The West African desert State of Niger, has, according to the organisation Anti-Slavery International at least 43,000 of the 13 million strong population living in slavery today. Niger's slaves are born into an established slave class, working for their masters for no pay and are routinely subjected to physical and often sexual abuse. They are inherited, given as gifts, and are denied all rights and choice.

These images were taken on a journey to Niger back in 2005, with a focus on the lives of women and young girls; those fortunate to have escaped and others who were still living as slaves.

Slavery in Niger dates back centuries. The practice was outlawed during independence from France in 1960, but with no penalty. It was only in 2003, that slavery was finally criminalised, with a 30-year jail-term on conviction and in May 2004, the law was enforced.

However the Government of Niger is accused of continuing to legitimise slavery through the country's customary law - a law which discriminates against women.

On 27 October, 2008, a historic verdict found Niger in breach of failing to protect a 24 year old former female slave from the practice of slavery. The Court (Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)) in its judgement stated that: “There is no doubt that Hadijatou Mani was held in slavery for almost 9 years in violation of the legal prohibition on this practice.”

Romana Cacchioli, Africa Programme Co-ordinator for Anti-Slavery International, said: “Niger now needs to look closely at its customary law courts to ensure that there is an end to the discrimination of women and to the acceptance of slavery at a local level.”

Go to slave release and reporters on the job to view further coverage on this issue by Georgina.

Georgina Cranston - Photographer

Slavery in Niger
Signs of slavery; special anklets that indicate the slave caste.