The Superstition that Enslaves Virgin Girls in Ghana: An Exploration of the Origins, Evolution, and Practice of Trokosi
Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu, MA, MSc, LLM, is a doctoral researcher at the Department of Law and Criminology, Aberystwyth University, and a lecturer at Arden University. His research interests include religion’s impact on crime against vulnerable groups in society, superstition-driven violence against children and elderly people in Africa, and the efficacy of laws protecting children’s rights in Africa. His current research explores the impact of certain superstitious beliefs (specifically witchcraft, juju, virgin myths, and ritual servitude) on child mistreatment in Ghana and Kenya and the efficacy of the Ghanaian and Kenyan domestic legal frameworks in combating superstition-driven child maltreatment in the two countries.
Trokosi is a religious practice in some parts of West Africa where young virgin girls are sent to fetish shrines to become sex slaves as part of rituals meant to prevent a communal calamity supposedly provoked by the transgressions of members of the girls’ family. This study offers additional insight into the concept, origins, evolution, and practice of trokosi, highlighting the cultural, socio-economic, and legal contexts of this practice in Ghana. This goal is achieved by reviewing pertinent literature and interviewing 10 participants: academics; activists; traditional leaders; and ordinary community members. The study establishes that trokosi, which is viewed by adherents as a religious practice and crime prevention mechanism, is a severe violation of girls’ fundamental rights. It is the epitome of sexual violence against young females and the worst form of child enslavement, discrimination, oppression, and physical and psychological torture in the south-eastern part of Ghana. It notes that even though the practice has been outlawed, it still thrives due largely to illiteracy, ineffective enforcement mechanisms, and lack of political will on the part of the government. It suggests that the ills of the trokosi system can be suppressed not through legislative actions alone but through a multi-pronged approach.
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Owusu, Emmanuel Sarpong (2023) "The Superstition that Enslaves Virgin Girls in Ghana: An Exploration of the Origins, Evolution, and Practice of Trokosi," Dignity: A Journal of Analysis of Exploitation and Violence: Vol. 8: Iss. 1, Article 4. https://doi.org/10.23860/dignity.2023.08.01.04