Country Visit by the Special Rapporteur on Slavery
Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences: In her report A/HRC/30/35/Add.1 based on her mission to Niger, the Special Rapporteur Urmila Bhoola paid special attention to the issue of caste discrimination in the form of descent-based slavery practices. After having conducted a thorough analysis of the country’s legal, institutional and policy framework the Special Rapporteur highlighted descent based slavery as one of the major issues of concern for her mandate. While commending Niger’s criminalization of slavery in 2003, the Rapporteur pointed to a number of challenges the Government faces to address the root causes of slavery, including customary norms that cause widespread discrimination against former slaves and their descendants and undermine efforts to create alternative livelihoods.
In her report, the rapporteur highlighted the issue of descent based slavery and structural resemblances to that on the caste system, while noting cases of people of slave descent, who are identified as part of a slave caste within the communities they originated from:
36. Determining the prevalence of slavery in the Niger would require comprehensive research. However, the Special Rapporteur learned from her extensive consultations with various stakeholders that, despite being legally abolished, descent-based slavery continues to exist in Tuareg, Fulani (Peul), Toubou and Arab communities. Those societies are very hierarchical and dominated by powerful traditional chiefs, and the number of slaves still appears to determine the social status and the power of the masters. The Tuareg community is considered the most highly socially stratified of the communities, its structure resembling that of the caste system, with the slaves at the bottom.
47. The Special Rapporteur heard of cases where people of slave descent had achieved economic and political success in urban areas. They were, however, still regarded as a part of the slave caste by the communities they originated from, which points to the inability to alter the inherited status. The Special Rapporteur was also informed of a case of a businessperson of slave descent who wanted to buy a piece of land in the region of Tillabéry, but the deal fell through when the land owner discovered the person’s ancestry.