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Ritual Slavery CFS2015
Transcript of Ritual Slavery CFS2015
--contravenes 1956 Supplementary Convention:
"… any institution or practice whereby a child or a young person under the age of 18 is delivered by either or both of his natural parents or by his guardian to another person, whether for reward or not, with a view to the exploitation of the child or young person"
--Other HR conventions pertaining to volition/consent
--initiated without consent
--sexually abused by priests
--physically abused by priests
--forced to work for priests
--no right to education, health care
--stigmatised by community & family
Film by Toronto Pictures
How would approach this research? What kinds of topics do we need to explore? What kinds of research questions?
--examine the controversy
--examine the literature
--examine the practice in context
--examine the social actors
1990- solicits help from:
--North Tongu District Assembly
--International Needs Ghana
"Vestal Virgins Project"
--educational opps for initiates
--at time, still no research
--all info from Wisdom
--claims also occurs in 'Anlo' shrines (Fiasidi)
NGOs expand activities (funding through NGOs, USAID, DANIDA, etc)
--Media Educational Campaign
--National Conference in 1995
--Start talking about in terms of HR & Slavery
National Debate: Modification or Abolition?
--Does legal system deal with abuses?
--Can HR conventions address?
--Do we need a new law?
Start eliciting help from:
--Anti-Slavery Society AUS
International Media Pressure
--calls for abolition
--provides more sources for funding
--criminalized in 1998
--offer resources to priests for liberating 'slaves'
--offer education opps, money, and counseling to 'slaves'
--Throughout ppl contesting image produced by NGOs
--Trokosi vs Fiasidi
Intensifies when abolition was debated from 1995-1998
-Klikor Adzima Priests
--Afrikania Renaissance Mission
--Troxovi Institutional Council
--contest image of Slaves
--assert Queen representation
--argue that NGOs are "Christian Frauds"
--produced in context of debate
--commissioned by NGOs (Dovlo/Nukunya)
--Tongu 'model' applied to rest
--asserting idea of volition/consent
--others debating legal precedence for abolition
--International Academics (using media articles)
Why initiate a fiasidi?
--initiate acts as atonement/sacrifice
--takes on punishment by becoming a slave
--not socially dead, but embedded in lineage
--transforms dangerous relationship between lineage and deity
What do Fiasidi do??
What are the Fiasidi's socio-economic status?
--varies (by age, initiation status, marriage, economic activities)
--representations exceed issue of volition in Klikor
--claim they are the worst of the worst
Did violations occur in other shrines? Is it slavery perhaps in the Tongu districts?
"I am a slave...servant of God, he is my master. I have to do his bidding."
--different histories, different priests
“During 2006, Anti-Slavery International undertook a research project into the practice of ritual sexual slavery or forced religious 'marriage'. The custom of
'marrying' girls to a deity, thereby depriving them of the right to ordinary marriage and assigning them to sexual exploitation by the deity's priests or devotees,
existed in many ancient cultures, including in Europe, the Middle East, West Africa and South Asia. In a few settings, this type of
ritual slavery or sexual servitude
has continued until the present day, including the practice of Trokosi in some parts of West Africa; and various forms of Devadasi (from the Sanskrit words deva meaning god or goddess and dasi meaning servant) among Hindu populations in southern India and Nepal.”
"Cult slavery takes various forms, some more exploitative then others. In its extreme form, it is a type of bondage that is lifelong and hereditary, as well as including both forced labor and sexual slavery. It may therefore be closer to
In the Trokosi system in Ghana, for instance, girls, some very young, are offered to the gods in expiation for the sins of their relations or to end family misfortunes. Theoretically, they may be dedicated only for a few years, after which they can be redeemed by their families. However, the priests can set a high price, and if the girl dies without being redeemed, she must be replaced by another virgin. Thus, the system may be perpetuated beyond a lifetime....The priests use the girls for cheap labor on the farm or around the shrine, forcing them to work for long hours for the bare necessities of life. Some eke out an existence cutting and selling firewood or performing other work outside the shrine to pay for their food. They have
no rights or education and can marry or leave only with the permission of the priest; in addition, they are not able to keep any money they earn.
Today, it is an offense in Ghana to offer a child to a shrine. Some thirty-one shrines have given up accepting them, and a thousand women have been freed. However, the law is hard to enforce since the practice is based on religious beliefs and it is reported to be continuing. Although information on cult slavery of this kind is largely limited to Ghana, where there were an estimated four thousand women in servitude, it also exists in Benin, Nigeria, and Togo (
Who are the "Ewe"??
