Ritual servitude

Ritual servitude is a practice in Ghana, Togo, and Benin where traditional religious shrines (popularly called fetish shrines in Ghana) take human beings, usually young virgin girls, in payment for services, or in religious atonement for alleged misdeeds of a family member. In Ghana and in Togo it is practiced by the Ewe tribe in the Volta region; in Benin it is practiced by the Fon.[1]

These shrine slaves serve the priests, elders, and owners of a traditional religious shrine without remuneration and without their consent, although the consent of the family or clan may be involved. Those who practice ritual servitude usually feel that the girl is serving the god or gods of the shrine and is married to the gods of the shrine.[2]

If a girl runs away or dies, she must be replaced by another girl from the family. Some girls in ritual servitude are the third or fourth girl in their family suffering for the same crime, sometimes for something as minor as the loss of trivial property.

This form of slavery is still practiced in the Volta region in Ghana, in spite of being outlawed in 1998, and despite carrying a minimum three-year prison sentence for conviction. Among the Ewes who practice the ritual in Ghana, variations of the practice are also called trokosi, fiashidi, and woryokwe, with "trokosi" being the most common of those terms.[3] In Togo and Benin it is called voodoosi or vudusi.[4] Victims are commonly known in Ghana as fetish slaves because the gods of African Traditional Religion are popularly referred to as fetishes and the priests who serve them as fetish priests.

Use of the terms "servitude", "slave" and "slavery"

Human rights organizations and other NGO's commonly use the words "servitude", "slaves", and "slavery" as non-technical, popularly understood terms that describe the reality of this practice. They point out that the practice meets all the commonly accepted definitions of slavery.[5] Shrine slaves perform services which are not voluntary and are not paid. Their lives are totally controlled by the shrines, who in a sense become their owners.

Proponents of the system of ritual servitude by any of its names object to this term, but except for the technical terms "trokosi", "vudusi", "fiashidi", "woryokoe", the problem is coming up with a suitable alternative. Sometimes they have compared the trokosi to traditional queen mothers, implying a sense of respect for them, but one representative of an NGO who claims to have interviewed hundreds of participants reports that the participants themselves are offended at being called queens and insist they are/were simply slaves.[6]

Juliana Dogbadzi, who served 17 years as a trokosi, says she was "slave to a fetish priest".[7] Cudjoe Adzumah made a study of the practice in the Tongu Districts of Ghana and defined "trokosi" as "slaves of the gods".[8]

Emmanuel Kwaku Akeampong, a native Ghanaian of Harvard University, says that "tro" means a "god" and "kosi" is used at different times to mean either "slave", "virgin", or "wife".[9] Anita Ababio, a Ghanaian lawyer who has extensively researched the issue, explains that the Adangbe and Ga word, "woryokwe" comes from "won" meaning cult, and "yokwe", meaning "slave". Thus, she claims, a "woryokwe" is a "slave of a cult".[10] Robert Kwame Amen in Ghana Studies also refers to trokosi as an institution of slavery.[11] Likewise, Stephen Awudi Gadri, President of the Trokosi Abolition Fellowship of Ghana, and also himself from a shrine family, claims that trokosi are "slaves of the deities of the shrines".[12] "Though euphemistically, they are called the 'deity's wives', yet they serve the priests and elders of the shrine and do all the hard chores, as well as becoming sexual partners of the priest," Gadri says.[13] He also says, "the trokosi works for the priest without any form of remuneration whatsoever", and "it is a form of slavery".[14] Ababio claims, "The servile status of the trokosi is seen in the duties they perform in the shrines, for which no payment is made...unfortunately for most trokosi, when they are freed they are still bound by rituals which keep them connected or attached to a shrine for life. Practically it means that these victims of ritual servitude always have the rights of ownership exercised over them."[15] She then goes on to quote Article 7 of The Convention on Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, which defines a slave as "a person over whom any or all powers attaching to the rights of ownership are exercised". Angela Dwamena-Aboagye, a Ghanaian lawyer, says ritual servitude is "slavery, pure and simple. It violates every human right."[16]

Some of the traditional priests also admit the trokosi are slaves. For example, Togbe Adzimashi Adukpo, a shrine priest, admitted in an interview with BBC in February 2001, "Yes, the girls are my slaves. They are the property of my shrine."[17]

On the question of whether trokosi is a form of slavery and whether sexual abuse is involved the answers are polarized into two camps. Some traditionalists defend the system saying that it is simply a cultural practice of certain shrines and as such should be protected. These defenders claim that while instances of sexual abuse may occur, there is no evidence that sexual or physical abuse is an ingrained or systematic part of the practice. According to them, the practice explicitly forbids a Trokosi to engage in sexual activity or contact. The other camp is represented by NGOs working with the trokosi and by former trokosi who have been liberated. These opponents of the practice have recorded testimony of hundreds of former (now liberated) trokosi who say that sexual abuse was a regular part of their time at the shrine, claiming the number of children born to them by the priest and shrine elders is a witness.[18]

