Modern Types of Slavery Essay Example


It is believed that Slavery is no more in practice and does not exist anymore in the world; but unfortunately, some part of Africa [West Africa], still practice slavery.  Children in African countries such as Ghana, Benin, Togo, and Nigeria are at mostly the victims of the trokosi system. In Ghana, trokosi is practiced among the Ewes [people leaving in the southern part of Ghana]. “Trokosi system is [basically] based on religious beliefs” (Discrimination Against Women and children 91). “The ritual has been practiced among the Ewes for hundreds of years, and it is still being practiced. And it is [extremely] oppressive to women and children” (ssrn.com).

The international needs [NGO] has identified about 160 shrines in 7 out of 16 districts of the Volta region, that are that involved in the practice” (African women and children 93). This practice involves trading children for hard labor. Girls [women] are mostly traded for hard labor as compared to the rate at which boys are traded.  Abayie boldly stated in his work that “the crux of the matter is that the victims are women and children, the most vulnerable members of society” (Discrimination Against Women and children 91). Females actually play important roles in the society especially, in terms of development. Ghanaians are against this religious practice and are calling for the banishment of the practice. Trokosi comes from two words in the ewe dialect: 

Tro' means god and 'Kosi' can be translated as virgin, slave or wife. Reports indicate that there are at least 4,000 girls and women bound to various shrines in the Trokosi system in Ghana. Additionally, there are an estimated 16,000 children of the slaves. In some places, more than 2,000 girls and women are enslaved to a single shrine. (q. in Bilyeu 93).

Because trokosi is a tradition and a religious belief system, it is performed at the shrine; and it is rooted in a god. “To the Ewes, the god [troxovi] is the god of transformations; the process of transformation usually connotes that which is good for the people. “The people believed that the deity, troxovi, is one of the messengers of the Creator, God (mawu).” (African Women and Children: Crisis and Response 92). The gods are believed to satisfy the people’s need, guide, and protect them. “To the practitioners of this religion, the deity is a source of vitality and strength.” (q. in Bilyeu 93). This religious belief [trokosi], has become a [big] challenge for Ghanaians [especially, the ewes] till date; and they [ewes] are still looking for ways and means to eliminate the practice. But do we really know the reasons behind the practice; and how long do the victims serve at the shrine? Do the laws of Ghana approve the practice? How has it impacted on the lives of the victims? The slow process of abolishing the trokosi system by the implemented law [Act 15] of the Ghana constitution and negative effects trokosi has on the victim overweighs the main reason behind the child slavery system in Ghana.

The people of the ewe land are [much] more rooted in traditional aspects of culture than any other tribe in Ghana. I am an Ewe myself, and I see the reason behind this religious act or practice as ridiculous; although it is believed that it is the best way to please and to appease the gods of the land. Trokosi system among the ewes is mainly for punishing wrongdoers, but the punishment is done indirectly. “The term trokosi refers to a traditional practice of ritual bondage of virgin girls where the victims are committed to the fetish shrine of troxovi [god] as reparation the sins of their relatives.” (A Critical Look at the System of Trokosi in Ghana 82). In this situation, a girl child who had committed no crime is given out to a shrine to serve as a slave to the gods at the Shrine.

These girls are mostly between the ages of three and above. “The young girls are offered at a shrine after a run of bad luck, disease, or a series of deaths in a clan or to prevent similar events in the future” (CNN.com). It is believed that, if a family sacrifices a virgin girl to the gods as a slave, poverty, sickness, and any other generational curses will be eliminated from the family. Most victims of this belief do not even know the reason they are at the shrine serving as slaves; because the family members assume the victim is a child and shouldn’t know the truth at that age. Some crimes that are punishable by the gods include: “stealing, ungratefulness, adultery, and rape” (ghanaweb.com); “Others are rudeness to cult members, defiance of the cult, and refusal to pay a debt” (ssrn.com). Giving girls out to slavery, sometimes is not the wish of the family, but situations can initiate the act:

In the case of Eunice, She “was so young when she was taken into slavery….The trouble began for Eunice when a priest during a session of divination claimed that Eunice’s grandfather had an affair with another trokosi [another slave owned by the shrine]. The priest demanded that little Eunice come to the shrine to take the place of the older girl who had been defiled. Give up her daughter into slavery? Oh no! At first, Eunice’s mother refused. But soon her father’s relatives began to die. Finally, the mother gave in.  (q.in Nicholas 82).

