Essay about Ghana

The Trokosi System in Ghana


This paper looks into why Ghanaian women and children continue facing oppression under trokosi laws despite Ghana’s tough inland and international laws that protect them. This text also examines why the government and the constitution have been ineffective in curbing violence perpetrated against women and children. By highlighting the issues facing the girl child in Ghana, it is intended that the paper will explore the various ways in which trokosi customs can be radically eradicated.

An in-depth insight into why the trokosi system is practiced is imperative. As such, this text digs deeper into the ancestral roots of trokosi system in the practicing community. It also explores how the practice is usually carried out in the shrine and the circumstances fuelling the prevalence of the custom. As such, the root cause of the problem will be confronted using methods suiting the specific community. This text proposes the intervention of domestic and international NGOs, sensitization of the harmful effects of trokosi by the media among other stakeholders.

The various sources used in this text are vital in analyzing the occult and in proposing viable solutions to eradicating the gender based form of slavery. Afrika-Studiecentrum Abstracts are especially vital in exploring African religion and its relationship with gender based oppression. It is a vital source of information in understanding the affiliation of Africans with their traditional religion. Sevcik’s Child Slaves looks into the illnesses perpetrated against girls and women despite their innocence. The experiences highlighted in this text in vital in understanding how best to heal them so they feel accepted in the community.

Adjei’s Journal of Education proposes the education of the practicing community on the effects of trokosi system as legal intervention by itself cannot be effective. Asamoah’s Exchange looks into how Ghanaian traditional heritage can be maintained while guaranteeing women and children’s rights and freedom. Nicholas US China Law Review plays a vital role in bringing to our attention the ineffectiveness of domestic and international law in curbing the trokosi system.

In Ghana, the dispute between modern and traditional values has manifested itself since early 1990s. It was at this time that the issue of trokosi came into play. The Ghanaians being citizens of a democratic country look up to existing Ghanaian laws for protection. Women and children especially rely on it for protection against encroachment. However, questions arise on the effectiveness of international law in protecting these citizens against trokosi law.

Trokosi refers to a customary religious practice carried out by the Ewes in Ghana. It oppresses women and children in that it obligates parents to bring their daughters to a fetish shrine for atonement of their ancestors’ sins. The practice can be seen to be discriminative in that mainly girls suffer the ordeal of the practice. As such, it is gender biased. However, Ghanaian laws are strict on the discrimination against women and the girl child. Within the country’s constitution is the equalization provision among other ratifications for the protection of women and children. Additionally, the Criminal Code has been amended to protect trokosi victims but the practice persists. As such, women and children are deprived of constitutionally guaranteed rights.

Trokosi practice is located within the paradigms of cultural philosophical doctrine and universalism. The practice remains a contest between traditionalist and universalistic camps in Ghana. There exists a robust patriarchal and family framework in Ghana which appears to favor men over women. Further, there is secrecy of customary religious practices, trokosi in particular. In addition, there is the possibility of international conventions being rendered irrelevant in the country. Further, the influence of the divine is looked upon in the country in explaining disease and misfortune.

Trokosi is a customary practice of ritual bondage among virgin girls. The victims are committed to a fetish shrine for reparation of sins of generations that were committed before the victims were born. These sins comprise of theft, adultery, lying among other atrocities. Other sins are categorized as rudeness to trovoxi which is the shrine among others.

Trokosi has been practiced by the Ewes for centuries and it is still in practice in the present day. Families are sending their daughters as young as six to shrines committed by their own fathers. Case in point is where Abla Kotor’s relatives sent her to Awlo-Korti shrine in to atone for her father’s crime where he had defiled his niece to give birth to Abla. Additionally, to pay for her father’s crime, Abla had to serve a trokosi priest until he was satisfied that the young girl had pleased the gods. As such, Abla’s parents intentionally gave her up for slavery.

From the above incidence it can be easily deduced that the natives’ traditional system is extremely oppressive to women. Abla was the product of atrocities perpetrated by her father but had to be sacrificed to ward off the retribution of a Trovoxi god. Ironically, the traditional god does not reprimand Abla’s father but rather the young innocent girl. In this episode, the father’s crime earned Abla a bondage in a religious shrine where she is enslaved as a trokosi for many years.

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Trokosi system is based on the belief that gods punish the crimes of a person by causing the death of their relative so that the sin is atoned for. The custom was initially instituted by African ancestors to serve as a standard against criminal activities. For instance if someone’s property was stolen and the thief failed to turn in for appropriate punishment, the gods at trokosi shrine vented their anger on the thief’s family. The relatives would die and their death toll would continue until a virgin girl was sent to trokosi for atonement of the perpetrator’s sins. While in confinement, it was the responsibility of the girl’s relatives to clothe and feed her.

