Slavery: That peculiar institution - News - Mail & Guardian Online: The recent arrest of anti-slavery protesters in Mauritania has highlighted the fact that, despite slavery in that country officially being abolished in 1981 (pretty late, by most standards), it takes more than a few laws to upset an entrenched and seemingly archaic status quo.
The term "slavery", that is, the ownership of one person (and their labour) by another, may conjure up images of the American deep south, or even more ancient times. But is Mauritania an anomaly? There are few that could feign ignorance about children who work in sweatshops around the world, and those who are forced to work in dangerous and unsuitable environments, or for meagre wages. But the sheer number of people who are trapped in lives of bondage, people whose lives are controlled by those who profit from their labours, may shock many who thought that that "peculiar institution" (as Southerners euphemistically nicknamed the practice) was an unsavoury relic of the past.