Although virtually everyone recognizes that the victims themselves have no choice or say in their lot, Stephen Awudi Gadri says that "both the parents (of the victims) and the girls (that is, the victims) have no choice".[19]

Religious connections

Simon Abaxe has researched the practice in Ghana. He says that ritual servitude is part of African Traditional Religion in some places, but not a universal practice of that religion.[20] A form of it is also practiced in India and Nepal as part of Hindu religion, and various forms of it were part of ancient religious traditions of devotion to various gods and goddesses. It is distinguished from the Christian monastic tradition at a basic level since ritual servitude is involuntary on the part of the participant, in contrast to Christian monasticism, which is voluntary.[21]


There are two major reasons for the practice of ritual servitude. Most common is the concept of atonement. A girl is given to the shrine or to the gods as a kind of "living sacrifice" to atone for the real or alleged crimes of a family member or ancestor, as discerned by the priest of the shrine. During a process of divination he calls on the gods of the shrine to reveal this information. Girls given to atone for such crimes in a sense are considered a kind of savior, for as long as she remains in the shrine or under its control, the anger of the god is believed to be averted from the rest of the family.[22]

The second most frequent reason for the practice of ritual servitude is that the girl is given for the continuous repayment of the gods for services believed to have been obtained or favors believed to have been rendered from the shrine. Thus a girl may be given into ritual servitude when someone believes a child has been conceived or a person has been healed, for example, through the intervention of the shrine.[22]

Proponents of the practice claim that some participants choose a life of ritual servitude of their own volition, but human rights organizations claim that while this may be theoretically possible, they haven't found one yet.[23]

In the past, the traditions of the shrines were veiled in secrecy, and people dared not discuss them, fearing the wrath of the gods if they dared to do so. For this reason, the practice was neither widely known nor well understood. In more recent times, since the 1990s at least, abolitionists and human rights advocates have penetrated the veil of secrecy. The issue has been widely discussed, for instance, in the newspapers and on the radio in Ghana.[24]

Origin and history

In the Dahomey Empire

The giving of virgin girls to the gods was part of many ancient religions. In West Africa, the practice has gone on for at least several hundred years. Similar practices using similar terminology were found in the royal court of the Kingdom of Dahomey (in what is now Benin) in the 18th and 19th centuries. Wives, slaves, and in fact all persons connected with the royal palace of Dahomey were called "ahosi", from "aho" meaning "king", and "si" meaning "dependent" or "subordinate."[25] By one estimate there were 5,000 to 7,000 ahosi living in the palace at Abomey,[26] and no men lived there except for a few hundred eunuchs were charged with controlling the women. After sunset no men at all were allowed in the palace except the king, and he was guarded by women guards called Amazons. The king controlled every aspect of the lives and even the deaths of the ahosi. Visitors to old Abomey today are shown a mass grave and told that the king's wives "volunteered," on his death, to be buried alive with him in order to accompany him and serve him in the world to come. One researcher pointed out, "Of course, one should not make the mistake of ascribing modern democratic meaning to the word "volunteered" as if the wives wanted to die or had any choice in the matter.[27] Ahosi who became too powerful or too independently minded were simply sacrificed (literally and physically) in the annual office ceremony lasting several days in which the power of the king was renewed by hundreds of human sacrifices, usually performed by public beheadings.[28]

The practice was documented by A. B. Ellis who was an eyewitness of the practice in the Dahomey Empire (now Benin) in 1879. According to Ellis, one god called "Khebioso" Heviosso? had 1500 wives in Dahomey alone, the women being called "kosio". He said they cared for the shrines of the gods, but their main business was religious prostitution. According to Ellis, most of the gods of the Ewe-speaking people at that time had such women who were similarly consecrated to their service and were commonly considered "wives" of the gods.[29]

One might argue that those ahosi were wives of the king and lived in the palace, not wives of the gods living in the shrines. But that distinction is not as clearcut as it might first seem, for the palace was the center of Dahomean religious life, and the place where sacrifices were made and rituals to the ancestors were performed. Over time, then, it was an easy jump from being ahosi living lives totally controlled by the king in the palace where sacrifices were offered and rituals were performed, to being trokosi living lives totally controlled by a priest in a shrine where sacrifices were offered and rituals were performed. It was a very easy transition indeed. Even in the time of the Kingdom of Dahomey, one reads of the vodun or gods successfully demanding that someone become a devotee or vodunsi (wife or follower of the god).[30]

In Ghana

As people migrated within West Africa, the practice spread. Sandra Greene has noted that in Ghana, the practice dates to at least the late 18th century. At the time the Amlade clan Sui became very powerful, and began to demand female slaves from those who sought its services. The practice called "replacement" also began in Ghana at that time. Under this practice, if a shrine slave died or ran away, the family was required to replace her with another girl.[31] At the beginning of the 19th century, Nyigbla became the chief Anlo deity, and its shrines also began to demand slaves for its services. Involuntary slavery, however, was not at that time and in that place common, since Nyigbla also instituted a practice called foasi, whereby two servants were recruited annually on a more-or-less voluntary basis. At that time, the slaves were often married to members of powerful priestly families.[32]

