Slavery Hidden in Plain Sight

In 1981, Mauritania became the last country to dissolve slavery but did not criminalize it until 2007. Today, there remain some 90,000 exploited Mauritanians—2% of the population—though authorities deny existence of the practice.

Slavery is entrenched in the culture, class system and economy of Mauritania and is often “invisible,” such as housemaids passing as employees. Many believe their slave status was preordained by God.

“Of course if you’re expecting to see people in chains then you won’t see that,” says Karine Penrose-Theis of Anti-Slavery International. “The dependency relationship can be much more subtle, much more invisible than that.”

Thomson Reuters Foundation


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