- Mariama Oumarou is a 17-year-old, dark-skinned Tuareg from Niger. With her mother and
grandmother, she grew up as a slave to light-skinned Tuaregs. Her mother and
grandmother remain slaves. When she was fifteen, her master sold her to a trader in Nigeria for 300 dollars. At first she believed that she was his wife, but she had a disproportionate share of the housework and under Islamic law, he could only have four wives
and she would have been number five. When she discovered she was purchased as a houseworker/sexual servant she escaped and returned to Niger. With assistance from a local NGO, she lured her Nigerian master to Niger and had him arrested. Before his case came to trial, he bribed his way out of prison. Today she is free.
Tuaregs comprise 8 percent of the population of Niger. The Niger Constitution prohibits slavery but there are still reports of slavery been practiced in northern
regions. As many as 20,000 people are held in involuntary servitude
and young female slaves often suffer sexual demands from their
owners and male slaves may be castrated or branded with hot irons.
There are three forms of slavery practiced in Niger today: passive slavery is based on
the tacit consent of the slaves. Archaic slavery involves the denial
of humanity of the slave and permits the master to inflict degrading treatment, treating the slave as property, Fifth wife, which is a euphemism that allows a man to take a girl as a fifth wife. She remains a slave as long as she is childless, or has one daughter. The birth of a son or second daughter gains her freedom.