History of opposition to the practice

In colonial times

It is reported by traditionalists that since the mid-18th century the Bremen missionaries decried the practice and purchased freedom for individual trokosi, which were then called "new made slaves", converting them to Christianity.[33]

When Ghana (then Gold Coast) was under colonial rule, a few citizens complained about the practice, but the colonial masters turned their heads. They derided him as "the blind man who wants to help others see". The colonial government did investigate the practice at Atigo shrine near Battor from 1919 to 1924. The investigating District Commissioner, W. Price Jones, called it "a pernicious habit of handing girls over to the fetish", but for economic reasons, decided not to interfere. As a result of that inquiry, shrine slaves held at the Atigo shrine were told they could return home if they wished.[34] Soon after, the colonial government ignored another complaint that the shrine was still keeping trokosi.[35] After that, the practice slid back into secrecy and was not brought to the public consciousness again until 1980.

In the 1980s

The practice was drawn into the national spotlight at that time when Mark Wisdom, a Baptist pastor, responded to what he claims was a vision from God, and challenged the system in the national media. Wisdom claimed that as he prayed, he saw a vision of women in bonds, crying out for help. Wisdom claimed to have later discovered these same women on one of his evangelistic missions, held in bondage in a shrine just across the Volta River from his home, but previously unknown to him. He began publicly denouncing the practice, so much so that headlines in Ghana screamed that he was not afraid of the shrine priests. Wisdom wrote a book on the subject, founded FESLIM (Fetish Slaves Liberation Movement), and was instrumental in some of the earliest liberations, but it was his bold public statements reported in the news that pricked the national consciousness.[36]

In the 1990s

In the early 1990s, Ghanaian journalist Vincent Azumah found courage to write publicly about the practice and sparked a nationwide debate. Then the International Federation of Women Lawyers in Ghana (FIDA) organized an investigation into shrine practices and issued a report in 1992. These events took place while Jerry Rawlings still held the presidency of Ghana with an iron fist. Rawlings and his administration were defenders of African Traditional Religion, calling it the "African Heritage" and a cause for national pride. One example of this was his granting of free air time to the founder of the Afrikania movement, Okomfo Damuah, at a time when Christian churches were virtually denied access to both radio and TV. Azumah and FIDA's actions were very bold in the light of the political climate of the day.[37]

The Ghana National Commission on Children brought attention to the issue during the celebration of the Organization of African Unity Day of the African Child on June 16, 1993. In 1994 and 1995 Ghanaian lawyer Anita Heymann Ababio researched the practice in the light of Ghanaian law, and recommendations from this research later became a Law Reform Commission report to the Ghana government in 1995.[38] According to Emmanuel Kweku Akeampong, a Ghanaian professor of history at Harvard University, the practice of trokosi was much in the national attention in 1996 and 1997.[39]

Outlawed in Ghana 1998

In 1998 the Law Reform Commission, drawing on the recommendations of Ababio and others, drafted a law specifying "ritual or customary servitude" as a crime. The law passed, requiring a mandatory three-year prison term for those found guilty.[37][40]

International award 1999

In 1999 Juliana Dogbadzi, a former trokosi, won the Reebok Human Rights Award for her efforts in speaking up on behalf of her fellow trokosi.[41]

NGOs oppose the practice

Although the practice was outlawed in Ghana in 1998, it continued, due to fear and the reluctance of the government to interfere with traditional practices. Some NGOs had already worked to liberate shrines, but after the law did not solve the problem, NGOs began to get even more seriously involved in advocating against the practice and in working for agreements to reduce the practice by liberating individual shrines. Some of the organizations that have joined the effort are UNICEF, International Needs Network Ghana, the Swiss "Sentry Movement", Trokosi Abolition Fellowship, the Anti-Slavery Society, and Every Child Ministries. Survivors for Change is a group of former trokosi who have banded together to speak up against the practice. Organizations that have been most active in liberating ritual slaves are FESLIM (Fetish Slaves Liberation Movement), founded by Mark Wisdom, International Needs, and Every Child Ministries. Christian NGOs and human rights organizations have been fighting it—working to end the practice and to win liberation for the shrine slaves. They have carried out their activities with strong support from CHRAJ—The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice—and the Ministry of Women's and Children's Affairs. A Court of Women was organized in Accra in 2003 to continue the fight against the practice.

Meaning of "Trokosi" and "Vudusi"

The word trokosi comes from the Ewe words "tro", meaning deity or fetish, and "kosi", meaning female slave.[42] The "tro" deity is not, according to African traditional religion, the Creator or what might be called the "High" or Ultimate God. "Tro" refers to what African Traditional Religion calls the "small gods" or "lesser deities"—spirits of nature, etc. which are venerated in traditional religion. The term trokosi is commonly used in English in Ghana, as a loanword.