--Practice has to be understood in context of abolition campaign and the subsequent debates
--EVERYONE is a political actor
--CULTURE is a PROCESS of creation, contestation, debate
--"Management of meaning"
“Some people claim that people who are admitted into the Troxovi Institution are there to atone for the crimes of their relations. This notion is false (or at best a misconception) because admission...is a privilege extended to a family which fails to properly bring up its members to be of good behaviour....[the Fiasidi] is meant to be educated to become a role model in his/her family in particular and society in general”
“To prevent further incidents of crime especially murder, arson and robbery, the offending person offers one of his relatives, a female, for initiation into the reformatory mysteries of God, the gods. This member becomes the signpost always reminding the reformed family of past perversions and to avoid crime....The Fiasidi, the sign-post, is not a slave nor a prisoner.”
--offense against deity's 'children'
“Some have been saying lies about us. People say we send the deity to kill or hurt people, that people ask us to do this [through petitions]. But it’s not true. The people who do wrong bring the bad things [nuvowo] onto themselves. They call the deity because of their doings. The priest doesn’t know what happens until someone comes to tell him, this is what is happening in our family... If there is no wrongdoing in the world, then the deities will stop working. Mawu put them on the ground to judge and to deal with everyone after he left...The deities see the wrongdoing. People doing bad [wo nuvo] against another, using black powder, thieving and the deities send punishment to reveal the wrongdoing. Which is better to reveal the wrongdoing or to hide, as the Christians do? The god reveals the wrongdoer to everyone so he will change his behaviour. This is why the family is affected. So they can know the crimes of their members. The priests and everyone here is on the straight path...No one can tell the god the punishment. Rather he decides what he does. No one can see it. Not even the priest...” (interview with an Adzima shrine elder).
Is she a 'sacrifice'?
• “Mama Vena - Do you have property for the girl, because she is here for your crimes [nuvɔ]? Haven’t you given her property?
• Lineage Representative - No, but we have been discussing this.
• Mama Vena - Are you going to employ her in trade? Since you have given her no property?
• Zeklor [shrine representative] - They will do this after school.
Mama Vena - I want her to go to secondary school. The reason is if they are no more, their children might be Christians and will not help. She should have property too so she will be taken care of. If you do not have family land
to give her to farm, then you need to buy some.
• Zeklor - Togbui [the priest] said this about the property. The family agreed to contribute and provide land for her.
• Mama Vena - If they have done it, the deaths in their family will stop.
Lineage Representative - Look at us. The family is reducing. Help us get the money to buy it.
Mama Vena - When they are coming, they said, look the white is following them [referring to me] and there are many, but when they go back, the prominent is only three. Only three are true. The others have faint hearts.
• Lineage Representative - These are the members that have come, so Mama Vena should help convince the others.
• Mama Vena - Are you sure what you are saying is true because there are rich people in the family. If they refuse to come and help the girl, there will be more deaths...you cannot bring a fiasidi and refuse to be with her
• Zeklor - There should be no more deaths. Those who refuse, Mama Vena should come [convince them].
• Mama Vena - Those that say they are Christians and will not come, when they go to church and open the bible to teach them, they will be shown the truth [I questioned, interpreted to mean they will be shown their evil deeds]...Make sure to help the fiasidi go to secondary school. They brought her to be a fiasidi...
“Fiasidi [to Togbui Adzima] - They [the lineage] brought me to the
shrine, and since then I was here [in Klikor] and the family has been serving me. Then one day they called me to say they had visited an Afa diviner that day. The diviner told them what type of fiasidi I am. So [they said] they are not going to take care of me anymore. That day, I was sad and started crying. I stopped going to the family for about 7 years. One of the family members came to me and told me that I must forgive and forget so that I will come to the family. To come and ask for anything I need. So then I went a couple of days. About three days ago, they came to me to say what has happened.
• Togbui Adzima - [asking the fiasidi] Is the diviner who talked that day still alive?
• Fiasidi - No, he died.
• Togbui Adzima - How many years has it been since you have taken my
ritual water or performed a rite in the festival?
• Fiasidi - 16 years.
• Togbui Adzima [to the family] - Do you know you have a fiasidi?
• Family member - Yes.
• Togbui Adzima - [to the fiasidi] Are you the one calling me?
• Fiasidi - Yes. So far as the family says I am not a fiasidi to them,
everything is by you. You must find out what has brought me to Klikor
as a fiasidi.
“If you do not understand then your house will be ruined. (Understand what?) If you do not understand Togbui [the deity], and you leave your fiasidi, your house will break. If you take care of the fiasidi, your house will be fine... Some people they do not understand and their house is broken. Their work is not successful...”
“A few months before the liberation [at a shrine in Aflao] I entertained a visitor who was researching the practice of trokosi. She asked what ECM’s goals were and what kind of compromise we would accept. I stated that we were not interested in any compromise. We were interested in the total liberation of every slave and in the abolishment of the practice. We are not interested in reforming the system. We are interested in getting rid of the whole mess. Our answer is still the same. We are talking about the practice of trokosi, of course. NGO’s have no authority to stop traditional practices in shrines themselves, as champions of religious liberty, we could not support that anyway. We CAN and we MUST support getting rid of the practice of slavery” (ECM n.d.).