Ritual servitude is a practice in Ghana, Togo, and Benin where traditional religious shrines take human beings, usually young virgin girls in payment for services, or in religious atonement for alleged misdeeds of a family member. Tro means deity and kosi means slave or wife so Trokosi translates as slave or wife of the deity.
These shrine slaves serve the priests, elders and owners of a traditional religious shrine without remuneration and without their consent, although the consent of the family or clan may be involved. Those who practice ritual servitude usually feel that the girl is serving the god or gods of the shrine and is married to the gods of the shrine.
These girls are sexually abused, serve at hard labor without compensation, suffer harsh punishment, and are denied education and human affection. If a girl runs away or dies, she must be replaced by another girl from the family. Some girls in ritual servitude are the third or fourth girl in their family suffering for the same crime, sometimes for something as trite as the loss of trivial property. It is still practiced in the Volta region in Ghana, in spite of being outlawed in 1998, and despite carrying a minimum three year prison sentence for conviction. Among the Ewes who practice the ritual in Ghana, the practice is also called trokosi or fiashidi. In Togo and Benin it is called voodoosi or vudusi.
The most disturbing detail is that although the Trokosi system, alongside all traditional and cultural practices that violate the constitution of Ghana was banned in 1998 the practice is still very much alive. In some cases the practice has moved ‘underground’. Some members of the communities involved do not see Trokosi as a Human Rights violation but as a traditional and reliable way of dispensing and maintaining social justice. The researchers estimated the number of victims to be roundabout 1400. To date no one has been arrested or persecuted in spite of the law banning the practice. Tro means deity and kosi means slave or wife so Trokosi translates as slave or wife of the deity.