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Descent based slavery

Descent-based slavery describes a situation where people are either born into a slave class/caste or from a 'group' viewed as being in slavery by other members of their society.

Descent-based slavery usually exists in countries that have strict hierarchical social structures. Slaves and their descendants are at the very bottom of the caste system and suffer discrimination because of their place on the social ladder. Typically people born into slavery are not allowed to own land or inherit property, are denied an education and are not able to marry outside of the slave caste. Any children born are automatically considered ‘property’ of the masters and can be given away as gifts or wedding presents.

Even if former slaves and their families have been free for many years, their former master can assume the right to approve family marriages, inherit property or dictate how they vote. Many slaves are typically not included in electoral rolls and so not entitled to vote. Escaped and former slaves also face ongoing discrimination because they are part of the slave caste and therefore have few opportunities for employment away from their ‘master’.

Even though slavery is prohibited by international law descent-based slavery can be so culturally ingrained in a society that challenging its existence is very difficult.

Where does descent-based slavery exist?

Descent-based slavery predominantly exists in West Africa. The countries we work in where this type of slavery takes place are:
You can find out more about each country and the work we do there by following the links.

Please look at our Niger Schools Project and emergency appeal to prevent them from closing.

bonded labour in India

Asibit, former slave in Niger. "Life is still hard, you can see we have little - just this tent, a fewpots and blankets, but I am free, I am happy, my children are free andhappy. In the evenings we eat together, we sit and talk about thefuture, about how very soon my children will marry. Now we have afuture."
© Anti-Slavery International