The practice of Trokosi — the enslavement of young girls to priests — has sparked a national debate in Ghana. Trokosi (meaning “wife of the Gods”) is the custom of sending young women and girls to be cared for by priests in order to protect the family from evil, to apologize for sins committed by a male family member, or to give thanks to the Gods for blessings received.
Human rights activists are calling Trokosi “one of the country’s most serious human rights problems.” It is estimated that currently, almost 4,000 females are enslaved by priests in 51 shrines throughout Ghana. One activist, Vincent Azumah, commented that “Even though there are other human rights abuses here, this is one that has enslaved innocent people in large numbers. It has been going on for ages, and many women have died in the system, knowing nothing but the shrine life.”
Activists argue that the women are subjected to sexual servitude, beaten, forbidden from attending school, and are seldom allowed to keep the money they earn from charcoal production and trading. Essentially, they become concubines of the priests.
Supporters of Trokosi claim that women who are part of the shrine life are heroes and role models in their families. They dispute the rumors that the women are beaten or raped, arguing that this is just one more way to attack traditional African customs and religion.
However, human rights advocate and lawyer, Angela Dwamena-Aboagye, said,”It’s slavery, pure and simple. It violates every fundamental right. It’s a step backwards for women.”