Hierodulic Slavery -- Forms of slavery that combine elements of several different kinds of servitude. Shrine slavery is considered hierodulic slavery because it combines sexual exploitation with forced labor and psychological manipulation.
Human Rights -- Rights generally recognized as belonging to every individual by virtue of the fact that he or she is a human being. Human rights are rooted in the Biblical concept that all people are created in the image of God, giving them innate dignity regardless of ability or any perceived value to society.
Human Rights Violations -- Violation of publicly recognized minimum standards of behavior towards human beings. Charges of human rights violations have been levied against trokosi shrines and the trokosi system by NGO's and by survivors of the practice of trokosi. Documented violations include rape, forced labor without remuneration, forced child labor, cruel and inhuman punishments, forced confinement, denial of proper clothing, denial of minimal food needs, denial of education, denial of medical treatment, denial of religious freedom, and restriction of movement.
Idolatry, Idols -- The worship of images supposed to represent spirits or gods. Idols are common in African Traditional Religion and in other traditional or tribal religions as well as in Hinduism, but are forbidden in Islam and in Christianity. Christians teach that idolatry is wrong because any spirit that accepts worship is evil and deceptive--a demon, not a servant of God, becasue God alone is worthy of worship and is also able and willing to help His creatures. Idolatry has frequently shown itself to be destructive and enslaving in the societies that practice it. Well-known examples of this are the Devadasis in the Hindu culture of India, the Restavecs in Haiti, the Trokosi in Ghana and Vudusi in Togo and Benin. In West Africa, it is often claimed that the idol gods have instructed the priests to take in trokosi slaves or even demanded virgin girls as a sacrifice to supposedly atone for someone's misdeeds. See lesser gods.
Idol guarding a shrine entrance.
Initiation -- A ceremony or ritual of entry which introduces a woman or girl into her life as a shrine slave and binds her spiritually and psychologically to the shrine. Many trokosi find the initiation rites humiliating, because they are frequently required to strip before the priest and to parade around the village naked.
International Needs (IN), International Needs Network -- An NGO that has been very active in liberating the trokosi shrine slaves. IN has hosted several conferences on the subject and also operates the Adidome Vocational Training Center to help rehabilitate trokosi after liberation.
Involuntary Servitude -- Slavery, or forcing someone to serve another without observing their basic human rights and without compensation. Trokosi is a form of involuntary servitude because the consent of the girls is virtually never sought.
Juju --The practice of magic by calling on the gods of the shrines. See rituals.
Juju priest -- A priest of a traditional shrine who practices magic by calling on the shrine gods. See fetish priest. A juju priest may or may not be a trokosi priest, depending on whether the shrine practices the kind of slavery called ritual servitude.
Lesser gods -- Spirits or gods served in traditional shrines, idols, created spirits, in contrast to the High Creator God. Christians and traditionalists agree that these spirits, like all things, were created by God and are subject to Him. The lesser gods are powerful but far less so than the Creator. African traditional worshippers fear and worship the lesser gods. A few traditionalists argue that these gods are good, but most see them as having both a good and an evil side. Christians believe that the lesser gods are spirits created by God the Creator the Almighty, but that some of them rebelled against His authority so that they no longer serve and worship Him, but seek to deceive and destroy humankind, taking worship to themselves that rightfully belongs to the Creator. Christians therefore believe the lesser gods are evil. This belief is offensive to traditionalists, but it seems to be validated by the reports that shrine slaves have given of life in the shrines, and even by the fact that the lesser gods ostensibly require the practice of trokosi.
Bowing before lesser gods at a traditional shrine
Liberation, Liberation of Trokosi -- The act of freeing trokosi slaves, rehabilitating them and returning them to society to live normal and productive lives. Liberation involves a written agreement between the shrine, the community, and usually some NGO mediating body. It is performed in public as a community event. Liberation also involves an agreement to end slavery in that place and never again to take in human beings as sacrifices.
Liberation Ceremony for Trokosi Slaves
Liberation Certificates -- Certificates of freedom are often given to former trokosi following liberation or as part of the liberation ceremony. They are signed both by the shrine authorities and by the mediating NGO, and serve to show and guarantee to the trokosi themselves, to their families and to the public that they are now free and that all obligations to the shrine have ended.