Categories of Tro adherents

  • Those who join the Tro of their own volition (extremely rare) and those who were born to women associated with the Tro and initiated as children (Trovivo);
  • Those thought to have been born through the intervention of the Tro (Dorflevivo) and thus incur a lifetime obligation of servitude to the tro;
  • Those allegedly called by the tro to serve as priest and priestesses of the shrine (Tronua);
  • Those who were forced to become Trokosi to repay the Tro because their family supposedly benefited from it.
  • Those Trokosi who are sent by families, often against the will of the girl involved, out of fear that if they do not do so, further calamities may afflict them through the anger of the shrine deities. This last group consists of those vestal virgins who are sent into servitude at the shrines of the Troxovi due to crimes allegedly committed by their senior or elder family members, almost always males like fathers, grandfathers, and uncles. The trokosi is sort of a "living sacrifice," who by her suffering is thought to save the family from trouble.

Opponents of the practice claim that all except those who joined of their own volition are virtually slaves in every normal sense of the word.

NGO's point out that practices in traditional shrines vary, but trokosi are usually denied education, suffer a life of hardship, and are a lonely lot, stigmatized by society.[43]

The period of servitude varies from a few months to life. In some cases it involves payment of a heavy fine to the shrine, which can require many years of hard labor or even a lifetime of service to pay. In shrines where the period of servitude is limited, after a ritual and sometimes after months or years in the shrine, the Trokosi returns to her family, but her life is still controlled by the shrine for the rest of her life. Supporters of the practice claim that in the vast majority of cases, there is no particular stigma attached to one's status as a former Trokosi shrine participant. NGOs working to rehabilitate former trokosi say that the social stigma is immense and that it is the most enduring and difficult aspect of the practice.[44]

Main variations in the practice

Ritual slavery shows a high degree of cohesiveness, but there are many significant differences as it is practiced in various shrines and in various areas. Every Child Ministries, a Christian NGO that has done much research on the topic, lists these as variations that they have observed in their work:[45]

Entry age of the participants

Most frequently those in ritual servitude are young virgin girls at the time of entry into the shrine. Of course, the girls grow up, so where their servitude is long or lifetime, the participants are of all ages.

Length of service

There are two basic lengths of service—perpetual or lifetime service and limited service. One traditional priest expressed the view that once a crime had been committed, it had to be atoned for until the end of time. This is the view of lifetime or perpetual service. Shrine slaves serving for a lifetime have no hope of ever getting free unless outsiders intervene on their behalf. In some shrines, in some areas, and for some alleged crimes, the service is limited to a specific number of years. In other cases, a substantial fee is exacted from the shrine slave or her family. The girls work to try to earn that fee, but in reality the fee is so high and their means of paying it so low that there is virtually no hope of ever paying off the debt that has been laid on them. Some shrines have taken so many slaves that they cannot contain them all. Some slaves become unattractive or unuseful to the priest. In these cases trokosia may be given what is called "temporary" release. This is actually a misnomer, since it is a permanent condition. The temporary part only gives the slave permission to live outside the shrine temporarily. All the important decisions of her life are still controlled by the shrine, she is still at the beck and call of the priest, and she has to serve at the annual festival of the god every year, for which she is required to bring gifts that may take her all year to accumulate. One child of a trokosi on "temporary release" said, "whenever my mother goes fishing or does any work, she must divide it into three, with two parts going to the priest."[46]

Practice of replacement

Where perpetual or lifetime servitude is practiced, the shrines often, but not always, practice what they call "replacement." when a trokosi or vudusi dies or runs away, she has to be replaced by another virgin from the same family or clan. Some human rights interviewers report that they have interviewed numerous girls who were the third or fourth replacements for their families for a crime that was allegedly committed long ago.[45]

Practice of rape by the priest and elders of the shrine

In most shrines it is considered a duty of the shrine slaves to have obligatory sex with the priest and sometimes the elders. The priest's genital organs have been dedicated to the gods of the shrine, so having sex with him is considered a sacred act - in a sense, copulating with the gods. This is the origin and meaning of the term "wives of the gods." Many trokosi and vudusi have described beatings and other severe punishments imposed on them for refusing sex with the priest. In Ghana, human rights organizations monitoring the practice of "trokosi" claim that shrine slaves often end up with an average of four children while in servitude, many of them by the priest or elders of the shrines. Proponents of ritual servitude deny that this is a part of the practice. There seem to be wide differences between practices in different districts, but Rouster claims that the problem of forced sex in many of the shrines is too well documented to be disputed.[45] Stephen Awudi Gadri, founder of Trokosi Abolition Fellowship, speaks of "ritual violation after menarche" (first menses) as the beginning of a life of coerced sex.[47] He refers to the trokosi as "vestal virgins." [48]

Treatment of shrine slaves

Treatment of girls in the shrine varies as to feeding practices, reasons for and severity of punishments, sleeping and living conditions. Severe and widespread problems have been documented in all these areas by human rights organizations. Many of the shrine slaves are required to do heavy physical labor like cultivating fields with a hand hoe. Other common duties are weaving mats, making and selling firewood (with all profits going to the priest or the shrine), fetching wood and water, sweeping the compound and attending the images of the gods.

