PEOPLE, PLACES AND PULPED PALAVER: Trokosi by the Ewe people, West Africa.

The Ewe people are an African ethnic group found predominantly in the West African countries of Ghana, Togo and Benin. In Ghana, they live predominantly in the Volta region and make the largest population of the people, of over 3 million. The Ewe people speak the Ewe language, and consist of four groups: Anlo Tongu, Danyi, Mina and the Anlo Ewe. They do share a lot of history with the people who speak the Gbe languages.

Chief Ewe.jpg
A Chief of one of the communities of the Ewe people in West Africa.

The Ewe people practice this ancient ritual of servitude called Trokosi amongst their girls and women. It is a culture females (mostly virgins) are subjected to sexual slavery, in consideration to services of priests in shrines. The girls or women are considered as wives to gods and served in the shrines for the rest of their lives. They practically are slaves and concubines to the priests. They are required to fully submit to the priests are rules at the shrine, from working in the fields of the priests, oblige to his sexual urges and be available wherever required. The women do all these as slaves with no affection, love or considerations of any form of compensation from the priest, who own up to 200 trokosis at the shrines.

In Ghana, Togo and Benin, Trokosi is a tradition passed down generations and and now a culture in the Ewe communities, who are connected by religion beliefs, worship of gods and superstition. The practice involves virgin girls, and sometimes even babies being sent to a life of sexual slavery and servitude in the shrines, usually to pay for mistakes and crimes done by their families or relatives. They serve as sacrifices towards the atonement of the crimes, such as rape, infidelity, murder, incapacitation caused in physical confrontation or any other form of injustice. It is claimed that the Trokosi stay at the shrines as protection against the anger of the gods, usually for life or a reasonable period of time until the atonement is done. It is hard for the trokosis to be accepted back home as they are regarded as outcasts, with their families fearing they could bring back the curses to their homes upon return.

Revered Ewe Priests.jpg
Ewe priests, both feared and revered by the people.

The practice is outlawed by most governments in West Africa, like Ghana, Togo and Nigeria. This is because the Trokosi ritual basically disregards and does not take into consideration human rights, especially for the women. However, superstition and the customary connections to the practice make it still popular and preferable. In West African countries, worship of gods and existence of powerful shrines and deities definitely enforce practices such as the Trokosi, as part of the culture. The ancient practice forms an important part of the people’s customs, and going against the gods on which Trokosi is associated with is considered an abomination. People fear the shrines and powerful deities, especially among the Ewe who seek gods intervention in times of war, supernatural calamities and conflict. The priests who head the shrines are equally powerful and revered by the community, and going against the word and authority could lead to very negative consequences, including curses and death.

As the down of modernity and Christianity, such traditional practices clearly conflict with the Christian beliefs and adherence to the rights of human beings. Fetish priests and belief in gods and traditional ways to solve communal problems is at conflict with modern perceptions, rule of law and even Christianity doctrines. Even though governments, such as Ghana outlawed such barbaric customs as Trokosi, they do not enforce the law, and in effect women continue being enslaved and their rights to live and choose discarded and violated. Even though there are people who strongly oppose the practice, there are those who support and justify it, and state that curses, diseases and family problems are solved through the servitude and respect to the gods. Priests, who are revered until today perform important rituals in the society, deliver justice and communicate to the villagers on behalf of the gods.

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