Thursday, March 29, 2007

Modern day slavery in Ghana - The Trokosi Tradition

A friend of mine in Jamaica was watching BBC news sometime late last year and mentioned seeing a news clip on the Trokosi tradition in Ghana. I had never heard about it before and so googled to see what is was about. With all the recent discussions about the abolition of the slave trade over the past week it triggered my memory on the topic. This was, and still is, considered as one of the types of modern day 'slavery' that still exists in Ghana. Found it ironic that the first story I came across was a girl the same age as my daughter, Ashleigh.

Abla Kotor is 13 years old. At the age of 12, she was given to a local priest in atonement for the rape that resulted in her birth, the rape of her mother by her mother's uncle. As soon as Abla Kotor has completed three menstrual cycles, she too will almost certainly be raped, by the priest to whom she was given. Meanwhile, she works his fields and farmlands, cleans his home and cooks his meals. She is one of thousands of young girls in southeastern Ghana, enslaved by the trokosi tradition. According to the tradition, families give virgin girls to priests as a way of appeasing the gods for crimes committed by relatives. The word trokosi means in the Ewe language "slaves of the gods." Once given to a priest, a girl is his property. There are two categories of trokosi - those who can be released after serving a specified number of years (normally three to five years) and those who are committed for life. If a girl dies or if the priest tires of her, her family has to replace her. For serious crimes families give up generations of girls in perpetual atonement...When a priest dies, his trokosi are passed on to his successor (copied from: EqualityNow website).

Also see: Mission Impossible an article written by a journalist, Peter Pattison, last November.

Was even more disturbing to find out that this slavery is often times sexual, even for girls as young as Alba. Girls/women who become trokosi's are denied access to education and other training. Even if released, a Trokosi woman has continued obligations to the shrine for the duration of her life. When the fetish slave dies, the family is expected to replace her with another young girl for the fetish shrine.

Though banned by law in Ghana (1998) the practise still continues in many parts of the country, including urban areas. While seemingly a mission impossible as Pattison noted in this article, over the past years through concentrated efforts from the Government and NGOs many have been released.

Just walked into my room and looked at Ashes asleep in my bed. I think of her and her zest of life, the opportunities she has had, and those which are still to come. I think of me and just how far I had come. Said a prayer, thankful for the many, many blessings.

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