Liberation Documents or Agreements-- A memorandum of understanding, an official legal document, paper or covenant agreement signed by shrine owners, priests and elders on one hand, and by mediating NGO's on the other hand, guaranteeing freedom for all slaves from the shrine and stopping the practice of ritual servitude in that place.
Signing of Liberation documents freeing trokosi slaves. Often, as here, the signer is illiterate. After the agreement is explained in his local language, he affixes a thumbprint in agreement.
Modern-Day Slavery, Modern Slavery --Slavery which exists today and in recent times. Any system by which an individual or a group of human beings is controlled and forced to work for another without their consent or is deceived or manipulated into serving another. This can take many forms, including but not limited to forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation, human trafficking, forced marriage, debt bondage, religious slavery, and more.Modern Slave Belt of West Africa -- A strip of the southern portions of Ghana, Togo, Benin, and parts of Nigeria along the sea where in the year 2009 slavery is still widely practiced in the form of ritual servitude in traditional shrines.
Mutual Faith Ministries -- A Christian NGO that has created a vocational training center in the Agave area of the Volta Region in Ghana for the purpose of offering vocational skills training and other programs of rehabilitation for the trokosi.
National Department of Culture -- A department within Ghanaian government devoted to the preservation and promotion of Ghanaian culture. This department favors the liberation of the shrine slaves and has worked with NGO's in some of the liberation efforts.
NGO -- A non-governmental organisation, usually a publicly-supported charity, religious or humanitarian group that carries out projects of development for the benefit of society. Several NGO's have been interested in the anti-slavery initiatives in West Africa, because the practice of trokosi/vudusi violates religious freedom as well as other basic human rights. Other NGO's are interested because the practice impedes the education and progress of girls and women in their communities.
Traditionalists have accused NGO's of using the situation to raise funds for their organisations. In reality, NGO's have invested huge amounts of funding to combat the practice of ritual servitude and to rehabilitate its victims. Examples of NGO's that have been involved are Equality Now, Every Child Ministries, Fetish Slaves Liberation Movement, International Needs, and Mutual Faith Ministries.
Opposition ( to liberating the shrine slaves) -- The only substantial opposition to liberating the shrine slaves has come from African traditionalists, spearheaded by the Afrikania Mission. The opposition takes many forms and makes many (frequently contradictory) arguments, but their main argument is that trokosi (shrine slavery) should be preserved simply because it is part of their culture. They seem to see culture as static, that is, they would prefer it to be unchanging. Yet other groups dedicated to the preservation of African culture, like the Center for National Culture in Ghana, have favored the abolition of the practice.
Pillars of Trokosi System -- An explanation of why the trokosi system has prevailed so long despite its negative effects on culture, first advanced by "Mama Lorella" Rouster of Every Child Ministries. The pillars are fear, secrecy, and deception.
Punishment in the Shrines -- Punishment practices vary from region to region but punishment of shrine slaves is almost always harsh. Methods include beating, forcing the victim to kneel on sharp shards or pieces of glass while holding the hands in the air for long periods of time, confinement, and starvation. Reasons for punishment include not being able to complete the daily work quota, refusing sex with the priest, or refusing anything the priest commands.
Queens, Queen Mothers -- Queen mothers hold a position of respect within African traditional cultures along with Chiefs. Traditionalists who want to preserve the practice of shrine slavery sometimes claim that trokosi are actually treated like queens. They say this because in the initiation ceremony, other trokosi are required to bow down to them. No trokosi has as yet agreed with the claim that they are treated like queens. In fact, many degradations are forced on the trokosi that would be unthinkable for queens--like the dress restrictions and mobility restrictions, for example. In general, queen mother is a position of respect, while trokosi are widely looked down upon by the community.
1. A lot of semi-technical terms are involved that need explaining to the general public. Most dictionaries do not define all the terms necessary for adequate understanding.
2. A lot of propaganda is put out by traditionalists defending the practice. There's a need for a more even-handed defining of the terms.
3. Some try to use language that excludes Christian views of the practice. But this is not appropriate, since all players should have a forum for expressing their viewpoints. The Commission for Truth on Trokosi deliberately decided to include Christian views in this dictionary, while also including traditional viewpoints, labeling each viewpoint as such.
4. It's a vitally important issue that affects the welfare of African nations, present and future generations.