Descent Based Slavery
By: Claudia, Caylyn, & Michael
What does descent based slavery mean, and who is subjected to it?
This is a system of exploitation that essentially means you are born into slavery
because someone ahead of you (for example- your mother) was already a slave.
In turn, you are required to work for your owner or “master” for a lifetime.
How are the younger children treated while in bondage? In particular, how are
young women and females in general treated?
Children are rarely able to escape this system; they are often taken away from
their families without their consent. They cannot own land, inherit property, and
even if they do manage to get out, they will always be discriminated against,
especially in the countries where religion comes into play and even justifies the
slavery. Education is nonexistant, and they obviously cannot marry whom they
wish. It is very common for girls to be sexually abused at the wishes of their
masters. These wealthy men are called “Wahaya” and likely have more than just
one of these slave ‘wives’.
The Exchange Itself
How does the slave exchange slave work?
As property of their masters, these slaves can be sold off or traded whenever their
owners see fit. While a wedding gift (in this case women) is one possible way of
trading slaves, selling them is another notorious method of keeping the actual
exchange alive. For descent-based slaves it makes sense that slaves can also be
inherited between family members.
Where is descent-based slavery most common?
It is most prevalent in West African countries such as:
Niger, Mauritania and Mali. Althought we find slavery in
these countries, slavery is spread all over the world.
Why is it more common in these countries?
Even though slavery is internationally illegal, in the above-stated countries, this is
such an ingrained part of the society that it almost stands as a cultural norm. The
IDSN site adds that “these old forms of slavery are embedded in traditional beliefs
and customs as a result of long-standing discrimination against the most vulnerable
groups in societies such as: those regarded as being of low caste, tribal minorities
and indigenous peoples.”
Real Life Stories
Tabass Aborak's story
Talak Azgar's story
These are people who really experienced what descent slavery is all about.
Tabass was just seven years old
when she was sold as a slave.
During her life she had three
She had to do all the domestic
work and serve her master and
his legitimate wives.
The “wahaya” constantly
reminded her of her slave status.
“ We had to carry out orders from the master and his wives. Night and day were just the
same; each moment that passes brought more work. Only speed and skill in carrying out
orders allowed us to avoid the master’s punishments, especially if he was angry at us because
of the tales his legitimate wives had been telling him. When this happened we’d be called
‘chegiya’, which means ‘bastard’, or ‘bouzoua’ - ‘useless slave.”
Tabass Aborak's story
Talak Azgar's story
“He showed me no mercy. He considered me to have
no soul. He would force me to have sex with him
quickly and secretly, without any warning.”
Talak inherited her slave
status from her parents.
She was just 10 years old
when her master bought
her. She couldn’t do
anything (like going out to
play with other children),
other than working.Her
work damaged her
Hadijatou, 24, was born in Nigeria
and, like her mother, was sold and
made to work without pay. Her
‘master' used her as a sexual slave.
He attempted to deny her
freedom. She was held in slavery
for almost 9 years.
With help from members of ‘Anti-
Slavery International’, Hadijatou
went to court and won the trial,
finally earning her freedom. She
was compensated for her years as
a slave with the equivalent of
"With the compensation I will be able to build a house, raise
animals and farm land to support my family. I will also be able
to send my children to school so they can have the education I
was never allowed as a slave."
What programs, organizations, or other groups are working to stop this form of
- ABA (American Bar Association)
- IDSN (International Dalit Solidarity Network)
- The Abolition Institute