It’s rare to encounter encouraging news about contemporary slavery. Wherever unpaid forced labor arrangements occur, whether in Mauritania or the U.S., they usually occur as part of informal sectors of society and the economy that are difficult to observe, and with limited enforcement of laws and policies for a variety of reasons. The article “Mauritania: The Real Beginning of the End of Slavery?,” from AllAfrica.com, offers at least the hope of real change on this issue in that national context.
The following is from the article:
“Four months after the passing of a law criminalising slavery in Mauritania, anti-slavery activists hope newly-announced funding for the reintegration of former slaves will address the many problems they continue to face in Mauritanian society.
"Quite obviously, we're very pleased with the announcement," said Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, member of the anti-slavery organisation SOS Esclaves, which has been leading the fight against slavery in Mauritania for years. "The government is sending slaves a strong signal and it is also proof that the authorities have heard our calls."
When slavery was criminalised in August, human rights and anti-slavery organisations urged the government - as they had been doing for years - to adopt accompanying measures for the law to be effective.
Officially abolished in 1981, slavery continues to be practiced in all Mauritanian communities, mostly in rural areas, by upper-class lighter-skinned Moors (Berber Arabs) as well as black Africans. One estimate by the Open Society Justice Initiative places the number of slaves and former slaves at 20 percent of the population - or about 500,000 people - but the numbers are difficult to confirm.”