The role of culture and law in sustaining trokosi institution in southern Ghana
Keywords:Trokosi, religion, culture, law, power
The study carefully examined trokosi—the keeping of virgins (henceforth referring always to girls and not boys) in traditional religious shrines in Ghana, using a shrine in Afife as a case study. The study tried to find out whether culture, including its primary constituent, religion, and law play any role in sustaining the trokosi institution in spite of efforts by the Ghana Government and human rights activists to eliminate it. The study used qualitative approach that involved in-depth interviews with key informants, local people, and observation. The primary data was supplemented by relevant secondary data. The research identified that trokosi as an institution persists because of its use of religio-cultural techniques such as social structuring and meaning. Other findings that sustain the institution include the overt endorsement of the religio-cultural institution by local and international human rights laws; government‘s inability to enforce criminal laws; government officials‘ and trokosi practitioners‘ fear of reprisals from the traditional god that is the basis of the institution; and indigenes‘ adamancy to preserve trokosi as a religio-cultural heritage even if it infringes on fundamental human rights of women and girls. The study is important because, among other things, it contributes to existing discourses on religious and cultural institutions and practices both locally and internationally.