Liberation of shrine slaves

NGO's and other human rights organizations are fighting the practice. Since the 1990s, these groups have actively sought to liberate girls held in ritual servitude. Liberation has been done on a shrine-by-shrine basis, with NGO's seeking to reach community-wide agreements that all the slaves of a particular shrine will be liberated and the practice of slavery or ritual servitude will be permanently ended in that place. When such an agreement is reached, a public ceremony is held for the signing of the documents and often, liberation certificates for the former slaves. The shrine is compensated for its loss and the former trokosi begin a process of rehabilitation which usually includes learning vocational skills.

The most active groups in liberating shrine slaves through negotiated community agreements have been FESLIM, Fetish Slaves Liberation Movement, International Needs Network, and Every Child Ministries.

The first liberation ceremonies were held at Lomo and Me shrines in Volo in October 1996, at three shrines in Dorfor in December 1996, and at Atigo shrine in Battor in January 1997.[54] International Needs Network liberated 400 trokosi from a group of small shrines in November 2000, and 126 at Adidome in November 2001.[49] Every Child Ministries cooperated with International Needs Network to liberate 465 trokosi from three shrines of the Agave area in January 2003 and with Fetish Slaves Liberation Movement to liberate 94 shrine slaves from Aklidokpo shrine near Adidome in January 2004. They continued the effort, liberating 120 from Sovigbenor shrine in Aflao in December 2005, and 52 "yevesi" or servants of the thunder god from the Kadza Yevesi Shrine at Aflao in March 2010.[50] Shrines of the Anlo clan in Ghana also hold trokosi, but have resisted liberation and defended the practice, defending their practice of trokosi as being more humane than the practices of other districts. Human rights organizations insist that the practice must be totally eradicated.

