasks around the house, including raising the

children of the families to whom they are enslaved. Forced marriage is

common – as is physical abuse and rape – and any child born of such a

marriage becomes another slave, by default.

Despite current legislation criminalising slavery, laws are rarely enforced,

said Sarah Mathewson, Africa programme manager at Anti-Slavery

International, which helped take the original case to the Mauritanian court

in 2011. A regional court ruling in favour of the boys is likely to have a

significant impact on Nouakchott’s current approach to slavery, she added.


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