The Tuareg community, traditionally nomadic people of pastoralist and trading occupations, are found in different parts of Africa, including Mali. A rigid caste system operates  that divides the community into nobles, freeman and slaves. Known as Bellah, the slaves were traditionally raided from neighboring countries. Although slavery has been abolished by law, it is still practiced among the Bellah community, especially in remote areas.

They were traditionally brought as slaves and worked as unpaid manual labourers, producing goods for their ‘owners’. The position of the Bellah as ‘slaves’ has put them in a disadvantaged position in terms of access to basic rights. Slavery is a status ascribed at birth for the Bellah community, with very little scope of any change. Women face double discrimination as a member of slave caste and also because of their gender.

‘Some people have described the Bellah as a “traditional indentured servant caste”, as they have not been “forced” into slavery. However, the existence of local NGOs that are working against this practice suggests that not all Bellah are willing to accept this situation.

Courtesy Rights Expert Mali


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