While in servitude, the girl-child is overworked and is usually in ill health. This can be attributed to the fact there is no medication at the shrine. The exclusionary effect of serving at the shrine is felt by the girl-child who is denied emotional and parental support, adequate nutrition and a healthy environment. Servitude as the trokosi also denies the victim access to such social services as education and medication care. The trokosi is prone to contracting sexually transmitted infections as the priest has many sexual partners. The victim can only be redeemed after serving for three to five years. However, the family is unable to fulfill this obligation hence the girl can be confined for life. The practice is extremely discriminatory against the girl-child. The boy-child is hardly ever used in the atonement of ancestral sins. The sacrificial victim is usually a virgin, usually an innocent girl of young age. As such it follows that trosoki law is directed towards the female of Ewe people.

Trokisism takes place under the in plain sight of Ghanaian law despite the fact that the domestic law proscribes the custom. As such, trokosi has escaped public scrutiny for a long time. Until the early 1990s, the ritual was conducted in secrecy until it captured human rights organizations’ attention. Trokosi pre-existed Europeans arrival in Ghana. As such, it was practiced in the full view of British colonialists. This was carried out notwithstanding British government’s stand on observing democratic values in Britain and its colonies, Ghana included. However, fifty years after independence, Ghana is still agonizing over trokosi laws despite its many laws that proscribe it.

In the present day however, the campaign against trokosi practice is interconnected with global politics, media and other transnational networks with global voices. The custom has been described as an act of religious slavery and a blatant violation of women’s rights. Documentaries have been done on trokosi practice.Practitioners of the custom assert that they are exercising their religious rights guaranteed under Ghanaian constitution. However, when balanced against the basic rights of trokosi victims, it is imperative that the practice is not allowed to prevail. The victims are unsuccessful in their attempts to escape in part because their parents escort them back to the shrine. With no one by their side the victims are condemned to life as trokosi.

Both the trokosi supporters and antagonists acknowledge that the practice is rife among the Ewe people. However, they disagree on where to draw the line regarding the severity of the trokosi customs. On one hand, some nongovernmental organizations in Ghana purport that trokosi occult is oppressive and needs to be fought against. On the contrary, traditionalists such as Afrkania Mission insist that the practice does not oppress the girl child. As such, they maintain that trokosi system is a crime prevention mechanism. Further, they argue that trokosi system is a moral training institution for girls and that it is their right to uphold their forefather’s customs.

Afrikania group insists that trokosi system is an honor bequeathed on girls and should be regarded as such. Its head priest, Osofo Ameve, argued that trokosi served as sanctuaries for refugees, a conservatory for cultural ethics and as a court of natural justice. On the contrary, anti-trokosi movements such as International Needs Ghana (ING) have fiercely fought the culture. This resulted in the criminalization of customary servitude following the Criminal Code amendment.ING is a pillar of hope for trokosi victims as it provides liberation and rehabilitation wards for trokosi victims. Further, ING offers human rights advocacy notwithstanding its campaign against the custom. The NGO believes that education is crucial in the eradication of trokosi and has liberated a large number of girls from the practice. They believe that if the legal process by itself is relied on without proper education, the practice might be pushed underground. Focus should be on sensitizing the practicing community on trokosi and its harmful effects. This is because majority of the participants are unaware of the law against trokosi.

Trokosi can be eliminated through the education of the participating community, fetish priests and other stakeholders on the harmful effects on its victims. Liberation can be carried out on a shrine to shrine basis. This is because different shrines have different policies and customs on confinement. Alternative remedies can be explored on how to appease the ancestral spirits such as offering alcohol and money in place of young girls for restitution. A community wide memorandum can be reached by stakeholders to free a trokosiwo from a given shrine. Next, the shrine can be compensated for its prospective financial losses likely to be experienced for giving up trokosis.

A post incarceration program for the victim needs to be established. This is because ex-trokosis undergo a series of traumatic experiences by the time of their release. These include resignation to fate due to rationalization of the ordeal. Victims also lack a sense of internal security and yearn for alternative spiritual experiences. The above factors work in opposition to the development of trokosi women hence denying them their rights and freedoms. They are in constant psychological and physical fear.

The stigma attached to a trokosi is an impending factor to the self dignity and the freedom of enjoyment of the victim. In general, ex-trokosiwo is avoided in the community. People refuse to associate with trokosis and as such, they are unable to find husbands. Matters are compounded by the belief that if a person sleeps with a trokosi, they incur the wrath of the gods and hence the need to offer a virgin in the shrine. The growth of a trokosi and by extension the socio-economic systems of a country is thus hampered.


This text has demonstrated that trokosism is an arena for the convergence of individual rights, cultural practices and religion. It has highlighted the interaction of customs, modernity and post modernity facilitated by global voice among other international stakeholders in Ghana. Consequently, researchers are able to critically scrutinize how various factors interplay to hinder Ghana socio-economic development. Through the interrogation of trokosis, it has been easier to understand and appreciate the reason Ghanaian laws have been ineffective in stamping out the vice. Today, the realization that the trokosi system is still in practice has brought about the amendment of Ghanaian law to criminalize trokosi. This means that the time has come for a specific law to be instituted to curb oppressiveness of such religious and cultural practices.

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