“Arrest trokosi practitioners”
DEFENCE for Children's International, a Non Governmental Organisation that focuses on the fight for freedoms and rights of children, has challenged the government to demonstrate its commitment to the complete eradication of all forms of customary servitude that have the tendency of undermining the fundamental freedom of women and children in the country.
The International Child Rights Advocacy Group has further called for the strict enforcement of laws that would make female servitude a crime in the country, explaining that such obnoxious practices had been the main bane of the total socio-political development of many females.
National Coordinator of the DCI, Oppong Appiagyei Ampong, speaking exclusively to the New Statesman in Kumasi early this week lamented that even though there were laws banning customary servitude, the system was still being practiced in various parts of the Volta and Brong Ahafo Regions.
According to Dr Ampong, most fetish priests in these areas are still hiding behind customs and traditions to perpetuate the inhuman acts against the will of their fellow humans.
He mentioned some of the areas where the problem still exists as the Tongu, Keta, Ketu and Akatsi districts of the Volta Region.
“Trokosi” which means slave of a deity is a system where virgin girls are subjected to slavery for sins committed by their relatives in the past. In some cases, the chosen girls remain at the shrine for life. She could also be replaced by another girl from the same family.
Life at the shrine is a hard one full of taboos, restrictions and injunctions. Apart from the domestic chores that she has to perform, the Trokosi works for the priest without any form of remuneration whatsoever.
Sexual intercourse, except with the priest, is a complete taboo. Even those lucky ones who are allowed to marry can only do so with the consent of the priest, who also determines the bride price.
Even though the system is not widespread in Ghana, an estimated 2,500 are still victims of this traditional practice.
The DCI National Coordinator noted that even though changing from old practices and traditions is not easy, communities involved in that practices should not hide behind this admission and continue that inhumane act.
He also called on the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General's Department, and all other state machineries concerned to help combat 'that violent practice'.
Quoting Act 554 of the Criminal Code, Dr Ampong stated that the practice is a crime and should be stopped completely. “Human beings are not animals to be sacrificed. The government should move quickly to arrest those who are still perpetuating this evil and dehumanizing practice in the country,” he stated passionately.
He maintained that “Even though the previous government pledged to enforce the law, no priest or family member has been jailed for continuing the practice in order to deter others”.
Dr Ampong suggested the need for a more rigorous enforcement of the law and more effective public campaigns to help combat the dreaded practice.
“They should be made to know that their freedom ends where someone else's begins. If you have a religion, a belief system or a traditional practice that enslaves people and reduces their dignity, then you are violating our national constitution,” the DCI coordinator stressed.