The Right to Dignity

You have the right to personal freedom. This right can only be taken from you in certain circumstances listed in this section of the Constitution. These include criminal offences, mental instability, vagrancy and communicable disease, among other things. If you are detained, you have the right to know why, the right to a lawyer of your choice, and the right to a trial within a reasonable time.

Dzigboti was nine years old when the fetish priest came to her house. Her parents gave the priest water and he sat down and explained his mission to them. She was hiding just around the corner, trying to eavesdrop, but couldn’t hear much. She caught the words ‘grandmother’ and ‘crime’ and ‘atone’ and then her own name, and then one word that she hadn’t heard before: ‘trokosi’. She didn’t understand why at the time, but her mother came bustling around the corner right after that and burst into floods of tears. She picked up Dzigboti in her arms and held her as tightly as she could, her tears soaking into Dzigboti’s dress.

It wasn’t long before Dzigboti found out the meaning of ‘trokosi’. The fetish priest took her to his shrine and put her to work. She did menial chores from dawn long into the night. Once she reached puberty, she also had to serve as the priest’s sexual slave, and gave birth to three children. She was told that these were the children of the shrine’s deity.

When Dzigboti was twenty years old, a stranger visited the shrine and saw her working there. The stranger asked Dzigboti some questions about her life there, and then went away. The stranger came back two weeks later with a group of people. They had an argument with the shrine priest and then told Dzigboti to come with them, because she was free to leave. Dzigboti didn’t understand.

The first stranger explained that Dzigboti was being kept as a slave, and that that was illegal under Ghanaian law. It had been illegal for the entire time that she had been a trokosi, but no outsiders had ever visited the shrine before, so none of the people who could help knew that she was there. Now that they knew, they were taking Dzigboti and her children back to her parents.