There are many shrines in the Volta region of Ghana that still practice child slavery [trokosi]. The demands of priests vary from shrine to shrine; however, some priests would tell a family how long a victim would be serving at the shrine, while the others do not inform the victim’s family. The children [victims] sent to the shrine have no idea how long they would be serving at the shrine as slaves. Victims of trokosi mostly serve for a long [mostly life] term; and if they pass away during the period in slavery, the god demands that, the family of the dead victim replace her with another virgin [girl] from the family. This is to ensure that the crime committed by the accused family member is still being paid for.

As far as the Ghanaian laws are concerned, trokosi was outlawed in August 1998 according to the 1992 constitution [Article 15] of Ghana. The law says, "Whoever sends to or receives at any place, any person, or participates in or is concerned with any ritual or customary activity in respect of any person with the purpose of subjecting that person to any form of ritual or customary servitude or any form of forced labor related to customary ritual shall be guilty of a second- degree felony and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than three years" (The 1992 Constitution of Ghana 3). When the law was implemented, many people thought child slavery was [finally] over; but, I guess they were wrong. Because, the above law was not, and it is still not enforced by the government; even though it is stated in the Constitution.

“The general public in Ghana hailed it as a great breakthrough. However, no one has ever even been prosecuted under the law, let alone be convicted, and the practice continues to this day” (Trokosi). The government and the people did not enforce the law or call the law into being because of certain reasons; “the basic function of those idols as understood by the people is to kill, so [much of] the population lives in abject fear of the shrines and priests who serve them” (q.in conservapedia.com). It was believed, and still believed in this modern era, among the people of Ghana; the gods of the ewe lands are not to be taken for granted; or else the individual who tried to disrespect the gods will not have peace [in life]. I remember a situation whereby a man was punished [cursed] by the gods; because he underrated the power of the gods. The government, for the respect of culture and custom of the people in the southern part of Ghana [the Ewes], it did not enforce the law into existence because, it would have been regarded as discrimination on the part of the Ewes. Even though the act [trokosi] is a form of slavery, it forms part of a belief of a certain group of people; hence, it must be respected and treated just like the other cultures in Ghana:

Under the Constitution of Ghana, Article 21 (1), (a), and (c), all citizens of Ghana have the right to freedom of religion. Both supporters and opponents of the trokosi practice appeal to this constitutional right. Those who support the practice see it as strictly as a cultural practice that is therefore protected under the Constitution. Those who oppose it see it as a violation of freedom of religion…. (q. in conservapedia.com)

Slavery comes in so many forms, and the marks it leaves [effects] on a victim can be frustrating. The trokosi system in Ghana infringes on the human rights entitled to the victims and also, the system underrates the values and capabilities of women and children. The girls [victims] do not willingly or volunteer to go and serve at the shrine for crimes they never committed. Most girls are lied to by relatives. In the case of Bridgette, a former trokosi [wife of a god], in her interview with CBS 60 minutes news, reported about how she ended up at the shrine without her knowledge:

I was told I had to leave home to go and live with my uncle. I was placed at the back of a motorbike; I didn’t even know the drive. I thought it was a strong wind causing my tears, but I think I was actually crying because I was being taken away from my family, she narrated. (q. in ghanaweb.com). 

According to the African Charter on Human and people’s rights, “the child-any person under 18 years, shall have the right to education and health services….” (q. in Asomoh). The victims sent to the shrine are denied access to proper education; they are sexually abused, and also, denied access to good health services. There are some many girls serving as slaves at the shrine who need be trained and guided through the right path through education; so that they would be of good impact to the society in terms of development. But here is the case where future leaders are kept at the shrine wasting their destiny and purpose in life for crimes they did not commit. The girls are physically abused as well in that, they worked on the farm for long hours and performed all the chores in the shrine, but not given food. These girls after going through the stress and abuse, when they get sick, because of the lack of health facilities at the shrine, the sick victims sometimes ended up passing away. Sexual abuse is one major problem the victims encounter as slaves.

The virgins [victims] are supposed to serve as sex slaves in the shrine; “the priests in the various shrines have unlimited sex access to the trokosi.’’(Crisis and Response 93). Sex slavery is not appropriate for a girl child at a tender age. The trokosi because of the unlimited sex access by the priests, she tends to give birth to so many unplanned babies which become a burden to her and her family.  Even though the priest and the gods are aware that the trokosi is unemployed, as part of the punishment, she [the trokosi] is meant to provide for herself and that child. This action violates the “both Article 27 of the African Charter on the child and Article 34 of the UN Convention on the Right of Child which denounces sexual abuses.”(African Women and Children 99). The pain inflicted on the victim by the priests, makes the child live in fear and also leads to the development of low self-esteem.

 

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