Watch part two

The internationally accepted definition of slavery is: "The status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised" (UN Slavery Convention 1926).

Hadijatou Mani lived squarely within this definition.

Former slave Hadijatou Mani has taken on the government of Niger
In April 2008, she took the state of Niger to court for failing to implement its own laws against slavery.

A ruling in her favour would send a message to all 15 member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) that the legal prohibition on slavery must be translated into practice.

At least 43,000 people are still living in slavery across Niger.

They are born into an established slave class and labour for their masters without pay. Slaves are inherited, given as gifts, and sometimes have their children taken away from them. They are denied all rights and choices.

For a week in Niger's capital Niamey, the Ecowas Community Court of Justice heard Hadijatou's story.

She was sold into slavery at the age of 12, bartered for and sold for the equivalent of £250. Besides carrying out domestic or agricultural duties she lived as a sexual slave, or sadaka, to her master who had four wives and seven other sadakas.

Hadijatou lived like this for 10 years, she was never paid and was regularly beaten.

There are more than 43,000 people living as slaves in Niger
In 2003 the government of Niger criminalised slavery and in 2005 Hadijatou's master released her with a 'liberation' certificate.

He intended to legalise his 'relationship' with her by marriage but a local tribunal confirmed that she was free to leave.

Hadijatou was sentenced to six months imprisonment when she married a man of her choice and her former master brought a complaint against her for bigamy.

The government of Niger now stands accused of not only failing to protect women like Hadijatou Mani from the practice of slavery, but also continuing to legitimise this practice through its customary law.

Hadijatou said: "I have not had a day off in my life, and I want the suffering of so many women to stop. This situation must end, so I am very pleased I have been able to tell the judges about my case."

She is claiming compensation of about £40,000 and hopes that a judgment will strengthen legislation in Niger, where anti-slavery laws appear to have made little impact since being introduced five years ago.

This episode of People & Power aired from Saturday, November 01, 2008.

Source: Al Jazeera