Similar practices in other countries


  1. ^ FAQ About the Form of Slavery Called Trokosi, ECM Publications, 2002, p.1
  2. ^ Field Findings on the System of Slavery Commonly Known as Trokosi, L W Rouster, M.R.E., ECMAfrica Publications, 2005, p. 1.
  3. ^ "The Revealed Myths about Trokosi Slavery/Human Rights Violations" by Stephen Awudi Gadri, Authorhouse, UK, 2010
  4. ^ "Field Findings on the System of Slavery Commonly Known as Trokosi", L W Rouster, M.R.E., ECMAfrica Publications, 2005, p.1.
  5. ^ Rouster, Wives of the gods, p. 2.
  6. ^ Rouster, Wives of the gods p. 2.
  7. ^ Juliana Dogbadzi, PARADE magazine, "One Voice," September 24, 2000, p. 7.
  8. ^ Cudjoe Adzumah, "The Trokosi Practice in N Tongu: Its Impact on the Rights of Women and Children, BA Thesis, Sociology Department, University of Ghana, 1996.
  9. ^ Emmanuel Kwaku Akeampong, Between the Sea and the Lagoon, an Eco-Social History of the Anlo of Southeastern Ghana c. 1850 to Recent Times, Ohio University Press, Athens, OH, James Currey, Oxford, 2001, p. 221.
  10. ^ Anita Mamusina Heymann Ababio, "Trokosi, Woryokwe, Cultural and Individual Rights: A Case Study of Women's Empowerment and Community Rights in Ghana, St. Mary's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, August 22, 2000, p. 4.
  11. ^ Robert Kwame Amen, Trokosi (Child Slavery) in Ghana, a Policy Approach, Ghana Studies I, 1998, p. 35-62.
  12. ^ Stephen Awudi Gadri, History of the Trokosi System in Ghana, Vol. 1, Paper presented to the First National Congress on the Trokosi System, June 29, 2000, p. 4.
  13. ^ Gadri, p. 7.
  14. ^ Gadri, p. 8-9.
  15. ^ Ababio, p. 71.
  16. ^ Ababio, quoting The Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, 1956, ECOSOC, Res. 608, XXI, 1956. This convention has been ratified and acceded to by Ghana.
  17. ^ Humphrey Hawksley, "Ghana's Trapped Slaves", BBC News, February 8, 2001.
  18. ^ Rouster, Field Findings, p. 6.
  19. ^ The Revealed Myths about Trokosi Slavery", p. 24.
  20. ^ Simon Abaxer, "Trokosi Situation on the Ground in Volta Region", ECMAfrica Publications, 2007, p. 1
  21. ^ Rouster, Field Findings p. 4.
  22. ^ a b Rouster, Field Findings p. 5.
  23. ^ Rouster, Field Findings p. 6.
  24. ^ Every Child Ministries, The Three Pillars of Trokosi, p. 1.
  25. ^ Wives of the Leopard-- Gender, Politics & Culture in the Kingdom of Dahomey, Edna G. Bay, University of Virginia Press, 1998, p. 8.
  26. ^ Warrior Women, The Amazons of Dahomey & the Nature of War", Robert B. Edgerton, University of California at Los Angeles, Westview Press, 2000, p. 15 & 52.
  27. ^ "Lorella Rouster, Report on Visit to the Ancient Kingdom of Dahomey, May 2006, ECM Publications, p.2.
  28. ^ Edgerton, Warrior Women, p. 53.
  29. ^ A. B. Ellis, Major, First Battalion West India Regiment, The Ewe-Speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa, Bahamas, 1890, republished by Benin Press, Chicago, 1965, p. 38.
  30. ^ Wives of the Leopard, p. 22.
  31. ^ Sandra E. Greene, Gender, Ethnicity and Social Change on the Upper Slave Coast: A History of the Anlo-Ewe, Portsmouth, 1996, p. 64.
  32. ^ Akeampong,p. 225.
  33. ^ Pyramid of Yahweh, about trokosi, p. 4
  34. ^ National Archives of Ghana, Accra, ADM 11/1/768 Acting District Commissioner of Ada, W. Price Jones to Commissioner for the Eastern Province (CEP), 10 March 1920.
  35. ^ National Archives of Ghana, CEP, to Secretary of Native Affairs, Koforidua, 10 September 1924.
  36. ^ Interview with Mark Wisdom granted to the VR staff of Every Child Ministries, June 2006.
  37. ^ a b Ababio, p. 21.
  38. ^ Heymann, Ababio A., The Impact of the Constitutional Provisions on the Customary Disabilities of Women in Ghana, Report on the Abolition of Ritual Slavery, Forced Labour and Other Related Practices, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London, April 1995.
  39. ^ Akeampong, p. 221-226.
  40. ^ The Criminal Code of Ghana, Act. 1998 Act. 554.
  41. ^ James Aidoo, "Ghana, Liberating the Trokosi" p. 1.
  42. ^ Dictionary of Trokosi Terms, www.trokosi.com
  43. ^ Rouster, Field Findings, p. 5
  44. ^ Interview with Lorella Rouster, International Director of Every Child Ministries, June 2006.
  45. ^ a b c Interview with Rouster, ECM, 2006.
  46. ^ "Revealed Myths about Trokosi Slavery", p. 29
  47. ^ "The Revealed Myths about Trokosi Slavery", p. 51.
  48. ^ Revealed Myths about Trokosi Slavery, p. 25
  49. ^ Nirit Ben-Ari, "Liberating Girls from Trokosi" from Africa Recovery, Vol 15, #4, Dec. 2001, p. 26.
  50. ^ "African Jewels",a 2nd Quarter 2010, Every Child Ministries

Further reading

  • Boaten, Abayie B. (2001). The Trokosi System in Ghana: Discrimination Against Women and Children. In Apollo Rwomire (ed.), African Women and Children: Crisis and Response, Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 91–103.
  • Dovlo, Elom. (1995). Report on Trokosi Institution, University of Ghana, Legon.
  • Krasniewski, Mariusz. (2009). Tradition in the Shade of Globalization: Ritual Bondage in Ghana. Archiv Orientalni, 77, 123–142.
  • Progressive Utilization. (1994). Trokosi: Virgins of the Gods or Concubines of Fetish Priests. Progressive Utilization Magazine, 1(1), 2–6. PO Box C267 Cantonments Communication Centre, Accra, Ghana.
  • Progressive Utilization. (1995). Trokosi Part 2. Progressive Utilization Magazine, 2(1), 1–6.
  • Rouster, Lorella. (2007). "Fighting Child Slavery in West Africa," SST/GH, Fall 2007, Union Gospel Press, Cleveland, OH. See also Every Child Ministries.

External links

Carl Christian Reindorf

Carl Christian Reindorf (31 May 1834 – 1 July 1917) was a Euro-African-born pioneer historian, teacher, farmer, trader, physician and pastor who worked with the Basel Mission on the Gold Coast. He wrote The History of the Gold Coast and Asante in the Ga language, considered a pioneering work and a "historical classic". The work was later translated into English and published in 1895 in Switzerland. He used written sources and oral tradition, interviewing more than 200 people in the course of assembling his history.


Deuki is an ancient custom practiced in the far western regions of Nepal where a young girl is offered to the local temple. The practice is in decline.Girls become deukis either because their parents offer them in hopes of gaining protection and good favor from the Gods or because their parents sell them to wealthier couples seeking the same holy approval. Poor families who offer up their daughters gain status and approval from their communities from the perceived sacrifice they have made. They are also relieved of the burden of finding husbands for their daughters.After offering the girls to the temples, neither parents nor couples who bought them provide any financial assistance or have additional contact with deukis.

