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Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School - Green Background

ECOWAS Community Court of Justice

Koraou v. Niger, ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, 2008. Forced marriage, sexual assault.  When she was twelve years old, Hadijatou Mani Koraou’s tribe leader sold her as a domestic servant and concubine to a forty-six-year-old man, El Hadji Souleymane Naroua of Hausa.  For nine years Ms. Koraou spent her days performing domestic duties for Mr. Naroua while being subjected to forced sexual acts at any time of day or night; the first sexually assault occurred while Ms. Koraou was still twelve years old.  Nine years after Ms. Koraou was sold, Mr. Naroua presented Ms. Koraou with a document of emancipation.  However, he refused to let her leave the house and claimed that Ms. Koraou was his wife.  Ms. Koraou brought a case to the Konni Civil and Traditional Court to “regain her total freedom and go and live her life elsewhere.”  The Konni Civil and Traditional court found that no actual marriage had taken place and so Ms. Koraou was not bound to stay.  Mr. Naroua appealed the decision, and the Konni High Court reversed the lower court.  Ms. Koraou then brought an action to the Judicial Chamber of the Supreme Court of Niamey, requesting “the application of the law against slavery and slavery-related practices.”  The Supreme Court quashed the High Court’s ruling on procedural grounds, did not make any determination on Ms Koraou’s status as a slave, and sent the case back to the Konni High Court for further review.  Prior to a final determination on the proceedings, Ms. Koraou married another man.  After he learned of this other marriage, Mr. Naroua brought a charge of bigamy against Ms. Koraou in the criminal division of the Konni High Court.  Ms. Koraou, her brother, and the man she married were all sentenced to six months in prison.  While Ms. Koraou was detained, her counsel filed a complaint with the public prosecutor against Mr. Naroua on the basis of slavery.  The Konni High Court that previously adjourned found for Ms. Koraou on the “divorce action” and held that she must “observe a minimum legal period of three months of widowhood before any remarriage.”  

Ms. Koraou was released from prison and submitted a case to the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice requesting, among other things, “new legislation which actually protects women against discriminatory customs on issues of marriage and divorce”, that the Community Court of Justice “require from the Republic of Niger that it [Niger] abolishes harmful customs and practices founded upon the idea of inferiority of women”, and that the Community Court of Justice grant her fair reparations.  The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice found that Ms. Koraou was a victim of slavery and that the Republic of Niger was responsible due to the inaction of its administrative and judicial authorities.  After finding this, the Court ordered the Republic of Niger to pay Ms. Koraou 10,000,000 CFA plus costs as reparation for the harm that she suffered.