Many people think that traditional African customs that subject women to inhumane treatments no longer exist. They believe that these practices are long gone.
But a recent BBC documentary on trokosi, the centuries old traditional religious practice found in parts of Ghana, Benin, and Togo, has reignited a passionate debate about the abuse of women in many traditional African customs. The face of the documentary, 27-year-old Brigitte Sossou Perenyi.
At the age of 7, Brigitte entered the trokosi system. Under the traditional religious practice, girls are forced to live and serve in shrines, some for the rest of their lives – to “pay” for the sins of family members and keep away the wrath of the gods.
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“Shrine slaves” are not paid and most of them enter into the system without their consent, although the consent of the family or clan may be involved. The girls are believed to serve the god or gods of the shrine and as some are believed to be married to the gods of the shrine, they bear children for the priests who keep them.
One priest in the Volta region of Ghana, Torgbi Abiaeu, told Thompson Reuters Foundation, “When we practised trokosi, we were cut off from the world. We didn’t know what was happening elsewhere until ING came. They told us trokosi was against the law and that women were human beings and needed to be treated as equal. We hadn’t heard that women needed to be treated as equal.”
Many women still live under trokosi and are yet to be liberated.
Below are two other traditional African practices that continue to subject women to inhumane practices.