Because they are considered unfit for marriage and receive no money from those that dedicated them to their temples, deukis have to depend on worshipers’ monetary offerings to the temple. Left with insufficient income, no skills or education, and pressure brought on by the folkloric conviction that sex with a deuki can cleanse sins and bring good luck, many deukis are driven to survival sex, a form of prostitution in which sex is traded for basic necessities such as food or shelter.Due to the existing law stating that Nepalese citizenship falls along the father’s line, daughters born to deukis, known as devis, frequently cannot become citizens of Nepal. Denied access to education and other social services, many devis become deukis. Though a legislative change in 2006 makes it slightly easier for deukis to get citizenship for their children if they can prove that the father is Nepalese, matrilineal descent remains unrecognized.

Every Child Ministries

Every Child Ministries is a Christian charity and mission agency that works for African children. The charity is specially known for its advocacy on behalf of neglected, downtrodden, and marginalized groups of African children. It was first incorporated in the US in the state of Indiana in 1985, but is now incorporated and recognized as an NGO in numerous African countries.

History of slavery

The history of slavery spans many cultures, nationalities, and religions from ancient times to the present day. However the social, economic, and legal positions of slaves have differed vastly in different systems of slavery in different times and places.Slavery occurs relatively rarely among hunter-gatherer populations because it develops under conditions of social stratification. Slavery operated in the very first civilizations (such as Sumer in Mesopotamia, which dates back as far as 3500 BCE). Slavery features in the Mesopotamian Code of Hammurabi (c. 1860 BCE), which refers to it as an established institution.

Slavery became common within much of Europe during the Dark Ages and it continued into the Middle Ages. The Byzantine–Ottoman wars (1265–1479) and the Ottoman wars in Europe (14th to 20th centuries) resulted in the capture of large numbers of Christian slaves. The Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, British, Arabs and a number of West African kingdoms played a prominent role in the Atlantic slave trade, especially after 1600. David P. Forsythe wrote: "The fact remained that at the beginning of the nineteenth century an estimated three-quarters of all people alive were trapped in bondage against their will either in some form of slavery or serfdom." The Republic of Ragusa became the first European country to ban the slave trade – in 1416. In modern times Denmark-Norway abolished the trade in 1802.

Although slavery is no longer legal anywhere in the world (with the exception of penal labour), human trafficking remains an international problem and an estimated 25-40 million people were enslaved as of 2013, the majority in Asia. During the 1983–2005 Second Sudanese Civil War people were taken into slavery. Evidence emerged in the late 1990s of systematic child-slavery and -trafficking on cacao plantations in West Africa. Slavery continues into the 21st century. Although Mauritania criminalized slavery in August 2007, an estimated up to 600,000 men, women and children, or 20% of the population of Mauritania, are currently enslaved, many of them used as bonded labor. Slavery in 21st-century Islamism continues, and Islamist quasi-states such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Boko Haram have abducted and enslaved women and children (often to serve as sex slaves).

Nicholas Timothy Clerk

Nicholas Timothy Clerk (28 October 1862 – 16 August 1961) was a Gold Coast-born theologian, clergyman and pioneering missionary of the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society who worked extensively in southeast colonial Ghana. His father was the Jamaican Moravian missionary Alexander Worthy Clerk (1820 – 1906), who worked on the Gold Coast with the Basel Mission and co-founded in 1843 the Salem School at Osu, a Presbyterian boarding middle school for boys. N. T. Clerk was elected the first Synod Clerk of the Presbyterian Church of the Gold Coast, in effect, the chief administrator and overall strategy lead of the national church organisation, a position he held from 1918 to 1932. A staunch advocate of secondary education, Nicholas Timothy Clerk became a founding father of the all-boys Presbyterian boarding school in Ghana, the Presbyterian Boys' Secondary School, established in 1938. As Synod Clerk, he pushed vigorously for and was instrumental in turning the original idea of a church mission high school into reality.

Sacred prostitution

Sacred prostitution, temple prostitution, cult prostitution, shrine prostitution and religious prostitution are general terms for a supposed sexual rite consisting of sexual intercourse or other sexual activity performed in the context of religious worship, sometimes speculated to be a form of fertility rite or divine marriage (hieros gamos). In most instances it was supposed that money would change hands and all or part of the payment would belong to the deity. Some scholars have used the terms "sacred sex" or "sacred sexual rites" in cases where payment for services was not involved.

Until recently Sacred prostitution had been commonly accepted by historians as an historical practice of the Ancient Near East and the Mediterranean in Classical Antiquity. However since the 1970s modern scholarship has overturned the assumptions on which this was based, and has determined that there is little evidence for its historical practice in these regions during this period. Today the mainstream consensus among scholars is that such practices are an historical myth, they never existed in practice but were rather a common literary trope used to denigrate foreign cultures and peoples.

