Is slavery dead in West Africa? NO WAY!
THE DEFINITIVE DICTIONARY ON TROKOSI, OR SHRINE SLAVERY
Confused over terminology in the controversy over trokosi shrine slavery?
Here are unbiased definitions in straight- forward English to help you understand the reports you are reading.
Trokosi is the practice of some traditional shrines in West Africa in which a human being, usually a young virgin, is forced to become a slave to the gods worshipped in the shrine. In this ritual servitude, she seeks to atone for the alleged crimes of male family members or ancestors. Through her sacrifice, the family hopes the gods may lift certain curses placed upon it at the shrine. Both the victim and the practice are called trokosi in Ghana. The girl is sometimes thought to be a "wife of the gods", but those forced into such servitude usually feel they are slaves of the priests, who often use them sexually without their consent, force them to worship and serve the shrine images, deny them education, and force them to work hard without compensation and with barely enough food to keep them alive.
The trokosi practice is against International Law and was outlawed in Ghana in 1998, but persists because the law is not enforced. It also persists in Togo, Benin, and parts of Nigeria.
The trokosi slaves of many shrines have been liberated in Ghana through the diligent efforts of NGO's who recognize trokosi as a violation of human rights. However, the practice has been defended by small but vocal groups of traditionalists who see it as merely a part of traditional culture.
Recognizing that trokosi or shrine slavery is a complex issue, this site is offered to provide a dictionary of terms frequently used in the discussion in the hope of bringing about greater understanding of the issues involved.