Sexual slavery

Sexual slavery and sexual exploitation is attaching the right of ownership over one or more persons with the intent of coercing or otherwise forcing them to engage in sexual activities. This includes forced labor, reducing a person to a servile status (including forced marriage) and sex trafficking persons, such as the sexual trafficking of children.Sexual slavery may also involve single-owner sexual slavery; ritual slavery, sometimes associated with certain religious practices, such as ritual servitude in Ghana, Togo and Benin; slavery for primarily non-sexual purposes but where non-consensual sexual activity is common; or forced prostitution. Concubinage was a traditional form of sexual slavery in many cultures, in which women spent their lives in sexual servitude. In some cultures, concubines and their children had distinct rights and legitimate social positions.

The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action calls for an international effort to make people aware of sexual slavery, sexual slavery is an abuse of human rights. The incidence of sexual slavery by country has been studied and tabulated by UNESCO, with the cooperation of various international agencies.

Slavery in contemporary Africa

The continent of Africa is one of the regions most rife with contemporary slavery.

Slavery in Africa has a long history, within Africa since before historical records, but intensifying with the Arab slave trade and again with the trans-Atlantic slave trade; the demand for slaves created an entire series of kingdoms (such as the Ashanti Empire) which existed in a state of perpetual warfare in order to generate the prisoners of war necessary for the lucrative export of slaves. These patterns have persisted into the colonial period during the late 19th and early 20th century. Although the colonial authorities attempted to suppress slavery from about 1900, this had very limited success, and after decolonization, slavery continues in many parts of Africa even though being technically illegal.

Slavery in the Sahel region (and to a lesser extent the Horn of Africa), exist along the racial and cultural boundary of Arabized Berbers in the north and darker Africans in the south.

Slavery in the Sahel states of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan in particular, continues a centuries-old pattern of hereditary servitude.

Other forms of traditional slavery exist in parts of Ghana, Benin, Togo and Nigeria.

There are other, non-traditional forms of slavery in Africa today, mostly involving human trafficking and the enslavement of child soldiers and child labourers, e.g. human trafficking in Angola, and human trafficking of children from Togo, Benin and Nigeria to Gabon and Cameroon.Modern day slavery in Africa according to the Anti-Slavery Society includes exploitation of subjugate populations even when their condition is not technically called "slavery":

Although this exploitation is often not called slavery, the conditions are the same. People are sold like objects, forced to work for little or no pay and are at the mercy of their "employers".

Forced labor in Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated at 660,000. This includes people involved in the illegal diamond mines of Sierra Leone and Liberia, which is also a direct result of the civil war in these regions.

Timeline of abolition of slavery and serfdom

The abolition of slavery occurred at different times in different countries. It frequently occurred sequentially in more than one stage – for example, as abolition of the trade in slaves in a specific country, and then as abolition of slavery throughout empires. Each step was usually the result of a separate law or action. This timeline shows abolition laws or actions listed chronologically. It also covers the abolition of serfdom.

Although slavery is still abolished de jure in all countries, some practices akin to it continue today in many places throughout the world.

Witch camp

A witch camp is a settlement where women suspected of being witches can flee for safety, usually in order to avoid being lynched by neighbours. Witch camps exist solely in Ghana, where there are at least six of them, housing a total of around 1000 women. Such camps can be found at Bonyasi, Gambaga, Gnani, Kpatinga, Kukuo and Naabuli, all in Northern Ghana. Some of the camps are thought to have been set up over 100 years ago.Many women in such camps are widows and it is thought that relatives accused them of witchcraft in order to take control of their husbands' possessions. Many women also are mentally ill, a little understood problem in Ghana. In one camp in Gambaga, the women are given protection by the local chieftain and in return, pay him and work in his fields.The Ghanaian government has announced that it intends to close the camps and educate the population regarding the fact that witches do not exist. In 2014 the Minister for Gender and Social Protection took initiatives to disband and re-integrate inmates of the Bonyasi witch camp located in Central Gonja District.The Anti-Witchcraft Allegations Campaign Coalition-Ghana (AWACC-Ghana) has reported that the number of outcasts in witch camps is growing, and that food supplies are insufficient. Currently, the Ghanaian government is shutting down many witch camps.

Women in Ghana

The status of women in Ghana and their roles in Ghanaian society has changed over the past few decades. There has been a slow increase in the political participation of Ghanaian women throughout history. Women are given equal rights under the Constitution of Ghana, yet disparities in education, employment, and health for women remain prevalent. Additionally, women have much less access to resources than men in Ghana do. Ghanaian women in rural and urban areas face slightly different challenges. Throughout Ghana, female-headed households are increasing.Multiple forms of violence against women still exist in Ghana. In recent years, feminist organizations and women's rights groups have increased. Efforts to bring about gender equality continue to grow in Ghana. The government of Ghana has signed on to numerous international goals and conventions to enhance women's rights in Ghana.


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.